Every time I travel by car, I remember why I like really good coffee…

Gas station road coffee sucks for the most part… Let me ask you a question:

Don’t you drink it when you are driving long distance? I think we all do.

Really Good Coffee - my espresso

The kind of delicious coffee you never find driving long distance…

One thing about a road trip…

It always reminds you how much you like your favorite coffee. A road trip is like a refresher course in really good coffee appreciation.

By contrast, whatever you drink at home is probably better than the coffee you drink at C-Stores along the highway as you drive long distance.

Isn’t it always true that we appreciate things by contrast? By comparing one experience against another? By measuring how the “thing” we are trying out compares against the “control” – our old standby, the one we always use or do?

Coffee is the same way.

Somewhere along the road of life, we learn to appreciate our “own” version of really good coffee. And our decision – our choice – may be triggered by a great experience of how good the coffee tasted with dessert at a really good restaurant that our Dad took us to on Mother’s day when we were 15.  And the reality is that maybe that coffee was not the best that Mother’s day, but the memory of that experience is a joyful one – a very pleasant memory of the ones we loved that day.

Or maybe we decided we loved the coffee grandma used to make because it reminds us of the smell of it brewing in her house and how much love there was in that place and how much grandmothers seem to understand children better that parents do. It reminds us of sitting by the fire, having a cup of joe with our granddaddy as he told us stories about growing up in the northwest and being friends with the Lakota and how he learned to speak their language. Maybe it reminds us how warm and good “our favorite” coffee – the way our Dad made it – made us feel during a freezing cold day of skiing at Donner Summit when we got back to the cabin and built a fire and Dad made us coffee.

It’s amazing how our olfactory system is so closely connected to memory and emotion. And – for each of us – how our version of really good coffee is such an individual experience. Someone told me one day (and I can not remember who it was about 30 years ago) that a smell is something that we never forget because the experience goes directly up the nose and gets recorded into the brain. It is both a physical and an emotional memory – with direct circuitry to the brain. It’s not a matter of interpolation or filtering through a thinking process to get into our memory.

As I took the first sip of my second cup of coffee this morning, I thought and then said out loud to myself:

“Damn that tastes good. That is a delicious cup of coffee.”

Immediately I was reminded how each cup of coffee we drank two days ago on a 900 mile road trip tasted. And it became clear to me how much better “my favorite cup in the morning” tastes than the very best cup I had traveling the other day. This is where the comparative (created by my mentor Dr Ed Carlson) “less worse” comes into play.

What’s Your First Memory of Really Good Coffee?

My first memory of really good coffee is standing in line at Peet’s coffee in 1967 in Berkeley California as a teenage customer. When I take a taste of good coffee, I often remember the wonderful aromas, the murmur of people talking, the sounds of high speed grinders whirring and a smiling face taking my order at the original Walnut Square Peets. What is your first memory of really good coffee?

I Am Michael Barrett and I love really good coffee.

Our thanks to this how to get good espresso in North America blog for this lovely coffee picture…

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