April 13, 2010

Starting somewhere

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, we're told. So too does a journey which has no easily quantifiable physical movements begin with a relatively small incident. 

Here's the thing about first steps. Owing in large part to their apparently trivial nature at the time, they are easily forgotten. 

And so I can't tell you the first time I sipped a cup of coffee, and fell in love. Such specifics are sadly missing. But I can tell you the where and the what of the occasion. 

It happened at The Underground, an aptly named food court under Wescoe Hall. More accurately, at The Pulse coffee bar housed therein. I worked at The Underground, and thus was obligated to work at Pulse as well. Only I didn't want to. Not in the slightest. The machinery was loud and scary. But most of all, the substances were entirely foreign and unappealing to me. Coffee was a dark, bitter sludge. It was not the best part of waking up, or of anything else. It was a stimulant to be imbibed only for its practical benefits. And even then, I'd prefer a sugary energy drink.

In any case, staff shortages being what they are, I ended up working at The Pulse. 

This is where I'd love to tell you about my "coming to Jesus" moment, the time at which I saw the proverbial light and had some sort of revelation. Unfortunately,  if such a moment ever existed, I don't recall it. 

I know that my first fascination was with milk steaming, rather than the consumption of any one beverage. Something about the skill needed to craft that velvety sheen that comes from perfectly stretched milk appealed to the snob in me, the person who finds anything so inherently artsy something worth being good at.

And I know what my first love was, even if I don't know the details of the encounter. The Pulse serves coffee from The Roasterie, a fantastic Kansas City... roasterie. Every day, there was the Pulse Blend, The Kansas City Decaf, a dark roast and an organic coffee. The dark and organic roasts were served on a rotating basis. It was one of the three organics -- the Sumatra -- which first entranced my palate. 

All the characteristics I've come to know and appreciate in a good Sumatran coffee were of course present here.  The coffee had a dense, earthy mouth feel, complimented by a floral and spicey flavor. But at that time, I only knew that it tasted good. 

Which is still, primarily, my concern when it comes to coffee. It may cost three dollars or thirty, be brewed with a press, a cone, or a Mr. Coffee. There are an infinite number of variables, from grind size, to water temperature, to extraction time. 

All of these things are of the utmost importance, and totally irrelevant. What matters, ultimately, is whether the coffee tastes good or not. 

Which brings me, in a rather roundabout way, to something of a mission statement for this blog. I am not a coffee critic, nor am I a snob. Rather, I am a coffee enthusiast; or to put it more simply, a coffee fan. And so that's what this story leads me to, and what this blog will detail. I'll chronicle my experiences with everything related to coffee, celebrating all of it. 

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