french friday ~~ a brief history of coffee

Bonjour!

 Welcome to French Friday.  Truth?  It sort of sneaked up on me.  I was shuffling around the kitchen this morning, making my coffee when it slowly dawned on me that it was Friday….and I had not written a French Friday post.  What to do, what to do, what to talk about?? I thought as I stared at my french press…patiently waiting for my morning fix of smooth black elixir.  And that’s when my “history” with coffee came to mind.

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I  love coffee.  In my later years, I dare say, I have become a bit of a coffee snob.  Yep.  I am one of those people who would rather not have coffee if it is not really good coffee.  Taste, body, brew, strength all make a difference.  And yet, I haven’t always loved it.  I used to hate it.

Back in my single days I was a Diet Coke addict.  I drank it from morning till evening.  The best Diet Coke was from McDonald’s (I still believe this).  I don’t know what it is with their “brew” but somehow they have come up with the best combination of carbonation and chemicals.  It has stood the test of time.  It never let me down.  Whenever I could, I would start my mornings with a drive-by.  Large diet Coke, light ice, s’il vous plait et merci!

After I got married, the Diet Coke addiction continued.  However, the Diet Coke girl had married a coffee addict…an undiscriminating coffee addict to boot.  I had never seen anyone drink the copious amounts of coffee that my new husband could put away.  He drank it from morning till evening.  Blech!  At that time he was buying dark roast Folgers or Maxwell House.  Once in a while he would get me to try a sip.  Gag!  No thanks.  I would quickly grab my Diet Coke to erase the bitters.  Would Diet Coke Girl and Coffee Boy ever find balance?

The years passed.  Our life continued in the same pattern.  When we traveled, I was always with my Diet Coke.  On the road, hitting a McDonald’s was usually pretty easy.  If we were staying somewhere, whether hotel or with friends, I had a supply of 20 oz. Diet Coke bottles with me.  Hubs getting his coffee fix was never a problem either–even if it was the bottom of the barrel, day old coffee–he was good.  In his world, that’s why the microwave was created.

By the late 1990s/early 2000s, coffee places were starting to pop up everywhere.  You know the ones;  Starbucks, Gloria Jean’s, Biggby (originally called Beaners), coffee kiosks in book stores, etc.  Now I was hearing words associated with coffee that were completely foreign–and a little exotic–to me.  Espresso.  Cappuccino.  Latte.  What the ….?  And since I was entering my thirties, I thought perhaps it was time to enter the adult world of coffee drinking (I still snicker at this naïve thought).

I started soft.  Lattes!  Lattes laden with caramel syrup, whole milk, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles! Oh!  This is coffee?  I have been missing out!  It was like drinking a candy bar.  Pretty soon my caffeine/sugar sopped brain started figuring out that one of my favorite coffee drinks was like drinking 1000 million calories in one sitting.  Not good.  So I got really serious:

“Yes, I would like a venti, 2 pumps of sugar-free caramel, skinny latte with an extra shot espresso”.

As I got more aware and became more “health conscious” it would change to:

“Yes, I would like a decaf venti, 1 pump sugar-free caramel, soy latte with an extra shot espresso”.

Brett hated ordering my coffee drinks for me.  It was a lot to say.  And neither of us could ever remember the proper order of ingredients when giving the request to the barista.  We just fumbled out the order.  But hey!  He finally had a coffee drinking wife.  His fantasy girl was complete.  He ordered.  I drank. Marital bliss.

And then in 2004 we went to Paris.  It changed everything.

The average Paris bistro, restaurant, brasserie did not offer foo-foo coffee drinks.  Nor did they seemingly have Brett’s old faithful, brewed coffee.  What they served was straight forward.  Espresso.  Cappuccino.   Cafe presse.  And whatever they served was always the BEST. @#$%. COFFEE. EVER.

Here I was, 34 years old, experiencing the joie de café for the first time in my life.  I was drinking unflavored, strong coffee and loving every sip of it.  I would add a little cream…and that was all I needed.  It was so incredibly good.  In Paris, I became an adult coffee drinker.

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(the “adult coffee drinker” 10/2004)

Ten years later, I have yet to replicate that joyous, taste-bud explosion.  And oh, have we tried.  I can’t tell you how many types/brands of coffees I have bought to try to find that rich, dark, smooth coffee of Paris.  There was a brand from Italy that I used for a while that was very close but my grocer stopped carrying it long ago (and I can’t remember the name).  Fellow blogger, Viveka, recommended LaVazza and I am so glad she did.  I love LaVazza but it is hard to find it in my neck of the woods (usually have to hunt online).  Lately, I have bought a blend from our local coffee shop that is actually really, really good.  But whatever I buy, I have found that the best cup of coffee  I can make will always come from my French Press.

Brett still drinks his coffee filter brewed.  But not me.  I think I have surpassed him as a coffee connoisseur.  I have no problem waiting a little longer for my morning cuppa (errr…carafe)  because I know it will be the BEST.  @#$%. COFFEE. I can drink outside of Paris.

And what is my coffee order now?

“Yes, I would like a french press coffee please.”*

If you thought my previous orders were complicated, you would not believe how many furrowed brows I have encountered with this one.  Oh. my. word.  Just boil some water and give me the press with dark roast coarsely ground beans…I’ll take it from there.

No sugar.  No cream.  Just boiling hot water over beans.  And then the pleasure.  I love this quote from Robert Arbor’s book, “Joie de Vivre”:

“In France, we do not rush to drink our coffee.  In fact, during a leisurely breakfast, it doesn’t matter to us at all  if the coffee in our bowls reaches a lukewarm temperature. We prefer to have the espresso that we drink in the café come to us hot, but at home we are very content lingering over our slowly cooling bowls of coffee.”

Well said.

How do you like your coffee?  Have you tried using a french press?

~~Heather~~

*occasionally my order will be a triple shot espresso or cappuccino (dry).

P.S.  By now you have realized that my link ups haven’t really happened and that the inspiration behind my French Fridays, Cupcake Caramel, is folding up shop.  So sad and she will be missed.  If anyone would like to link up on French Fridays, just let me know.

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17 thoughts on “french friday ~~ a brief history of coffee

  1. Heather, lovely post … for not knowing what to write about … you manage pretty well. Coffee .. coffee – and the smell from it. Heather I bring you my favorite coffee – if we don’t have a chance to meet .. I will post it to you. You can use it in your french press. I drink brewed coffee .. with milk. On special days, days when I remember, I will heat the milk to my morning massive cup.
    Only drink one mug per day when I’m home alone – after my cancer treatment, during the treatment I couldn’t drink coffee at all. On holidays and when with friends there will be a couple of more.
    Do you know that to a cappuccino you have to use two shots of espresso coffee.
    Finland drinks most coffee in the world – Sweden on 6th place …Italy 11th France on 17th … US on 25th. All the Nordic countries is in the top 6. Netherlands is on 5th.
    Have a wonderful weekend with good adult coffee.

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    • Viveka, I would love to try your favorite coffee! Keep it for now until we can hopefully meet in Chicago! Yes, I know that two shots of espresso are used in a traditional cappuccino–I used to work as a barista. But I always add an extra shot because I love the espresso taste so much.

      I can’t believe the US is #25 on the coffee chart! I think you Nordic peoples need the coffee to survive your long, dark days during the winter. Just a theory. ; ) And you all obviously have good tastes.

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      • Barista … wow. You’re really a coffee adult.
        And that is why we live so long too … all that coffee *smile
        I don’t like espresso at all – when I have been in Italy, I have drank it, but it’s nothing I really enjoy, even if theirs are so much smoother than what we get in the rest of Europe.
        Of course we have good taste. I will bring coffee ..

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  2. Love this post. I love a french press and I have tried LaVazza. Wonderful. I’ve never been able to figure out all the lingo at Starbucks; I just ask for a black coffee! Where can you order French press coffee here?

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    • You can get it at Starbucks (and “should be” able to get it at any true coffee shop). I am not even sure they advertise it. It is a good value for the money and you can share it with someone and still have enough to drink. It is a hard drink to order through a drive-thru though.: ) That’s when I stick to black coffee.

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  3. So glad you entered the adult world of coffee! I’m glad diet coke is behind you. I started drinking coffee when I worked night shift at a nursing home in Southamton LI Ny. I not only enjoy coffee and the aroma I want coffee when I see it advertised on a café window or stroll down the coffee isle in grocery store I’m ready! In fact it is close to 3:00 I’m putting on a fesh pot. Thanks Heather for your inspiring blog.

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    • I was thinking about brewing another pot this afternoon too…then I remembered my tea. Still not sure what to do. I did not know this bit of history about you…very interesting. I think I would have started drinking bourbon after working the night shift in that nursing home–I remember some of your stories! xo

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  4. Oh mi cheri (did I say that right?) I remember your Diet Coke days and the any coffee will do hubby of yours. I, on the other hand have been drinking the nectar of the gods (in my humble opinion) since I could sit at the table without a booster seat. Those days it was mostly sugar & cream and only after Sunday dinner. I now drink it black. I am a bit of a coffee snob. Certain fast food places I won’t touch it. I have always wanted to try a french press. You MUST email me the particulars on how to. I actually have the reverse history of you. My hubby is a southerner with a taste for sweet tea please. He has since converted to the “dark side” and will regularly make our coffee in the mornings. By the way, LOVED both the samples you gifted us on one of our regular visits North.

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    • Lisa, I knew if a post could persuade you to comment, it would be this one! I was thinking about your this morning as I wrote it. Particularly the Diet Coke and our camping days. Everyone else would drink coffee those brisk mornings and I would be sucking on a bottle of ice cold Diet Coke. How did you put up with me? LOL!

      Remind me which blends I got for you and we can get some more when you come up again. I have been getting their new dark decaf, “Fog Cutter”, mixed with Iron Bridge (dark roast)–so I am a 1/2 caff girl now. But it is still delicious!

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  5. This is one of the best posts you’ve written! I LOVE it. Being from Seattle I am a die-hard coffee drinker, brewed with the darkest beans I can find. I do have a small French press but have never used it … yes please send me some directions/tips too on how to work the thing. I agree with you that the coffee in Paris is to-die-for – I’d go there JUST for the coffee. But here in the good old US, if I get to a Starbucks once or twice a year, I just order an Americano. Oh and I love that first photo … and I have an identical little Eiffel Tower sitting in front of my computer here. For not knowing what you were going to write about, you did a fantastic job. Have a great weekend!

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    • Wow…merci! I would go to Paris just for the coffee too. I would love to know the brands of coffee that are popular there. Americano. I keep meaning to try that and I haven’t yet. I have a friend who gets those all the time and once in a while Brett will too.

      You have a great weekend too!!

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  6. I love my cappuccino, my American husband is the “real” coffee drinker in our relationship and he swears by his Aeropress. He says it’s makes the best darned coffee he’s ever had, whatever brand he uses, it makes it better!
    Enjoy!
    Di

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  7. mmm, coffee! Had my first taste in Italy when I was about 13 and I’ve been hooked every since! (I didn’t actually start drinking it then though)
    xo
    styleontheside.com

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    • Hooked on your first taste? I am impressed. That might have happened to me if I had been living in France but the coffee that flooded the market in the USA for decades was not on par with what I drink now. I do love it!

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  8. What a coincidence! Not only did I publish a coffee post today but I was asking my wife where she hit the French press two days ago! Do you use LaVazza espresso coffee in your French press? The red or gold? The gold is reputed to be “better”—it’s even more expensive—but I like the red better in my cappuccino machine. Have you ever had siphon coffee? I’m really curious to try it… it’s supposed to be great.

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    • We like the LaVazza Crema e Gusto. And yes, I used this finely ground coffee in my french press. It seemed to work all right. I have heard of siphon coffee but have yet to try it.

      I will have to try some other LaVazza blends. Do you know of any great blends from France?

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      • No, I’m sorry, I don’t know much about French coffee blends. The only time I’ve had French press coffee was when I made it so there’s a good chance that I’m not doing it “right”. I’ll certainly give espresso coffee blends a try (I have a bunch of illy coffee right now).

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