By Tom Ehrich
I am a coffee connoisseur.
In the original sense of the word, I know something about coffee.
I am not a "foodie," prowling for the latest in dishes, ingredients and gear. I am not a "gourmet," claiming to have ideal tastes.
No, from consuming thousands of morning cups, I know something about coffee. Telling you about it, in turn, was inspired by a 15-minute video on Upworthy, in which a well-known motivational speaker lamented spending nearly three hours primping for this stage appearance.
She proceeded to strip off her "mask" of makeup, return her hair to its normal frizzy state, kick off her "uncomfortable" high heels, and take off a power dress that felt "constricting."
"This is who I am," she said to a cheering crowd.
Okay, coffee-wise, this is who I am.
I have brewed a lot of joe over the years. I have owned every conceivable coffee-making device, from the simple saucepan for Swedish egg coffee to the high-end espresso machine. I have used French presses, Italian stovetop espresso makers, drip machines, electric percolators, glass beakers and single-cup machines.
I have learned that it is possible to be as pretentious about coffee as about any food or beverage, but that hauteur doesn't make better coffee.
I have learned that, for me, coffee needs to be drunk hot -- not carried around in a green-and-white container like a talisman of taste, but consumed in a few sips while sitting.
I have learned that context matters. My all-time favorite: the carafe of cafe con leche accompanying a breakfast buffet in Rota, Spain. Why? It was Spain.
Second favorite: a cappuccino at a workingman's bar outside Catania, Sicily, consumed hurriedly while standing. Same reason: context.
Here at home, coffee isn't an event. It's just "joe." It's common. Dressing it up with apparatus, Italian names, and bean biographies doesn't make it better.
In the spirit of the speaker who shed her mask and reclaimed hours of her life, I have concluded that making a good cup quickly matters more than making a superb cup slowly. Hence my single-cup Cuisinart maker and a total commitment of 80 seconds (60 for microwaving milk, 20 for brewing).
Just think of all the masks that I can shed. Style-centered discomforts, absurd grooming rituals, and constrictions -- in clothing, in faith, in life -- take 'em off!