I’ve had straight coffee exactly two times in my life: Winter 2007, and today. Back in 2007 I was attending Stoney Brook and working at Dunkin Donuts as I didn’t have a car and it was the only place within walking distance that was hiring. We got free drinks while working and I usually just made myself tea. Sometimes I’d mix it up with a caramel latte, but that was about it. One day, however, I remember feeling very tired and deciding to try actual coffee to see if it would help (I knew it wouldn’t, because caffeine doesn’t affect me, but I figured it couldn’t hurt). The resulting concoction was atrocious. I kept adding milk and sugar to try to make it more palatable, but nothing worked and it ended up straight in the trash. I was thoroughly convinced that I was not a coffee person and felt no need to venture down that road again.
Once I started making a weekly pilgrimage to Starbucks, my drink of choice 99% of the time was a non-fat, no-whip white mocha. The other 1% of the time I would branch out and try some holiday flavors, usually to be disappointed and go right back to my old favorite. Today, however, I decided to try my luck with straight coffee again. Why, you might ask? Because I’d just finished Howard Schultz book “Pour your heart into it: How Starbucks built a company one cup at a time,” and had just started his newest book “Onward.” (For those who don’t know, Howard Schultz is the man who built Starbucks from practically nothing to what it is today). His passion for coffee was tangible. It’s almost like he’s in love with it— in a way, I’m sure he is. The mission of Starbucks is to serve the best coffee in the world, and they spend top dollar to make sure every cup of coffee lives up to their high standards. His passion was so great that it made me want to try that bitter black drink which so many people can’t seem to function without.
During our lunch break I headed over to Starbucks and ordered a tall Pike Place roast, black. I’d learned the hard way with tea that adding sugar and milk to a drink dilutes the flavor to a point where it’s unrecognizable. I didn’t want milk and sugar with a hint of coffee (if I wanted that, I would have gotten my white mocha), I wanted the real deal. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sip (coffee is definitely an acquired taste) but even a newbie like me could tell I was drinking the best of the best. The flavors were full and perfectly balanced and there was no bitter aftertaste. I couldn’t finish the whole thing (once it cooled down I liked it a whole lot less), but I’m definitely considering trying some of the other blends and seeing what I think. It’s amazing how one man’s passion can induce people like me to try things we’d already sworn off. No wonder Starbucks has done so well under him 🙂