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April 19, 2012

Raising a Coffee Geek

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威爾Family ♥ Ryan,Will,Lilian / Stock Photos

 

One of the minor annoyances of being a stay-at-home worker in a town that doesn’t have much of a coffee culture is that people just don’t get you. I mean, they really don’t get you. When you start talking about flavor nuances and water temperatures and the relative benefits of a Beehive vs. a Clever, their eyes glaze over. And heaven forbid you want to figure out exactly WHAT that little hint of flavor is that you can’t identify. “What do you taste?” you ask. “Uh… coffee?” Well, I’m totally tickled this morning to announce that I’ve come up with the solution to the problem: I raised me a homegrown coffee geek!

Now, I didn’t set out to raise a coffee geek, but I had one advantage. The kid showed a predilection for coffee early on. By the time he was 1 1/2, we couldn’t put our coffee mugs down in his presence unless we were planning to share. I was safer than the roomie, because I drink my coffee with cream, and the little guy showed a definite preference for his dad’s unlightened, unsweetened dark brew. We joked about him self-medicating because, thanks to a seriously severe case of sleep apnea, he’d been sucking down a daily dose of prescribed caffeine for his entire life at that point. The prescription consisted of pulverized caffeine tablets in a suspension and it was bitterly nasty, so it may just have attuned his tastebuds early on.

And to be fair, coffee wasn’t the only thing we had to keep out of his reach. The child would eat or drink anything that was small enough to fit innto his mouth. By the time he was 2, we were on a first-name basis with the operators at Poison Control, and my locked cabinet held soap, shampoo, face cream, conditioner, dishwashing liquid, deodorant, laundry detergent, scented candles (he ate them like candy bars) and a miscellaneous collection of pretty much any spice or herb under the sun. And coffee. He crunched coffee beans and ate ground coffee by the spoonful. Who DOES that?

Eventually, in self defense, I started training his palate. I started out easy — I’d have him taste everything as I was cooking and ask him questions about what he was tasting. It turned into a game. He’d scoop up a spoonful of the spaghetti sauce, swish it around in his mouth and then start listing off the spices and flavorings. By the time he was about 8, he could tell if I’d used dried or fresh basil and recognize immediately that I hadn’t added a spoonful of sugar to cut the acidity in the tomatoes.

Mind you, I had stopped feeding him coffee at this point. He learned how to make a decent pot of coffee, then a good shot of espresso, and how to steam milk for cappuccino, and somewhere around 16 or so, he started drinking coffee again. Since I started buying on ROASTe, both of my boys — ages 18 and 20 — have gotten totally spoiled. They brag to their friends that our house serves the best coffee in town. They bring their friends home and make them espresso, and then grill them about how good it is. I found the whole thing amusing, but didn’t realize just how great it is to have a couple of coffee geeks in house until this morning.

I finally got around to brewing up a 50/50 blend of the cheap Congo coffee beans and the El Salvador coffee beans I picked up a couple of weeks back. I roasted them both to full city separately, packaged them separately in dark glass airtight jars, and blended them in the hopper of the grinder. The coffee is my usual brewer — the moka pot — and I hit it with a shot of foamed milk. The first sip nearly knocked my socks off. Rich, deep flavor, full body, lingering aftertaste — just… wow. The kind of wow that you really want to share with another coffee lover. And lo and behold… my little coffee geek comes staggering out of the bedroom, yawning, stretching and scratching. Without a word, I hold the cup out to him. He takes a sip. Blinks. Sniffs. Takes another sip and holds it in his mouth. 

“Yeah?” I ask.

“Wow. Rich. That first sip is a doozy,” he says. “Is that… hazelnut? No…but definitely something nutty. And..oak. You don’t taste it right away but after you swallow…wow! What IS this one?”

It was beautiful. Right now, I have a second moka pot going on the stove that I’ll share with #2 son, and get to have the conversation all over again. It’s coffee geek heaven.

 

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