We three amigos talk about the memory of our first coffee experience.
My first memories of drinking coffee are from a time when everything was still over-sized from my perspective . . . The chairs were huge, the tables were high, and my eyes barely peeked over the ledge to see the delicious breakfast my grandmother would lavishly serve when we visited her.
It was my grandfather’s mission to get me to like coffee; he wanted me to grow “strong and smart”, which back then, in Costa Rica, was associated with coffee. But he drank his coffee black with salt! Not exactly the “flavor profile” a four year old kid was hoping for!! It was my grandmother who knew how to win me over to the wonders of caffeine. She would serve my coffee in those colorful, sturdy, plastic glasses, which were so popular in the 70’s, and she would pour a bit of strong percolated brew into a ton of delicious whole-milk. To this she added ‘the key ingredient’ sugar, and set it next to my delicious plate of “gallo-pinto”, eggs and warm tortillas. . . perfection!
My family came from a beautiful, rural area in Costa Rica called Turrialba. Although it is only 60km from San Jose, when I was a child, it could take more than four hours to navigate the winding roads that threaded their way up and down the volcanic mountain ranges; past coffee and sugarcane plantations, dairy farms and the occasional ox cart full of ripe coffee. I loved that there were always friendly people waving at the cars as they passed.
In my country, drinking coffee is more of a cultural happening, than just a beverage. School vacations coincide with the coffee harvest, so that everyone can pitch in. It has always been a family event and can be tons of fun! If you are ever in Costa Rica, go pick some coffee. The fiscal year ends with the end of the coffee harvest. By law, the work day is broken up by fifteen minute rest periods – morning and afternoon – we call them “Periodo de Café” which means coffee time! And when a group of friends or family is planning to get together, we say “let’s go have coffee” even if it is not going to be consumed. It just means “let’s be together and enjoy one another”.
I had to ask my older siblings about the time I first drank coffee, as I can’t really remember. They told me that my mom would sit me on the high chair at the table and serve me warm buttered bread with a mug of coffee in milk, and then send me off to school.
My first cup of coffee… was during lunch, one bitter winter, at my grandparents’ farmhouse in southwest Manitoba. I was ten. I had been watching the adults scoop teaspoons-full of Maxwell House Instant coffee for some time. They used to tear the foil only half way so as to leave the other half sealed to the top of the jar, as a leveling tool. I always thought that was clever. Some would then add sugar and stir. As the dark fragrant mixture swirled, they’d add a drop or three of milk. The kitchen had worn linoleum on the floor and a wood-fired, heavy enamel stove. The stove was the only source of heat in this part of the house. Kitchens were separate from the main structures back then. Necessity. You didn’t want your cookstove in the house during those blistering prairie summers. The sun was out but summer was still a long way off. The men and I kept our snowboots on and our one-piece snowsuits unzipped and off to our waists. My grandfather asked me if I’d like a cup of coffee with my sandwich. My eyes went wide. I looked at my dad. My mother chimed in about coffee stunting my growth. I looked back at my grandfather and gave him a timid nod. I can’t remember how long I had waited to finally taste coffee. I always loved the smell. Grandpa got up to get me a mug from the cupboard and gestured toward the jar. I took a spoon and a scoop and asked if it was enough. My mother said, “a little less.” I added it to my mug. Grampa reached for the kettle on the stove and poured the boiling water over the freeze dried grounds. I asked if I could add sugar. Yes. I did as I’d watched hundreds of times before. I asked if I should add milk. Yes. I did. Everyone was watching me. I smelled. I was warned it was hot. I smiled, closed my eyes, and took my first ever sip of coffee.
What’s your ‘first cup of coffee’ story? Comment below.