Coffee relationship status: it’s complicated.

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Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

Our coffee grinder broke. I didn’t just use it for coffee, because I also grind spices from time to time. It was the motor that caused the little electric grinder to give up the ghost. Jeff tried to fix it, but once he plugged it in and that tendril of smoke snaked upward, we knew it was a lost cause.

That’s a bit of a bummer, but we went on line, ordered another one and it should arrive tomorrow.

Not that there’s a rush for me, because I have a very complicated relationship with coffee. Jeff’s relationship with coffee is fairly straightforward — “coffee is good.” For me, I love the very idea of coffee, love the history of it, and it has one of the best aromas on the planet. Even before coffee became the trendiest thing since sliced bread, I loved it. Except that is not quite correct. I actually hate the bitter taste of it. To me, coffee just tastes bitter. Sometimes, when it’s old or over-roasted, it tastes like burned bitterness. There are no “notes of caramel or blueberry” or any other nuances that are discernable to me — just bitterness.

My mother, who was a phlebotomist at Rose Hospital for more than 10 years, has always enjoyed coffee. I often associated coffee drinkers with hospital workers, because it seemed to me that all the nurses, phlebotomists, doctors and respiratory therapists I’ve ever met were heavy coffee drinkers.

My husband, who started adjusting to drinking black coffee with his boss once a week (for 1 to 1 supervision in the boss’s office), had come to not only appreciate, but also enjoy it black. Although he does put a splash of cream from time to time, he has no issue with just drinking it black. He enjoys the bitterness, and can discern different flavors like fruitiness and nuttiness.

I have tried, God knows that I’ve tried to get used to the taste of coffee. In high school, while cramming for exams, I would battle my way through heavily milked and sugared concoctions, yet found myself completely insensitive to caffeine, unable to keep my eyes open and falling asleep after only studying for an hour or so.

Throughout the years I kept trying coffee, but unless I made it white and sweet, it was a retched brew. I determined I loved the smell of coffee, but hated the taste.

Then Starbucks came along, making “the coffeehouse” a trendy, accessible thing. No, I didn’t start liking coffee because of Starbucks. I still loathe the taste. However, I found a way to drink it so it is not bitter as the devil’s soul — I order a tall latte, which is already creamy, then add three pumps vanilla and three pumps hazelnut syrups. The taste comes out as magical — I feel as if I am, literally, drinking the smell. There is no coffee taste left in this latte, only the light coffee aroma.

At this point in my life, I should simply give up on ever being able to like, or even tolerate, the taste of coffee. I will never be the coffee lover I’ve always wanted to become. I wish I can say it’s OK, but it still bothers me. I feel as if I am stuck in limbo — not able to enjoy coffee, not able to give up the dream of being a coffee drinker.

If this is an odd form of purgatory, it is the lamest one yet, and certainly one of my own making, at least of my taste bud’s own making.

Written by

Writer and storyteller, immigrant, wife, mom, knitter, collector of jokes, lover of cheap, sweet wine.

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