A love letter to Coffee


Martin Beck

A cup of coffee sits in a windowsill

Coffee, I love you, but I have not always loved you.

We met at the supermarket, when I licked some grounds off a self-service bean grinder. Young and foolish, I had expected chocolate, but instead I got a mouthful of foul-tasting grit that left me feeling cheated, clawing at my tongue. My father escorted me to the water fountain.

He made you every morning, my father, using some mysterious form of alchemy. Into the machine went grounds, water, toadstools, and out came a black liquid good enough to drink, whose aroma filled the kitchen, the bedrooms, the whole apartment. I knew a few things about you. You paired well with eggs and toast. You could encourage a sleepy man, reclining on the couch in flannel pajamas, to shave himself and iron his pants. Sometimes, my father took me with him to your shrine, a cream-colored room in a strip mall where people would come, often with laptops, to drink you in, slowly, an act of worship. He bought me your doppelgänger, hot chocolate. Nobody buils shrines to hot chocolate.

My freshman year of high school, we reunited. You came to me in a mug, $2.15 plus tax, breathing in my anticipation and exhaling tendrils of steam. Our first kiss was unromantic. You tasted like those grounds at the supermarket so many years ago. We both realized, on this first date of ours, that I had ordered you in a mad grab for adulthood, not because I had fallen in love, or even really liked you. I wanted to live like a working man, cup of joe in one hand, briefcase in the other. You refused to be an accoutrement of my dream, and I despised you for it.

Besides, you had coffee breath.

We met again two years later – you a Columbian roast, I a junior – in the same café. I tried not to make it awkward. A lot had happened in my life since we last saw each other, including two garden-variety high school relationships that had ended in heartbreak.

“Please don’t think this is a rebound thing,” I told you. “It’s not.”

Meanwhile, you’d spent the last two years enjoying international fame at the helm of a multi-billion dollar industry. Why you wanted anything to do with a scrawny kid like me, especially after that first date, I can’t say. But you showed up in a mug, $2.25 plus tax (even you could not escape inflation), to give our relationship another go.

We really hit it off. I brought my teenage bitterness with me, all my gripes about teachers and bands that need to release a new album already, and you replied with a bitterness of your own, what I had once condemned as disgusting but what now felt like commiseration. As a kid, I’d wanted everything to taste like cotton candy. But at some point between freshman and junior year, in one of life’s first truly dark spots, dealing with heartbreak, cotton candy had started to taste a little condescending.

Coffee, you tasted just right.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email