by Marc Cullison, mcullison.com
That’s what my daughter calls me. One morning when she was home for a visit, mention was made of the coffee beans I had just ground and placed in the coffee press. Of course, I had to defend myself and I told her that I liked bold coffee, not that rotgut stuff you buy in the grocery stores. Then she said, “You’re a coffee snob.”
After the shock of such an accusation subsided, I started thinking about what my daughter had said. My wife and I, particularly my wife, had done a better job of raising her than I had thought. I had to give her credit for nailing it. I AM a coffee snob. I don’t deny it and I embrace it. I love good, bold coffee. Actually, I love it.
I was not always in tune with the taste of coffee. As a teenager I had sampled it, but I found no particular affinity for it other that it was something that the adults did. In college, I acquired a taste for it. It wasn’t until my first bivouac with ROTC fraternity, Pershing Rifles, that I had my first experience with C-rations. Widely used during WWII, these are ingenious food packages that provide a complete meal for the soldier. He gets an entree, fruit, desert, gum, cigarettes, and small packets of instant coffee, along with creamer and sugar. Oh, and salt and pepper complete the package, and, of course, a personal size package of toilet paper. It was the coffee on that cold morning that I enjoyed. The strong, heavy flavor of coffee brewed with water that had been stored in God know what, and served in the tin cup from the bottom of my canteen. For some reason, it soothed my anxiety and warmed me. And it tasted pretty darned good. It reminded me of the coffee my mother brewed on family picnics, using a large coffee pot (about two gallons.) She placed the pot full of water on the fire and dumped coffee grounds into the water and let it boil. Then a cup of cold water to settle the grounds to the bottom. That was actually good, for coffee. Sitting there on a rock in the woods with my M-1 rifle at my side, I imagined myself back on that picnic.
I am one of those people who grows tired of the commonplace and aspires to find new things. Coffee is no exception. In college, I experimented with various brands of coffee from the supermarket, some of them randy, some bold, some heady, and some so bland I could hardly stand them. I gravitated toward the bold coffees. I even tried one with chicory and liked it. This trend continued into my marriage and I had the opportunity to sample some arabica coffees, those made from the more aromatic beans. They were quite different from the mundane robusta coffees I was used to. Robusta coffee is the cheap filler stuff you find in supermarkets. I fell in love with them and that led to the acquisition of a coffee grinder. I was able to purchase arabica coffee beans in nearly unlimited varieties, grind them fresh into a super cup of coffee.
Since I was always on the lookout for new things, my wife presented me with a Krupps coffee machine several, well many, years ago. It was a combination drip coffee maker and an espresso machine. After I got the hang of it, I was hooked. I focused more on quality coffees and perfected my brewing technique. I must say I’ve become pretty good. I now use a coffee press. So far I have found no equal for good coffee.
My evolution into a coffee snob has placed me at a disadvantage, however. Whenever I visit someone, if coffee is offered, I’m in a quandary as to what to do. Most of the time, what is offered is the robusta crap that I discarded a long time ago. But, I don’t want to be rude, so I accept it and tolerate its unforgiving blandness. It makes my own brewed coffee that much better when I return home to drink it.
We all have our little pleasures in which we indulge. One of mine (yes, one of many) happens to be good coffee. Any Starbuck’s patron might tell you a similar story. It’s much like single-malt scotch whisky (that’s another story.) Once you’ve had the good stuff, you can’t go back. I never will. I’m a coffee snob and I love it. Cheers!