For a long time, I didn’t like coffee. It’s not that I didn’t want to like coffee, it’s just that it was, well, downright disgusting.
That bitter, bitter taste, that lack of color, its synonymy with the lifeless souls of those who work 60 hours in marketing every week and go home to a tiny apartment in a loveless marriage… It just didn’t appeal to me.
My parents never drank coffee growing up. They did not pride themselves in that, however, because their poisons of choice were Mountain Dew and Diet Coke, which provided the same caffeine buzz at more regrettable health effects.
Therefore, I never felt pressure to succumb to coffee from those who raised me.
However, I soon felt peer pressure from those I called my friends and peers. Everyone warned me about drugs and alcohol and smoking, but no one ever told me of how difficult it would be to walk away from a Starbucks.
There, my addictions began. They were subtle at first. A frappucino here and there, an iced tea every once and a while. It was innocent. Until it wasn’t. Soon I was there weekly, picking up my drink before school. I began experimenting with mochas and lattes.
The energy I got from the mix of espresso and sugar fueled me through some of my longest days. It was blissful. High school no longer dragged on– especially once I started spending my lunch hours stopping for another drink to get me through the rest of the day, tennis practice, homework and whatever else the day sent me.
Every day brought its own challenges and struggles, but coffee never let me down.
Some days it meant I could only play my cello at allegro speed no matter what song we were practicing in orchestra. Other days it meant I left class with no comprehension of the material, but just enough manic writing about jellyfish to narrate an entire nature docu-series. Once in a while, I would find myself laying in a field of wildflowers, drenched in honey and petting the bees I was deathly allergic to, with no recollection of how I had gotten there.
I was truly living.
It was a good life, and I even learned to enjoy the parts of it I spent lying awake in bed long past 2 am, eyes twitching as I tried to will them to close. I began to teach myself French to pass the time I used to spend asleep.
In French, they don’t say “I love coffee.” Instead, they say “Je ne peux pas sentir mes bras,” which translates to “My veins are filled with coffee.” I think that is so beautiful.
Coffee taught me to authentically live out my life. There came a day once where I felt butterflies in my stomach at the sight of one of my fellow classmates, a sweet and quiet boy who had never shown an interest in me in the entire ten years we had been in school together.
He smiled and walked away nearly every time I had appeared in front of him, and didn’t respond, but coffee helped me see that he was probably just nervous around a girl and I had to really get to him.
One autumn day, I downed four straight-up shots of hot espresso immediately after receiving them at the Starbucks counter. I then ate the paper cups, which each had my name spelled differently, all of them incorrect.
And away I went, watching the steam leave my mouth in giant clouds against the cold air.
I became aware I was running at the same speed as the cars next to me on the highway, and wasn’t entirely certain I knew where I was going. My legs were sure of themselves, so I closed my eyes and allowed my mind to follow my body.
The coffee was greater than I. It would not lead me wrong.
Soon I understood the plan. I was inside the bedroom of what appeared to be a teenage boy, based upon the crooked TV with wires forming an abstract pattern to the ground and the piles of clothes surrounding the messy bed. I moved to the bed and sat on it, staring at the bathroom door as it grew larger and larger in my mind.
It opened, and there emerged the object of my affection, looking clean and fresh and awake with a towel around his waste and a wide open mouth, primed for screaming. I began to speak–surely this was the moment coffee had given me to confess my love to this boy. He was meant to be my soulmate.
Master Starbucks always knew best for me.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. The moment served only to humble me, as I opened my mouth and nothing but a burning sensation moved through my throat. I was speechless, and sat as open-mouthed and wordless as the boy on the other side of the rapidly-growing room.
He then screamed, finally, but it was a faint scream, and the sound only drifted further and further away from my mind as the room elongated, pulling me away from him. I was no longer in a room, but a white cup full of coffee.
In fact, there was exactly one shot of espresso beneath me, allowing me to float. I felt a darkness fall around me as three large tablespoons of chocolate syrup were added to the espresso, and swirled in with a spoon. Then came a cup of steamed vanilla coconut milk. I felt as if I was on a fluffy cloud. I tried to call out, but was silenced with a hearty swirl of whipped cream.
There you have it! The best mocha recipe, and the only one you’ll ever need.
P.S. Coffee credit in picture belongs to the fabulous Squibb Coffee and Wine, located in Eastown, Grand Rapids, Michigan.