Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coffee Virgin, Tea Lover


I am, it must be said, addicted to tea. I am either making it, drinking it, or looking longingly into an empty cup and I probably  drink far too much of it throughout the day.

I have never been a successful coffee drinker, although I always wanted to be. I would watch enviously as my friends and roommates morphed from half-dead zombies to perky, chipper playmates after their morning coffee. Sucking back another cup of tea, I would wait impatiently for a kick of energy, but it never had the same effect. This was likely due to the fact that I brewed tea much like my mother which consisted of holding a tea bag in a cup of warm water for 2 seconds and then adding a cup of milk and no sugar. The warm milk would override any boost provided by the miniscule amount of caffeine and effectively send me back to sleep.

I was a coffee virgin until a trip to Guatemala when I was 19 and had my first coffee experience. I was staying with a lovely couple, Anna-Maria and Marco, in the suburbs of Guatemala City. They had a tiny house with a huge coffee plant in the front courtyard. On my first morning I stumbled bleary-eyed into the kitchen. Anna-Maria took one look at me and pressed a warm mug of something dark and divine-smelling into my hands. I took a sip, then another, thinking this smells like…like…coffee! I drank the whole thing and then another. I wanted more. It was the warm glow that spread through me, I think, that did it… I had many a delicious cup of Guatemalan coffee while I was there and I pretty much convinced myself that I had become a coffee drinker. “God I need a coffee'” I would say in the morning, pretending to be more tired than I actually was just so I could impress my friends with my new adult behaviour.

I carried on like this until I returned to Canada. One day shortly after I got home, I found myself in the presence of a couple of hardened coffee drinkers. They were CUPE union officials and these guys could drink. Wielding paper cups of drip coffee, they deftly gesticulated this point and that argument without spilling a drop. We were in a coffee shop ‘celebrating’ my win at an arbitration session over a job when they ordered me a coffee. I sat there smugly waiting, recalling how the old Jane would have asked for tea, like a wimp, but this new Jane would have no issue with coffee. Now, in Guatemala, you can practically watch as they pick the beans under your nose, roast them, grind them and then brew it up for you. In Canada, they do not do this. I am not sure exactly what they do, but somewhere along the way, they have added the ‘remove coffee flavour’ step and also the ‘add ground up burnt shoes’ step, the ‘add greasy oil slick from side of highway after a rainstorm’ step, and the ‘add extra caffeine’ step. The cup of coffee I had that day was so vile, so far removed from the delicious cups of divine I had so enjoyed in Guatemala, I could hardly understand it.

I suffered through the cup, barely able to choke it down, said a hasty good-bye and went home. Over the next few hours, a storm brewed in my system. At first I just felt a little more hyper than usual. Then I started to get the shakes. Then I became anxious and started worrying about silly things like what had I done in grade 7 that so upset Lori Birdsall and why had I worn those stupid boots to school in grade 5 and had it been me who had left the chicken coop door open at my friend Jennifer’s house in grade 4 the night all her chickens got out. That sort of thing. Pretty soon I was outside and climbing up a rocky outcropping just outside our house. Kent found me there shaking and rocking back and forth declaring that my death was imminent. Shortly thereafter I threw-up. I don’t really remember much after that. The next day I felt like I had been hit by something really big, like a ferry.

Suffice to say, I could no longer enjoy a cup of coffee.  I do still feel a slight tug of envy when someone shows up at work with coffee for everyone. They hand them out with an air of intimacy usually found only between lovers “Billy, here’s your super-fat non-skinny tripple-dipple latte with a shot of curry powder and a side-sprig of asparagus. I also remembered you like a sprinkle of burnt shoe and I brought you some extra sugar with that”. Wink Wink. Bill will give Debbie a look of sheer love like she has just brought him kryptonite or something and say “Oh! Oh THANK YOU, Debbie. I’ll get yours tomorrow. What a DOLL you are.” When they get to me they shrug and apologetically say something like “I wasn’t sure what you….do you…ummm…do you even drink coffee?”.

Well, no, Debbie, I don’t. I gave it up after it mistreated me. I found a new lover. After the coffee fiasco, I went running back to tea. I learned how to brew it properly (good tea, boiling water, 5 minutes, cream, sugar, stir, ahhhhh) and now I can never go back. Within a few minutes of a nice cuppa, that  lovely warm glow works its way through my body and I’m feelin’ fine. Add someone I love opposite me at the table sharing the pot and it’s all good.

So all you coffee drinkers out there, I know it does it for you so stick with whatever works but if you ever get tired of burnt shoes, come see me; tea is one love I don’t mind sharing.


Thanks for reading



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