The Lure of Coffee

I spend a lot of time in Starbucks these days. Way too much time. I used to live in northern California. Coffee was a large part of the culture there. They had all sorts of coffee shops around, but they were all of the independent artisan variety. A Starbucks cup was a mark of the uninformed, uninspired, and completely out of touch. Such Californians would come to Texas and sigh as they trudged into the dimly lit corporate icon. “There’s nothing better,” they would resign.

I thought the whole coffee obsession was a bit ridiculous, and so I defied them all. I would buy a 20 ounce Coke from the gas station. They never did know what to do with me. And then I moved back to Texas.

I’ve noticed that when you live in another state, you never know what will stick with you until you come back. When I lived in Oklahoma, I found that the lack of Tex-Mex food was a travesty. Suddenly, on trips back home, I would savor every marinated fajita strip, like a drowning man gasping for oxygen. When I officially moved back, I craved Mexican food consistently for about seven or eight years.

When I lived in California, I would have a cup or two of coffee once in a while. But, it was never a big deal. But, when I moved home, I bought a coffee maker the first day. Suddenly, I was talking about creamers, blends, flavors, and coffee presses like a seasoned barista. Someone gave me a Keurig and the damage was permanent.

It’s hard to explain the lure of coffee. I mask it with a lot of additives, so it’s not entirely the taste…although with the right flavor and the right creamers, coffee can be a heavenly bliss. But having a cup of coffee is such a contemplative act. Something about it helps me feel centered and focused. It’s that moment that allows me to separate out me from everyone else, and drown out the noise.

There’s a social element to coffee as well. There’s nothing quite like having a cup of coffee with someone. It’s relaxed, focused, and while it may be over a kitchen table or at a chic coffee house, it keeps people together regardless of schedule, kids, significant others and whatever else plagues our first-world minds. I would like to imagine Jesus would frequent coffee shops with various people. I guess that’s why churches will put them in, although it has been my experience that the coffee there is never as good.

So, I find myself spending most of my time in various Starbucks these days. Me, and my computer and a thousand thoughts that I relentlessly pound out on the keyboard. One day, I will be able to insert it in the liner notes to my novel “Thanks to Starbucks,” but today I just ask for another refill. Pike Place. Shot of Hazelnut. Fill it three-quarters full for creamer.


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