I've been reading these forums off and on for the past year, and with all the different people posting, all the varied tastes, habits, likes/dislikes, exprience and knowledge, levels of dedication and fanaticism, and different parts of the world people in here come from, I think there are a lot of stories hidden in here. I think it would be very interesting to hear how people found their love of coffee, espresso, and coffee culture. What got you started? What got you hooked? What brewing methods, beans, equipment, etc have you tried and use regularly now? What are you currently experimenting with and what do you want to try out soon? Where do you hope to get to or are you already there? What is it about coffee, espresso, and coffee culture that you love? I'd love to hear some stories.
Through age 18: Hated coffee. My earliest memories are of my mom always being up super early (4am) and putting on a pot of Folgers pre-ground coffee in a regular cheap auto-drip coffeemaker and reading the paper / doing writing on her typewriter for the first few hours of the am. This was in the 80's. That same pot would sit there, still on the heat, all morning long and she would end up drinking most of it. The few times I tasted it I remember it being bitter and awful. There were no Starbucks. And, at least in the area I lived, no dedicated cafes that just served coffee. Latte? Never heard of it. Macchiato? Espresso? Cappuccino? Foreign words. Just typical American coffee shops that served you breakfast and also had auto-drip coffeemakers with the familiarly shaped carafes of what I always looked at as bitter dreck. I thought this was all coffee was so I hated it and never paid it any attention.
18-22: As I entered the working world and started needing something to keep me awake early in the morning, I somehow discovered that powdered 'creamer' somehow eliminated that bitter taste from the black dreck. And so I tolerated coffee, drinking it off and on when needed, using powdered creamer.
22-31: Going to college more than full-time (16 units/semester) + working 60 hours/week at the Post Office with a 45 minute commute locked in my dependence on coffee. Somewhere in here Starbucks started popping up everwhere. Starbucks got me through college. Even though it tasted like burnt, it was vastly superior to any other coffee I'd ever experienced, and all the different espresso drinks and types of beans opened my eyes a little bit to coffee culture. Adding a decent helping of half-and-half actually made it taste kind of good. I actually looked forward to the taste of coffee for the first time in my life (I was also addicted to caffeine). Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf wound up being the 'hang-out' spot during the day while in college with friends and I started drinking more espresso based drinks. I wound up working at a Coffee Bean for a few months, and thanks to their training tapes (lol) I got a little history lesson on coffee, and was introduced at least, to the notion of a 'barista' and that there was actually an art to coffee drinks. First exposure to latte art as well. Didn't care for their coffee much though.
HATED espresso, at least by itself, most likely because I never had a properly pulled shot in my life. It seemed like bitter, vile stuff to me. Ironically though, every time I had to open a fresh bag of espresso beans to fill the hopper with, I couldn't help but sit there and smell the freshly opened bag for a while. It was heavenly. All those little oily beans giving off an aroma sent down from heaven. My coworkers laughed at me for this, but after emptying out the bag, I would keep it around for the rest of my shift on the counter and every now and then take a good whiff of it. :) It was an enchanting smell... almost made me high. Why didn't the drink that resulted taste as good as this bag smelled?? Hmmm...
32-33: While working at a spa/fitness club as a second job, I tried what was finally for the first time in my life, a great tasting cup of coffee. There was a juice bar on the second floor of the club that made all kinds of organic fruit/vegetable smoothies, sold health food, superfoods, etc. There were also two Starbucks and a CoffeeBean within 3 minutes walking distance where I would usually get my coffee. After realizing this juice bar also served organic coffee, I gave it a whirl. The guy said they did manual pour-over drip per order. I was like 'pour-over what?' First exposure to brewing methods other than machine drip and espresso. That coffee was really great. And that was what inspired me to finally branch out and start trying out other independent cafes besides Starbucks.
On one of those journeys (just about a year ago in fact) I finally found Intelligentsia, and had THE coffee that turned me into a coffeegeek. I just ordered an iced coffee and was sipping it on the way back to my car and OMG... my whole world changed. I never had any notion that a coffee could have notes. That it could have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That coffee could have hints of fruit, earthiness, chocolate, and a natural sweetness. I almost wondered if they had put something in my coffee besides just coffee? If they had given me some kind of espresso drink with some flavoring? It didn't take long after that cup for me to find coffeegeek, order my Baratza Virtuoso, and start buying my own whole beans and doing my own manual pour-overs. It took practice, but I got pretty good at it and was making some delicoius cups at home. Found out there was a local roaster within walking distance(!) to my place. Began pouring over these forums and learning, learning, learning. All the while I've been trying coffee at many different places around L.A. and have found some really good cafes.
34 (present)]: Right now I am still doing pour-overs at home. In the last few days I bought a Bialetti Moka Express after reading about 1/3 of the way into the "Confessions of a Brikka Lover" post which grew my curiosity to the breaking point. I'm liking it so far. I've explored a lot of cafes in the area. My favorite is Demitasse in Little Tokyo. There's too many good things to write about that place...
Likes: So far I've like most of the coffees I've tried, but I think I have a preference for darker roasts. I like the earthier, bolder coffees with lots of body. I do like the lighter roasts at places like Intelligentsia with the more complexity and varietal notes, but to me sometimes its like eating a rich chocolate cake every day... sometimes you need a break :) I have to return to my 'coffee coffee' (what does that even mean?). I like espresso drinks, but still haven't gotten a taste for espresso on its own. I tried a shot by itself at Intelly some time ago and while it was so much better than any other straight espresso experience I've had, I still couldn't see myself having one by itself on a regular basis.
What I want to try: I really want to get more of an education in coffees and brewing methods. I've tried siphon brews, manual drip, chemex, and now moka pot. I'd like to try Turkish and Aeropress next. I'm still a complete newbie when it comes to varieties of beans and roasts.
Dislikes: I HATE sugar or other sweetners in coffee. I've never liked the taste of sweetened coffee, even in an espresso drink. The only time I can tolerate this is in a blended iced drink something like a frappuccino style beverage. I do like half-and-half but the higher the quality of the coffee, the less I use. In great coffee, I can easily drink it black, but I do add a splash of half-and-half... for me that little bit somehow sets off the flavors of the coffee a little and enhances them.
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