One day when I was seven, I went to eat lunch at Carrabba’s with my dad – my parents had been divorced for a little while, so I was used to eating out with my dad by this point. I’m not sure why my little sister wasn’t with us, though.
We had just finished eating. I know exactly what I had, because I got the same meal every time I went to Carrabba’s until I turned eight or nine: chicken fingers with a side of penne. The penne was buttery and salty, and I doused my chicken fingers in ketchup: it was a really good course for a 7-year-old.
I remember being tired. I was never keen on sleeping when I was little, so this bothered me. I think I must have been tired for an extended period of time, because I was actually worried about it.
My dad recommended that I order a coffee. I’m not really sure why a 37-year-old man would recommend that his 7-year-old daughter order a coffee. He must have known that I wasn’t going to drink the whole thing. I ordered a cappuccino, because “cappuccino” was a big, grown-up coffee word and I wanted the waiter to think I was intelligent and mature.
I don’t exactly remember what happened after my cappuccino was set on the table. I only know two things. The first thing I knew was that I did not like the way coffee tasted; the second was that my light-up pikachu keychain that my mom bought me somehow fell in the cappuccino, and after that incident, it never lit up again. The pikachu incident probably had a bigger influence on my dislike of coffee than the actual taste. Remember, I was seven. I pledged to hate coffee from that day on – before I tried the cappuccino, I’m sure I said I didn’t like coffee, but it didn’t really count because I had never tried it. But that cappuccino was associated with a sense of disgust and loss I never wanted to bring upon myself again.
Although I disliked the taste of coffee and didn’t really want to set any of my belongings near a cup of it again following the Cappuccino Incident, I could not deny that I loved the way it smelled. I remember getting hungry 30 minutes before lunch in 3rd grade and getting as close as I could to my teacher’s coffee cup – for some reason, the smell satiated my hunger a little. I also remember discovering the saltshaker full of coffee beans that lived at every perfume counter. I would smell as many samples as I could, and then take solace in the scent of the coffee beans. I still do it, too. I will make myself look like an idiot just so I can smell coffee beans: I’ll stick my nose into the dispensers at grocery stores and linger around any full coffee cups in my home.
When I was in high school, I realized that people thought drinking coffee was cool – I’m sure this belief was associated with Starbucks’ huge boom in popularity at the time. 2007, right? I was in high school then.
Whenever I think of Starbucks now, I think of dishwater, but back then, I only thought of Frappucinnos and those tacky ice-cream-like coffee drinks with whipped cream on top. Preppy, 13-year-old girl drinks and sugar bombs (and fat bombs too, since they were all doused in whipped cream).
I didn’t want to jump on the Starbucks bandwagon because I didn’t want to drink such unhealthy beverages (the whipped cream on top has 12 grams of fat, and that’s just the whipped cream – let’s not forget the rest of the drink) and I thought Frappuccinos were really tacky. Plus I still had a grudge over the pikachu. I think that’s a respectable opinion.
One night when I was 15, I was hanging out with a group of friends who wanted to go to Starbucks (a new one had just opened down the street). I didn’t want my friends to know I was a pompous, coffee-hating asshole, and I definitely didn’t want to be left alone at the house or anything, so I went with them. One of my friends ordered a chai latte.
Being half-Iranian, I have drunk a lot of tea in my lifetime. I could drink it hot. I could drink it without sugar. My grandmother didn’t filter all the leaves out of the tea my relatives and I drank. I could handle hardcore tea.
When I heard my friend say his drink was a chai latte, I became intrigued because chai is what my family called the tea we drank after dinners at my grandparents’ house. It’s pronounced differently, though. It’s cha-yee, not chye.
I figured I could toughen up a little and drink something that had such a familiar name.
I ordered one. I liked it. I got super hyper off it. I guess it was a sugar rush.
Gradually, I warmed up to coffee, starting with the girly drinks I hated thinking about drinking. For some reason, my mother is hooked on mocha Frappuccinos. Oh, I know the reason, because it’s the same reason I started tolerating other forms of coffee: chocolate.
Not surprisingly, college was what brewed my tolerance – and need – for coffee (like my bad pun there?). I found myself having a hard time concentrating while studying for midterms or finishing a paper unless I was jacked up on caffeine and sugar. I took classes that met at 9:00 or 8:00 in the morning. I had to drink coffee so I wouldn’t fall asleep while my Milton professor read passages from Paradise Lost and didn’t allow anybody in the class to start a discussion.
The stigma I developed that day in Carraba’s has evolved into a dependency. I drink the stuff regularly – I drink it several days of the week. Thankfully, I don’t have to have chocolate or intense amounts of sugar in my coffee to be able to stand it anymore. I can even drink it plain, although I don’t really enjoy doing that.
I’ve learned my limits with caffeine. I know what I need to drink to perk up a little (a latte) or get completely jacked up so I can have plenty of energy to get through my assignments or a particularly busy day (a mocha, because the chocolate will make me hyper, or plain old black coffee). Plus there’s actually really good coffee here in Athens, so I enjoy walking over to Athens’ corporate coffee stand (Jittery Joe’s, represent) or a cafe down the street.
Drinking coffee makes me feel more like an adult, and hey, it obviously keeps me alert too. It might have taken around 12 years, but I finally got what I wanted that day in Carrabba’s when I was seven.