My Love Affair with Coffee, Part 1
I was a latecomer to the coffee game. It all started in 1992, when I took a job as a Barista at Espresso Royale Caffe, just down the street from school.  I spent a lot of time here, as it was right next to my favorite bar.  It was here I learned out to use a manual espresso machine (I could pull a really good shot of espresso), how to steam milk with perfect foam, and about Torani syrups. One of my best friends at the time, Sean, insisted that Dunkin Donuts coffee was da bomb (although I guess in 1992 that wasn't a phrase?) and so I said - I wouldn't know how to drink it.  I had fallen in love with a nonfat vanilla latte at ERC, and would drink brewed coffee at all.  So when Sean assured me, "Just trust me.  You want regular." I said, ok.  My first taste of a regular coffee was meh.  While it was creamy and sweet, that bitterness of coffee still shone through.  But in an effort to learn to love coffee, and let's face it, my reasons weren't entirely self-less, I dutifully went to Dunks daily.  Or, if I was feeling particularly broke, I'd go to work for a vanilla latte. At the same time, I was trying different flavor lattes.  I didn't try them all because I just didn't have the desire, but there were the usual suspects: Almond, Caramel, Hazelnut, Coconut, Creme de Menthe, Vanilla...there were a bunch of other flavors, but hey, that was 26 years ago!!! Fast forward 16 years, and I'm working part-time at Starbucks to supplement my stay-at-home-mom habit.  This was a game changer; a free pound of coffee a week, Tazo (at the time) tea, Lattes, and Caramel Macchiatos.  Oh, and let's not forget the frappuccino. Still, I continued to drink my Dunkin Donuts regular coffee.  Everything else I would go Starbucks for.  But I really wanted to ENJOY coffee, not just drink it.  So I decided to get my Starbucks Coffee Master certification.  Yes, I am a Coffee Master.  What did this entail?  Well...we had to "taste" all the coffees that came through the store.  We had to learn to identify the flavors that were particular to a region.  To obtain the prestigious achievement, we had to choose a coffee, pair it with food, and present a coffee tasting to our District Manager, and a neighboring District Manager. Throughout all my coffee tasting, I decided I liked the lighter roasts, or the medium roasts.  I mean, I was drinking coffee for the caffeine kick, and the darker the roast, the less the caffeine.  At the time, my favorite was Starbucks Colombian Supremo.  Of course this was back before there was anything called Pike Place Blend, and brewed coffee changed from week to week.  We'd brew a dark roast, a medium/light roast, and a decaf.  And it was always different.  When we brewed Verona, we'd brew a decaf Verona, but when we brewed a coffee for which we had no decaf counterpart, well, we'd brew whatever decaf we had on hand. So I chose the darkest roast that Starbucks sold at the time.  French Roast.  My reason for this was that I felt if I could study and prepare a positive presentation on the coffee I liked least, then maybe, just maybe I'd discover an affinity for something I didn't like. The aroma of the roasted (not brewed) coffee was not overly appealing to me.  This made it somewhat difficult.  I learned things that it would pair well with, and then I just had to choose which Item to pair it with.  Well, French Roast pairs well with biscotti.  Also with Savory meals - if you're into drinking coffee with dinner.  And desserts!  Well, what WOULDN'T it pair with??? Being the culinary school grad that I was/am, I decided to serve my judges a three course tasting.  We started with some home made vanilla almond biscotti.  Then we enjoyed some butternut squash soup.  And we finished it up with creme brulee.  All made from scratch by yours truly. Needless to say, I passed. And the next day for the kids' soccer game?  I went next door to Dunks for my coffee regular. I'll continue the rest of my coffee affair in another post.

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