Every day my dear old dad wakes up early in the morning and sleepily shuffles his way to the front porch to fetch his morning newspaper, then proceeds to the kitchen, where he scoops out a few tablespoons of coffee grounds, dumps them into his automatic coffee maker, switches the machine on, and collapses into one of the chairs at the kitchen table, where he proceeds to rifle through the paper until he finds the Comics section. When the coffee is doing brewing, he pours it into a ceramic mug, stirs in some cream and sugar, then collapses again into the chair to get caught up on his favorite strips. If he has enough time, he’ll flip over to the Sports section to see how badly his beloved Cubs lost the night before. Then he prepares his lunch for the day, gets dressed, pours some more coffee into a travel mug, and he’s on the road for the next eight hours.
This has been my dad’s daily routine since I was a child. And there are very few things in life that I can count on more reliably than this sacred act; it has happened every single day since I was at least seven years old.
A love for and appreciation of good coffee are two of the many genetic traits and values that my father passed on to me.
While, perhaps, a semi-famous niche market Internet faux-celebrity that receives hundreds of coffee samples each year from roasters all over the world, I’m just a regular guy that really enjoys good coffee. And, like my father, I too have a ritual that surrounds the brown beverage—I boil a pot of water, carefully measure the amount of beans to brew, their particle size, the amount of water, then I meticulously hand-craft the coffee in a manual brewing device of my choosing.
While our rituals stand in stark contrast to one another, they are both centered around the same two things: good coffee, and a time to center our focus, muster up our energy, and find our balance for the day.
Even though I have coffee running through my veins, the truth is I didn’t even try coffee until I was 16. I showered that morning, got ready for school, came out to the kitchen, poured myself a cup of my dad’s coffee, sat down across from my him with my Pop Tart, and started sipping my coffee. And I hated it. Hated it. It was absolutely disgusting. Despite that, and despite my dad snickering at the look of disgust on my face after every sip from behind his newspaper, I forced myself to finish the cup. From that point on, I made it a personal goal to enjoy coffee—it was my mission. I’d brew up some his stash when I got home from school, I’d go with my friends to the Barnes & Noble cafe and drink black coffee while they guzzled smoothies and frappuccinos by the Venti, I’d even order it at restaurants with my meals.
Eventually, I came to like coffee. I came to love it. It indeed came to be one of my greatest passions in life. Coffee has been the centerpiece of my life for the past several years—it earned me money when I was a barista, it has been the Thing I Have In Common with many of the people I now call friend, it was the the thing that introduced me to my wife, it was the thing that made me somewhat famous among a very small group of people across the globe.
I’ve learned an awful lot about coffee over the past few years, but fifteen years ago he was the guy teaching me about coffee and brewing up pots for us; now he reads my reviews and asks me questions and raids my personal stash then calls me after he’s brewed it himself to tell me his thoughts of it. And the significance of the fact that our roles are now reversed isn’t lost on me at all.
But I didn’t force myself to like coffee because I thought it would open a lot of doors for me. And I didn’t force myself to like coffee because I thought liking it made me manlier or more adult or more sophisticated or whatever… I forced myself to like coffee because I wanted to be just like my dad. And I still do.
He is the reason why I drink coffee.
Happy Father’s Day, Pops. And thanks for teaching me about the importance of quiet time and good coffee.