My affair with coffee started in university - Amaretto Almond before first class.
I started buying bulk beans from supermarkets and brewing at home. I enjoyed the wine-like experience of comparing different types. Then Starbucks, of all places, got me off flavoured beans and on the road to single origins. The first S'bucks I visited was in Chicago's Loop.
I was vacationing from the Canadian Arctic, where I was living and working, and started each morning with an exotic sounding cup from Starbucks while I sat on one of their tall, modern stools and watched the world go by the window of the heavy traffic location.
This was early 1992, and nothing like I knew "cafe experiences" to be. An array of beans visible in the counter displays, with data on country of origin and roast level - I was hooked (literally and figuratively). Remember they used La Marzocco semi-autos in those days? Espresso machines front and center in every location.
A few years later, Halifax's "Daily Grind" taught me about East African, Latin American and Indonesian beans. If Starbucks had candy store-like displays, the Daily Grind was a library - dozens of specialty beans on hand. Deciding on a 1/2 pound or two would usually take me 15 or 20 minutes! When I had the $ - I was back in school again - 100% Kona was my treat. I still remember it. Bodum cups with matching red spoons in my basement apartment near Tower and Inglis.
I have been in Greater Vancouver now for 7 years and have gone way off the deep end, if you listen to my wife. I order green beans to home- roast.
I brew with a french press, Aeropress, Chemex, and Yama, in addition to practicing the art of espresso extraction with a stainless steel single-boiler machine that I set on a timer in order to warm up for a full hour.
Some days life is tough, but I take both pride and satisfaction in preparing and serving one of the best cups of coffee around. I revel in it. In closing, I will share my 'quintessential coffee moment.'
Though it could be one of the many referenced above, it is not. It was during a camping trip with my father when I was in my early 20s. We were stocking up on groceries at a Safeway outside of Whitehorse and I selected a French Roast from the bulk section - options were limited, as you might imagine.
I put who-knows-how-many crude tablespoons of ground coffee into a ceramic coated aluminum camping peculator filled with water. It bubbled for 10 or 15 minutes, hissed and spread a gorgeous aroma around the campground. We drank it out of ceramic- aluminum cups (same material as the perc) and half burned our lips.
It was absolutely wonderful. I am sure the taste and experience is coloured by the location and company (my father has since passed), but it remains my ideal coffee.
Photo upper right: This is the percolator I now take with my young family camping - exactly like the one my dad and I used in the Yukon in May, 1991.