Coffee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Coffee, real coffee, good coffee, is more than just a breakfast drug to jump-start the working man or woman, frilled and dolled-up with milk and sugar, something vaguely similar to real coffee, but markedly inferior because of the foreign elements introduced. And I cannot think of instantaneous perfection in anything, so let's just forget about those "crystals" right now.

A "cup of Joe" is by no means as common as this euphemism will have it sound. In a country where health fads come and go with the politicians, an exotic, imported, and un-American liquid has been made part of the "all-American" breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner. But it is usually, lightened and sweetened to cover the taste, perhaps considered some kind of threat to cultural security if not blended with known, domesticated ingredients.

Whether it comes from Kenya or Columbia, there are exact specifications to making perfect coffee. The beans must be well roasted; only when the roasters have been lax or over-exuberant at their job does coffee taste bitter. The grinding of the beans must be done to the precise size and weight of the granules necessary for the brewing apparatus used; if this is not done, the liquid ends up either too weak or has a stomach-turning amount of sediment at the bottom of the cup or pot. It must be served hot, just below scalding, leaving a good five minutes for staring into the swirling depths. The color should be dark, chocolate brown with a touch of henna - never the sickly amber it becomes when there is too much water, and certainly not black and accompanied by a burnt smell, which means it has been sitting on a burner for an excessive amount of time and too much water has been allowed to evaporate.

The amount is also very important: if there is too little, one might feel obliged to add something so the level becomes respectable. If there is too much, one is so preoccupied with not spilling it that little enjoyment comes from the sipping itself. The cup, ideally, should be 3/4 to 5/6 filled, so that a second cup is welcomed, but there is not enough room for significant "tainting" with dairy and sugar or sugar-like substances. Coffee has an inviting, pervasive aroma; a cafe selling "good" coffee should be smelled before it is seen.

Simple and exotic, like Masai dances or Inca ruins, coffee is inspiration for conversation and art. After a play or film, there is nothing better to engender conversation than steaming, well-blended, slow-brewed java. A favorite beverage of the Beats, there is even a faint taste of it in "Sunflower Sutra" and On the Road.

Coffee is just about everywhere in American, European and many other cultures, can be bought anywhere from gas stations to five-star restaurants, but "good" coffee is much harder to find, much harder to perfect, and well worth the trouble. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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