February 26, 2019

A Brief History of my Steamy Love Affair with Coffee (& my Side Fling with ‘Shrooms).


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Oh magical beans, mystical cinnamon, and heavenly cardamom, let’s work some magic today.

Have I told you today how much I love you? How much I appreciate you?

How I love our morning rituals—moving slowly, with no need to rush?

Our private morning ceremonies are the best way to start my day.

My darling, do you mind if I tell you—yes, once again how we met, fell in love, and have continued our affair?

I shall start with my memories.

My first bitter, but pleasant taste was around the age of three: rich, aromatic black coffee served in tiny cups.

I loved the petite cups my grandparents had; a friend of theirs had painted delicate flowers on the cup and saucer. Dainty flowers in yellow, red, and blue—oh, and there was a ladybug flying away from the flowers. My grandmother’s name, Mandi, was painted in the middle of some of the saucers, and, Hugo, my grandfather’s name on others.

There were once six sets. Five cups and six saucers that would continue to find a place on my pantry shelves throughout the years.

I lovingly packed and unpacked them probably eight times. Last year, I sent half to my sister. I wonder if she remembers them as I do.

As a child, and then as a teenager, I woke each morning to the inviting aroma of Maxwell House in the stove top percolator of our small kitchen. Each morning, hot and steamy black coffee summoned me to the kitchen. Funny, I do not recall what kinds of coffee cups my parents had for everyday use.

I always wondered if our neighbors could smell the fresh brew. With our small row houses attached, we could hear the neighbors on both sides as they went up and down their stairs. Sometimes you heard the sounds of voices, low and indistinguishable. Doors opening and closing, and occasionally plumbing gurgling through the pipes. Were they waking to the aroma of our freshly brewed coffee, too?

My budding romance with coffee would change over the years, sometimes even from ads on TV. Folgers and instant coffee entered my home, but it was just not the same.

Then my mom bought a Mr. Coffee maker.

Okay, it was clearly convenient and a little lazy in some ways. My mom, the late sleeper, along with my sister, loved the feature that allowed their late-night-owl-bird-brains to prepare the coffee maker and set it to automatically come on in the morning.

A welcomed convenience for them, but dad and I were the early risers. I often wonder if he ever missed his morning ritual of making coffee for all of us.

After moving out on my own, I experimented with any type of coffee maker I could find. And then came the espresso years.

Some of my best memories are of lingering in restaurants with friends and sipping espresso after a large meal. I loved the tiny cups, the slices of lemon, the ritual, and the richness of the taste. I bought a metal espresso pot to use on the stove top and loved the simplicity of its design.

Funny, I’m not even sure why I gave it away.

I used to love Sunday mornings the most, and would go through a pot or two, or three. Drinking espresso while reading the Sunday papers: yes, I went through a stage where I was reading The Baltimore Sun, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, but only on Sundays. It became my escape from the hectic busyness of my work week. Work, where the only coffee was either from a machine, or from the cafeteria, made in a large and questionably clean machine.

Then came my French Press years. This concept was new to me and, once again, I met this new acquaintance in a restaurant. As I was ending a meal with friends, the server placed the pot on the table and explained how it worked. I was hooked! I bought a French Press, and a new lover came into my coffee-fueled life.

Then our affair took a turn when I read that coffee from non-filtered sources might cause cholesterol to rise. I read it in too many blogs at the time, and with an already high cholesterol level, I tossed the plunger. Years later, I found out that information was not as accurate as I thought.

But in the meantime, I had already found the cutest cloth filter hanging on a wooden stick. I remember the first time I bought it at my local grocery store—the bagger was so excited! He asked me if I knew what it was, and I said I planned to use it for the coffee grounds to brew my coffee. He said that’s the style they use in his country.

I love when baggers and cashiers converse with us; I learn so much. (My pinot grigio is from the small town of the cashier’s grandmother. And she smiles every time I buy it. But I digress—wine is another love affair I’ve been having all these years).

A few years ago, a friend came to visit and she brought me a gigantic stainless steel electric kettle. I was perplexed, but she said it heats the water in less than a minute. Okay, faster coffee I guess. I bought a glass carafe and placed bamboo paper filters in the removable pour over cone that sits on top.

Then, that very expensive electric kettle died a day or two past the warranty date. Funny how it knows to do just that. So I bought a much cheaper one, then started to worry about the plastic leeching into my water. I decided that I am a patient person after all, and a stainless steel stove top kettle is perfect for me.

In the past few years, I’ve been using a small glass carafe and I’ve created yet another new ritual. I add organic cinnamon and cardamom to the grounds before I pour the hot water over.

Then, in the summer of 2016, I was introduced to medicinal mushroom powdered elixirs—and the world of fungi entered my existence, and my daily coffee ritual.

My passion for coffee continues, a love lasting more than 60 years. This passion and my morning is now fueled by beans, flavored with Ceylon cinnamon and cardamom, and chaga and lions mane medicinal mushroom powdered elixirs.

I love pouring the hot, filtered water from my stainless steel kettle slowly, counterclockwise as I say: “Magical beans and ‘shrooms, mystical cinnamon and cardamom, let’s work some magic today.”

My dearest hot and steamy coffee, I love you. You bring me joy, you warm me when I am chilled, and you clear the morning fog from my brain cells. Yes, I have had many loves over the years, I have tasted the hot and steamy brews from many countries and I have experimented with various techniques. I have cast aside those that did not suite me.

My darling, I have found my high with you and our new friend the ‘shroom. I hope you don’t mind sharing me for, I will always love you. Even if I stray to find another, you will always be in my heart.

A Coffee and ‘shroom haiku: 

Chaga in coffee,
Lions mane fuels my brain, and,
Reishi brings the dreams.

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