I get asked, "Do you drink coffee?" a lot.
OK, maybe not that often. But it usually comes up with anyone I drink tea with on a regular basis. I don't dislike the idea of coffee—it's just another feel-good plant plus hot water formula—but I find it overwhelming on all sensory fronts. It's strongly scented, strongly flavored, loud to prepare and often to consume. Tea's subtlety, on the other hand, tends to lead me inward, as I watch the leaf unfold and take in its aromas on a wisp of steam. My mind has to quiet to fully absorb the experience.
I can appreciate coffee in a few contexts, though. Since working as a barista (which was interesting due to my intense dislike of espresso) I can enjoy a beautifully made shot once in awhile—and understand how much skill and focus went into producing it.
It's been the best training for my palate as well, as preparing good espresso requires frequent adjustments and constant tasting. Tasting something I like (tea) is easy; tasting something that I really don't requires enough focus to get past my emotional reaction and pay attention to flavor analytically.
And then there's Cafe Du Monde (800 Decatur St.), in New Orleans. I don't get to go there as much as I'd like, but when I am, anything other than a
cafe au lait to accompany those deep-fried, diabetic bombs known as
beignets just wouldn't taste right.