Thursday, March 06, 2008

What were once vices are now habits

I have often said that it is a very good thing that I grew up in a household where neither of my parents used tobacco or drank alcohol. Given my tendency toward compulsive personality, I would likely have smoked and swilled myself into an early grave by now.

If you look up "creature of habit" in your Funk & Wagnalls, you'll find my photo there. (Assuming you still had a Funk & Wagnalls. Which, considering that the venerable encyclopedia ceased publication at least a decade ago, you probably don't.)

Take, for example, my morning coffee ritual.

Now, coffee itself has been a part of my daily climb toward sanity more or less since my college days. During my career in the corporate world, I was fortunate enough to have worked for employers who supplied free coffee for their minions, so I never had to actually purchase coffee.

But when I just the ranks of the self-employed, I had to begin stocking my own java. This meant, of course, that I not only needed to buy coffee, but a machine in which to brew it. I'm now on my third Mr. Coffee in the past six years. It comes in handy on the days when I am either too cheap or too lazy to swing by one of the bazillion caffeine-dispensing outlets I can hit from my house with a smartly flung stone, and pay a college student with a nose ring to brew my coffee for me.

What happened recently, however, is that I have begun grinding my own coffee beans fresh most mornings. This process evolved when a client gave me a gift box of whole-bean coffee from Starbucks last Christmas. My nascent ownership of whole-bean coffee required that I obtain a device that would pummel the brown nuggets of joy into usable powder. So with the aid of my nearby Wal-Mart, I became the proud possessor of a Black and Decker SmartGrinder, a marvel of 21st-century technology that whips tiny roasted pods to a frenzy in no time flat.

Before too long, of course, I had exhausted the supply of Christmas coffee. But now that I owned a coffee grinder, I couldn't simply allow it to lie fallow on my kitchen counter. "Feed me, Seymour!" it cried — remarkable in that small household appliances do not usually speak to me, and also in that my name is not Seymour.

But I digress.

So now I find myself trekking every couple of weeks to Starbucks to buy more whole-bean coffee, thus justifying my ownership of the grinder. The beneficial side effect is that I have frequent opportunity to sample different varieties of coffee, broadening my palate even as I flatten my wallet. The less positive result is that every morning after I drop my collegian daughter at her academic institution of choice, I must engage in the elaborate alchemy of coffee-making: grinding the beans, rinsing the carafe, loading Mr. Coffee with water, replacing the filter, filling the basket with newly ground coffee, initiating the brewing, cleaning the grinder, vacuum-sealing the canister where the beans are kept to ensure freshness...

It's a lot of work.

And the scary thing is, I almost enjoy the ritual.

Which means I won't be able to stop doing it anytime soon.

In case you're curious, this morning's grind is Starbucks Ethiopia Sidamo — "From the Birthplace of Coffee," or so the label says. It's rich, complex, slightly acidic yet not overpowering, and it leaves behind a bright, refreshing, almost lemony aftertaste. It does not, however, inspire me to want to run 10,000 meters or convert to Rastafarianism. Take that, Haile Gebreselassie.

Lord help me if I ever get hooked on espresso.

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3 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Sank offered these pearls of wisdom...

Uncle Swan, we gots to talk. (BTW, Very funny Twitter, and appropriate on Gary Gygax)

We gotta talk about coffee. I have two obsessions from the food area. 1) scotch and 2) coffee., not in that order.
My coffee career starts from the days when I was a young exec working in downtown SF at Cost Plus. Down there I learned all about the stuff.
To really be a connoisseur you have to have the french press to make it. You have to try Malabar, fermented beans from India. Also, try some of the black apron beans from Starbucks. Way to expensive, but for a special treat.. way way good.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Bluepaintred offered these pearls of wisdom...

you should know that Coffee is NOT a vice.

Coffee quite simply is the meaning of all life. Without it, our planet- hell - the universe and more - would simply cease to exist.

Embrace The Coffee, Love The Coffee, For the Coffee loves you

9:10 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Sank: Any conversation that involves coffee is a conversation you can count me in. Especially if we can drink coffee while we discuss coffee.

Bluepaintred: Coffee is The Precious.

11:26 AM  

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