You might think this is an odd thing for me to be writing about. Coffee. And perhaps you’re right. But love isn’t an odd thing to be writing about, and coffee is something I love, which I guess makes this completely acceptable.
Some might find this difficult to believe, but I had my first coffee at thirty years old. Friends of mine had been drinking coffee for over a decade at that point, but not me. I had my first sip about six weeks before my 31st birthday.
In the past when colleagues had offered to make a coffee, I’d always politely decline. This would be met with respect, by many. Respect that I don’t need coffee to get through the day, or to fully wake up before noon. But for me, it wasn’t about a conscious choice not to drink an addictive stimulant. I just didn’t think I’d like it. I didn’t like coffee-flavoured chocolate, I wasn’t particularly enamoured by the smell like so many people are, and I didn’t like tea either. At least, not the kind you have with milk and two sugars. I just wasn’t a hot drink kind of girl. I drank water, herbal tea, occasionally squash, and if I was feeling particularly wild, an Appletiser or lime and lemonade.
“So what changed?” I hear you ask. Well, the answer is this: trying to make the most of a two-day pre-Christmas trip to Riga, Latvia, one December weekend. My energy levels take a natural dip in the winter months, what with me living in the United Kingdom and having a mere five minutes of daylight each day if I can face biting winds and intermittent rain showers on my lunch break at work. I love exploring new places, and I wanted to make the most of our time in the eastern European city. I’m an early riser, and an early sleeper. But sacrifices needed to be made if I was to fully enjoy our Latvian trip. I didn’t want to wrestle with the afternoon slump and not be able to fully enjoy the experience without Luke having to hold me up and drag me from the Cat House to the Swedish Gate.
And so, we went to a cosy little coffee shop called Strada, and I had an espresso. As you might expect, I was not mad about the flavour. My thinking was that if, as I suspected, I didn’t like the flavour, it would be preferable to have one short burst of coffee to get through, rather than a full mug that I’d have to wince my way through so that it didn’t go to waste. It turned out to be the right shout, because I definitely said ‘bleugh’ as I shuddered after my first sip.
I’d always considered myself to have high energy levels, particularly in the mornings. Whilst Luke would curl up in bed with the duvet pulled up high, snoozing his alarm and wishing it was Saturday so he could stay where he was for another hour, I’d have got up, worked out, showered, dressed, baked a batch of muffins, and taken out the recycling. I remember him once gazing at me with admiration and saying “Just imagine what you could achieve with coffee.”
Whilst that Latvian espresso didn’t hit the spot in terms of taste, it certainly hit something in my brain. It danced on my serotonin receptors, and not only did I feel extra alert, I also felt happy. In the same way I would feel happy after a glass of wine (back when I drank wine). How I felt reminded me of an episode of Outnumbered I’d watched. The Brockman family arrive early at the airport for a delayed flight back to London, and have to entertain themselves for several hours. The elder of the two sons, Jake, buys an espresso for his younger brother Ben, who’s six years old. After drinking some of it, he says he feels “all zingy, zangy, zongy”. I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description of how I, too, felt after an espresso.
That Latvian shot of caffiene did the trick, and I felt alert and energised during our trip. I did also have a twitchy eye, but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.
Since then, my love of coffee has grown, much like it does between humans. It wasn’t instant (no pun intented) but over time, I’ve come to appreciate it all the more. I moved from espressos to Americanos, and then one day Luke bought me a soy flat white from Starbucks. Well, I was hooked. The espresso and the americano brought me extra focus and a boost in energy. The soy flat white brought me flavour. And it wasn’t long until I was trying seasonal lattes, experimenting with different non-dairy milks, and treating myself to coffees in independent coffee shops on the weekends. These days, we even have our own milk frother and mocha pots so that I can enjoy delicious coffee from my own home.
And it’s not just the extra energy, or the flavour that I love. It’s also the process of making a coffee. Luke is something of a coffee connoisseur, so I feel I’ve learnt from the best. I add water to the mocha pot, spoon in some ground coffee, turn on the flames, and wait for strong coffee to start trickling through the spout. When it’s on it’s way, I add my oat milk to the frother, and wait once more for it to turn my milk into a warm, creamy, cloud. I add the coffee to my favourite coffee mug, and then top it with the freshly frothed milk. It’s a methodical, mindful process that slows me down in the midst of a busy morning.
I’m still very sensitive to caffeine, so I only have two or three coffees per week. And if I fancy a coffee but my eye hasn’t stopped twitching from the last one, I drink decaf. That’s right, everyone. I’ve gone from someone who’d never had a sip, to someone who makes her own decaf coffee with a mocha pot and a milk frother.
Ah, coffee. This is a love affair set to last.