Years and years ago I used to drink a lot of coffee. I liked it a lot. I sat at a desk all day and drank it. I liked it straight up; black, no sugar or cream, just the sharp taste of the coffee. Green Mountain was my favorite, but I would drink whatever I could get my hands on. Sadly as much as liked coffee it didn’t like me. I used to joke with a coworker that I had stumbled across the perfect diet. Skip breakfast and drink a ton of coffee. If you give it enough time your stomach and intestines will see to it that you lose some weight. Of course the joke was just to cover for the obvious; I was going to have to give up coffee. I tried adding breakfast to my routine, but it was too late. I was ruined. Coffee ceased to be a part of my life nearly ten years ago.
From time to time I will still have a cup, generally on the coldest and wettest of those cold and wet winter and early spring days, but I nearly always paid the price. I discovered the latte several years ago, but they just didn’t seem to do the trick and they weren’t easy to get up here in the backwoods.
About two weeks ago I found myself nearer to the center of East Coast civilization (read New York City) than I had been in a long time. I was staying with family celebrating the arrival of my first nephew. This particular branch of the family tree has a Sunday tradition of going out for breakfast sandwiches and Starbucks. I put in a request for the standard Mocha Latte. I ordered it mostly just to be part of the group, but with the first sip I felt a switch turn in my head. Jesus did that thing taste good. I sipped it and savored it right down to the bottom of that Grande paper cup. I am not sure I was hooked at that point, but later on the looong car ride home while waiting not so patiently for my two year old to eat his nuggets at an Interstate rest stop, I wondered over to the McDonald’s Café. I was trying to order one of those slushy coffee flavored milk shake thingies, but I didn’t know what the hell to ask for and quite by accident I ended up with the McDonalds version of the same drink I had had that morning. As luck would have it, and just how lucky I was has become apparent over the past couple weeks, the girl who made the drink knew what she was doing, or she got lucky too, and she made me a drink that may have been better than the Starbucks version. I quickly noted that not only did these drinks taste amazing they also did not seem to upset my stomach. It was now official… I was hooked.
Now one wouldn’t think this should be a big deal. In fact I should be celebrating that fact that I found a coffee drink my constitution can handle right? Well as I have mentioned I am from the woods. I live in the part of the Northeast that puts the north in the name. There are Starbucks around, but the nearest to my home is about 35 minutes away. The next closest is about an hour and a half, and the third closest is almost three hours from my home. To further illustrate my problem I drive for a living. I total between 800 and 1000 miles of driving in any given week, and that Starbucks that is 35 minutes from my house is the closest I ever get to one in all that traveling. Of course there are other places to get
lattes and we have no shortage of coffee shops around here. You could stop in about any town around here, pick up a rock, spin yourself around until dizzy and then throw the rock with your eyes closed and be assured of hitting a Dunkin Donuts. We also have a growing number of the Canadian brand Tim Horton’s coffee shops, and of course the afore mentioned McDonalds Café. I didn’t even know until two weeks ago that Dunkies and Time Horton’s offered Latte’s. I was vaguely aware that McDonalds was doing something with coffee, but who equates McDonalds with coffee?
During the first work week back from the big city I had three Mocha’s from two different Dunkin Donuts, one from a Tim Horton’s, and one from McDonalds. Of the five drinks I had one good one from Dunkies, and one good one from McDonalds. The one from Tim Horton’s was okay, but something about it wasn’t quite right. The other two Dunkies versions flat sucked. This was a frustrating time in my evolution as a fancy coffee drinker. First I learned that apparently these things are not easy to make. Secondly you better know what the christ you are asking for because with today’s customer service standards sure as hell no one is going to ask you. I was getting them with skim, whole milk, whip cream, no whip cream (who drinks these without whip cream anyway? Isn’t that at least half the point?) all while ordering the same way each time. I have learned by now to be specific when I order, but I still can’t get a consistently good drink. I had settled on McDonalds as best place to get one, mostly because they have the best whip cream, but when I got one there this past Monday I was getting mouthfuls of grit when I got near the bottom. I opened the top and there were grounds all around the side of the cup. I don’t know what I expected when the best latte place around is fucking McDonalds.
Those who have followed me know that I have recently lost a lot of weight, and the biggest change I made was to stop drinking my calories. Those same people may be wondering how drinking at least one 400 calorie coffee drink a day is figuring in to my calorie counting. To that I say not to worry. Like any good addict I have pretty much replaced the necessities of life with with my drug. Basically if I have to choose between my latte and food I will take the latte.
We have enough well to do little towns around here that I am sure there are some decent little coffee shops tucked away, but my driving route steers me pretty clear of these places so for now it appears that I will be forced to continue to roll the dice with these blue collar coffee shops and drink whatever mixture of milk, coffee, whip cream, and chocolate they manage to throw together.