I can’t stop thinking about coffee, you guys. It’s all the time. Not only do I love drinking it, it’s my job, and my other job, and my hobby. In light of Crystal’s recent visit to the Boston TNT at Dwelltime, I present my series on who I am and what I think I’m doing here. Today, I’ll bring you up to speed.
I still remember my first cup of coffee. I was 17, on the high school dance team, and we had practice at seven a.m. a lot. One particularly desperate morning I filled up a travel mug with my mom’s signature brown water, sloshed some milk in and choked it down. It was awful and awful enough to push me away. Nothing new, right? I don’t think anyone in specialty coffee today discovered it in their mom’s kitchen.
I struggled through the rest of high school and into college drinking stale coffee with hazelnut creamer and heavily syruped lattes from coffee shops with punny names. Then I was saved. The year was 2007, I had just moved to Boston, I had quickly discovered it is much easier to sit through a music technology or traditional harmony class with a cup a coffee than with without. Across the street from my alma mater is a Dunkin’ Donuts adjacent to a Starbucks. I went wherever there wasn’t a line. I drank DD’s drip with cream and *sigh of shame* caramel macchiatos from SBUX during every single class. I had found the answer, I was doing very well in school, I had finally fulfilled my addiction requirement, and I was on my way to being a real musician. Then I looked at my bank account. Buying coffee by the cup was not easy on the wallet, so I took a page out of my very responsible roommate’s book and started contributing to the apartment’s whole bean supply.
It helped, but it wasn’t enough, so I got a job. Not in a coffee shop (not yet), but right next to one. Incidentally this was the job where I met Crystal and my life has done nothing but get better since then… just kidding (kind of…). With the joy of working retail and getting money for doing practically nothing, my by-the-cup habit returned. It started with something made with condensed milk and cinnamon, moved to mate lattes, and as the budget shrank, drip coffee. But it was different there- it was good. I’ve always been of the “taste first, salt second” philosophy so I usually tasted my coffee before even deciding which kind of milk I wanted to pollute it with (I had this weird thing for soy milk…I think I thought it was exotic being from Nebraska and all). One day, I arbitrarily chose a Kenyan coffee roasted by Barismo, knowing nothing about coffee-growing regions or the roasters in the area. I took one sip and it was all over, ladies and gentleman.
This coffee was rich and bold, it had actual flavors and it sent me to this comforting place of stability. Every sip was good, every sip was real and at that moment, I shit you not, I learned that something had been missing and I had just found it.
After that experience, my coffee buying was fast and furious. I got a new bean every trip to Trader Joe’s and a different coffee with every (fucking-delicious-oh-my-god-I-miss-them-so-much) bagel. Then one fateful voice lesson my second semester, I couldn’t get warmed up.
After about 10 minutes of struggling, my teacher noticed my travel mug and asked me if that was coffee. “Yeah,” I answered, heart sinking. She asked me how much I drink. “Probably five or six cups… a day,” I answered sheepishly. She gently went on to tell me that the caffeine was probably drying out my vocal cords and I should take it down a notch, maybe try tea. At this point I had one of those ridiculous movie moments where the camera zooms in on the distraught actor’s face, blurs her surroundings and everything goes in that horrible, booming slow motion… “TEEEAAA?????”
I’m not the best singer, I have a unique voice that I never really grew into until after I graduated college, so voice lessons were a source of extreme frustration and insecurity for me. But, I was in college to be a musician, so I managed to convince myself that it was my obligation to be serious about it. I stayed off the sauce for a pathetic three months before I started sneaking a cup a day, drinking massive amounts of water, and it all went downhill from there. I was joyfully back to binging on coffee and water and pulling the wool over my voice teacher’s eyes. Nothing could stop me. I had a very successful college career, graduated with honors and after a money-saving month back home, I made to the promised-land: Austin, TX.
I was expecting a glamorous hipster lifestyle with music everywhere and endless inspiration, but with a degree in songwriting and a brand new city, I was on the fast track to full-time restaurant industry gigs. So, it began: a semi-illegitimate kitchen assistant job for a semi-illegitimate Indian catering service, then teaching songwriting to kiddos through the Y, and then, at last, a coffee shop. I was going to be a barista at a lovely little chain that boasted it’s signature drink with caramel and espresso drenched in whipped cream. I won’t dwell on that, I learned two things from that job that I am eternally grateful for. Number one: I hate uniforms. Number two: I love making espresso.
This is part one in Kait’s “Journeys: Coffee" series. Stay tuned for more coffee trials, errors, and triumphs… and more exciting “Journeys." (probably no 80’s power ballads, though)