the other jumping bean

A bell jangles as she enters the coffee shop. It sounds like sleigh bells even though it clearly isn’t sleigh season. Gwen can’t help but wonder if Cacao employs reindeer hunters. The two baristas behind the counter are only a few years younger than Gwen, but in Cacao’s too bright light, they look old.

“Dude, I think I’m still drunk,” one of them says to that other before he turns around and sees Gwen waiting at the counter.

“Feck off,” the other snaps back in a horrible fake accent. He snorts with laughter.

“Sorry,” the first barista mumbles to Gwen, his face turning a brilliant shade. It’s sort of a cross between an apricot and a strawberry. It’s sickly looking. “Inside joke.”

“We are inside,” Gwen says out of habit, then realizes that’s something Will says and feels a little strange about it. She doesn’t like picking up other people’s mannerisms. “No worries,” she says.

“What can I get you?” the barista asks, going over to the register. He’s tall and wiry; in his uniform Gwen thinks he looks like a toothpick. A tall, khaki toothpick. The other barista, a shorter, stockier guy, is laughing even harder behind him now. Gwen isn’t sure if he’s laughing at his coworker or her. She doesn’t think she wants to know.

“Coffee,” Gwen says. “Medium.” She considers trying to twist her face into a smile — a process that suddenly seems much more difficult and tiresome than normal — but doesn’t and just hands her credit card over for him to slide.

“Room for cream?” the toothpick barista asks. Gwen nods. “Cream and sugar is over by the door,” he says, handing her the paper cup. Steam is coming of the lid and the liquid sloshes as she walks over to the sidebar.


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a while back, a month or more now i guess, keb asked me to write about coffee. not knowing exactly where to go with that, i asked for input here. (further input is always welcome.) the general consensus so far appears to be that the coffee worth talking about is the straight-up, no frills, maybe sugar or cream, basic drip.

which is awesome. i love a good cup of coffee. i usually have about one to two cups a day. this is down from my starbucks (henceforth to be referred to as "sbux") days where i would down a good four to five or more coffee beverages (drip, latte, etc...) in a few hours and then go on to consider a quick espresso con panna before bed.

coffee makes the world go 'round... faster.

and not just in that caffeine sprinting, bouncing and rebounding way. it's got it's hand in our global pockets and it's dug in deep; give it an extra shot of espresso and it might split the seams. i don't like talking about global trade too much because no matter where you start, you almost inevitably end up back talking about colonialism. and besides having some serious issues with colonialism (its lack of decorum, its uncomfortable and awkward fashion sense, and its downright nasty bullying), i really don't know enough to speak as an authority on the subject. for now let's leave that to the experts; those who have completed their required readings: the historians, the sociologists and the anthropologists, the Comaroffs.

so, as for coffee and the speedy mess it's making of our increasingly speedy world, let's just agree that that's a conversation we can return to another day. a rainy day, sitting in a café, pretending to appreciate the great lengths the contents of our macchiatos have taken to reach our round, mosaic tables, all the while watching the over-indulgent artists indulge themselves and the neighborhood regulars do their best to ignore our presence. and maybe, if we discuss these things and reminisce long enough and we pick the right coffee shop and it's after next thursday, we can split a small plate of shoestring french fries, because the wonderful thing about coffee is its mutability.

hot beverages stand up to many challenges. cold air and cooling temperatures are one. seasonality is another. but, perhaps the most challenging is pairing. tea (in my opinion, for after all, this is all my opinion) can lack substance. it's the number two drink in the world after water, which is a great marketing point, but pair a cup of white tea with jambalaya and i'd doubt you'd have a winner. (though, i will admit, i am now considering what rosehips might add to creole dishes...) even the darker teas, on their own or with milk or other additions, are lighter, more delicate, in their composition. this isn't a bad thing. coffee has just always seemed to me much sturdier. sure, it's great with the sweet pastry basics, but throw it up against something much tougher — salty foods, spicy foods, rice idlis and sambar — and it shines. and, oh my, i really want rice idlis, sambar, and coffee for breakfast now.

coffee is one of those drinks that has it's ups and downs. one day webmd is telling us coffee is full of health benefits, the next day it causes cancer and trips your children on the playground when you're not looking. it's difficult not to drink coffee and be considered or consider yourself in one way or another an addict. and the word "addiction," we're told, is bad, so drinking coffee can't be good. it's a costly addiction, one we're paying more and more for everyday by the cup. it has it's role in eating disorders; i argue with mine and my coffee mug daily. coffee isn't a good friend. it gets us hooked, begs for constant attention, and when we try to leave it, it crashes us and, if we're not lucky, our car.

but here's the thing: everything in moderation.

if you're a two- to three- to four-pot-a-day kind of person, this may not be for you. but if you are: breathe easy. the truth is there is no answer. switch to decaf if it makes you happy. or try apple ciders and pumpkin ales; with autumn coming that sounds lovely. just when it comes to the end of the day, ask yourself: are you happy? because the truth is, what you've probably discerned by now, is this isn't an informative post; this isn't an anthropological post; it's a romantic post, a nostalgic post of coffee cups gone by. and whether you drink coffee or not, here's what you can appreciate: the conversation and the community, the odd vitality, and perhaps, maybe most of all, dishwashers.