I love this essay, not because I necessarily agree with it, but because I agree with the vibe of it. It’s from 2019, so it must have come via my social feeds.
Keith Pandolfi used to own a coffee shop which served the best barista-crafted flat whites, etc. in the area. These days he drinks Maxwell House. Likewise, there’s areas of my life in which I’ve gone from being very fussy to not really caring. It’s the letting go that matters.
The best cup of coffee I ever had was the dirty Viennese blend my teenage friends and I would sip out of chipped ceramic mugs at a cafe near the University of Cincinnati while smoking clove cigarettes and listening to Sisters of Mercy records, imagining what it would be like to be older than we were. The best cup of coffee was the one I enjoyed alone each morning during my freshman year at Ohio State, huddled in the back of a Rax restaurant reading the college paper and dealing with the onset of an anxiety disorder that would never quite be cured.
I don’t have memories of… bonding experiences taking place over a flat white at a Manhattan coffee shop or a $5 cup of nitro iced coffee at a Brooklyn cafe. High-end coffee doesn’t usually lend itself to such moments. Instead, it’s something to be fussed over and praised; you talk more about its origin and its roaster, its flavor notes and its brewing method than you talk to the person you’re enjoying it with. Bad coffee is the stuff you make a full pot of on the weekends just in case some friends stop by. It’s what you sip when you’re alone at the mechanic’s shop getting your oil change, thinking about where your life has taken you; what you nurse as you wait for a loved one to get through a tough surgery. It’s the Sanka you share with an elderly great aunt while listening to her tell stories you’ve heard a thousand times before. Bad coffee is there for you. It is bottomless. It is perfect.
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