Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Coffee? Yes, please!" Confessions of a Coffee Addict...

Coffee Forum-->Share your favorite blends/coffee drinks below!

I am a caffeine coffee addict. So naturally, I take coffee, very, very seriously. I look forward to a morning cup of coffee before bed, while I'm making it, while I'm drinking it, and sometimes in the afternoon, when I'm making another. I have definitely pasted that same smile (see photo) as the 50's style meme to the right before I have taken a sip of the coffee in my hand and someone asks me a question forcing my brain to operate painfully before 8AM. Any student who has ever sat in one of my classes knows that at some point during the class period I will look up and say, "Where did I put my coffee?" in panic as I'm wandering all over the classroom. I realize this might not be normal behavior. I realize that it's clearly due to a caffeine addiction and obsessions with the smell and taste of roasted coffee beans.

I realize that Green Tea is healthier, if not as satisfying (I've actually reviewed my Top Ten favorite teas on this blog before, here.) I know that Splenda is probably bad for me and Aspartame is definitely bad for me, and refined sugar is bad for me, and heavy cream and milk and large quantities of caffeine are also bad for me, but over the years, I've loved most of or all of those ingredients at one time or another. I have contemplated the humorous ingenuity of an IV drip of coffee. Yes, I am also a Starbucks Gold Card Member. If you don't know what that is, please don't go look it up, it's embarrassing. Yes, I frequently go to Dunkin' Donuts when I'm sick of Starbucks, because honestly, I love coffee and I love both chains. I have opinions about types, roasts, fair trade and what should and shouldn't be in coffee. So I must confess: I am a Coffee Snob. I realized this fact this past weekend after going through my shelves to see what kind of coffee my relatives would like and realized that I had over three pounds of different types, and at least five different flavors.

Me drinking coffee in Wuzhen, China.
So, today, I'm going to share all the knowledge of coffee that I've accumulated like Gollum researching the One Ring, and hope that we can share in some of this coffee madness together. The research on the benefits and harm of coffee is conflicting. Some sources say that it prevents Alzheimers, others that it leads to high blood pressure and heart disease. Generally, many sources agree that is is bad in high doses, meaning that there is a "magic number" which is considered too high for caffeine intake. I even found, recently while doing research, this article, compiled by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) about "How drinking too much coffee can induce a mental disorder," which warned of the dangers of caffeine intoxication and withdrawal! It seems we can't win! So putting aside "the debate: is it good? Is it bad?" I shall review my favorite types, flavors and varieties.

I started drinking coffee around the age of sixteen. This coincided with the increasing challenge of waking up earlier and earlier for high school. (Why did classes start at 7:05?) Being a Masshole New Englander, meant that I had my pick of Dunkin' Donuts locations [chain was founded in Quincy, MA] and this being 2002, there was not a Starbucks for thirty miles. [Banned by the Quincy, Massachusetts Coffee Mafia?] So I drank my "French Vanilla, Extra Extra" happily for months, until I realized that it was the source of daily agony (milk intolerance) and switched to black coffee, which I've been drinking since.

At nineteen, on my summer break before Sophomore year of college, I got a summer job as a barista at Jaec's Coffee in Attleboro, MA, by the train station. While I was usually called "The Sandwich Queen," since I loved making the salads and sandwiches, I was still trained on and often made drinks using the industrial espresso maker at the coffee shop. I grew to appreciate a good espresso, which has a drip of 25-30 seconds, made from freshly ground beans in a packed handle, in a clean glass so that it doesn't taste "burnt." I grew to love the "Pumpkin Spice" flavored roast at Jaec's so much that I bought a five pound bag which lasted years in the freezer at my parent's house. That summer culminated in my drinking eight espressos before the "American Cancer Society's Relay for Life" where I ran around the track for the midnight-4am shift and woke up sixteen hours afterwards having a new understanding of caffeine addiction. So I quit coffee cold turkey, walked around like a zombie for three weeks, and eventually switched to a more green tea influenced diet for years.

Then I decided to become a middle school teacher, 8AM classes continue. On a related note: seven years later, I have tried dozens of brands, varieties and flavors and have narrowed down my favorites to the following.

"Aimee's Must Try Coffees."

I think I have a problem...
I order my coffee from Mattie's Mountain Mud in New Castle, Virginia. (So does one of my colleagues and my boss, because we field trip up to that city annually with our students for an outdoor trip.) Mattie ships it to me with bumper stickers and a handwritten note, because she is a small business owner, uses certified organic beans, and ensures that her beans are Fair Trade certified. My absolute favorite is BAVARIAN CHOCOLATE. In fact, my husband who only drinks Mochas from Starbucks popped his head into the kitchen to see what that delicious smell was (newly ground Bavarian Chocolate coffee beans) and helped himself to a cup every time I made a pot of it for the next two weeks. 

My second favorite, is also a Mattie's product: COAL. This one has an awesome story of creation, where Mattie charcoaled the beans as far as she could before they caught on fire. Surprisingly, this extra dark roast isn't flavored like dusty carbon or charcoal, and has a deep, full taste, which with raw sugar is smooth and sweetened. It's definitely a headache killer, as a few sips restore the brain of any caffeine addict to normal operation.

If you love coffee, be sure to try her incredible Dark chocolate covered coal coffee beans: they are to die for. 

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Vs. the Pumpkin Spice Latte: HELP ME FIND "THE ONE!" 

Even though Floridian Octobers are incredibly hot still, I still yearn, as do all of the other Yankee transplants in the Fall, for a decent Apple Cider and Pumpkin Spice coffee or latte. I usually default to the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with soy milk (which I could dare you to try to find a difference to normal milk it's so hard to tell.) However, since this latte is still loaded with sugar, I buy a couple of pounds of the Dunkin' Donuts' Pumpkin Spice flavor. Granted, as that's loaded with artificial flavors, I'm still searching for the perfect blend: care to share yours?

The Starbucks Secret: Peppermint Mochas are available YEAR ROUND.

Sometimes, when I need a comforting warm drink to hold, I order a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha off season. In case you didn't know: they're available year-round. As are these other Starbucks secrets: the "Off the Menu" drinks that you can order. I've tried the Thin Mint Frappuccino and it tastes exactly like a Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie.

The Best of Normal "House" blends of coffee:

#1. Waffle House regular coffee: the best in the USA!
#2. Starbucks' Pike's Place Blend.
#3. Starbucks' Italian Roast Blend.
#4. Cracker Barrel coffee.
#5. Dunkin' Donut's House with French Vanilla.

Varieties I avoid: 

#1. Starbucks' "Blonde" roast. Ew. Too light. Just drink tea instead.
#2. Starbucks' Dark Roast. Burnt taste. Too sour.
#3. Starbucks's French Roast. There's a whole lot wrong with this.
#4. Dunkin' Donut's regular house: bland, sawdusty.
#5. Fast Food Chain coffee. $0.59 of D grade. No thanks.

So, I've admitted that I'm a coffee snob: preferring to order "Off the menu" at Starbucks sometimes, ordering coffee from an awesome organic roaster in Virginia, and blasting varieties that taste like sawdust or too burnt because I care passionately for coffee. But, if you're reading this, perhaps you do to. 

Please share your coffee secrets, favorite blends and types 
that I should try below and I will love you forever. 

Other Media/Sources/References:
1. Dufty, William. "The Dangers of Refined Sugar." 07 JUL 2013. Web.
2. "Aspartame." American Cancer Society. 07 JUL 2013. Web.
3. Schwaner-Albright, Oliver. "Coffee Pollutant No.1: Cream."New York Times. 07 JUL 2013. Web.
4. Veracity, Dani. "The Hidden dangers of Caffeine." Naturalnews. 07 Jul 2013. Web.