Friday, September 25, 2009

It’s Impossible to Be Unhappy When Drinking a Good Cup of Coffee

(Disclaimer: Today’s essay includes ebullient praise for Starbucks, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, and Coffees of Hawaii. None of these companies paid me to do this, but Coffees of Hawaii did send me a free sample. Thanks so much, Albert!)

When I was little, my parents divorced, and my mother, sister, and I moved in with my grandparents. Grandma brewed coffee every morning in an old-style percolator, filling her home with the rich, wonderful, exotic smell of coffee. She and Papa awoke at 5:30 every morning to their coffee ritual. When I was about seven or eight, I begged a taste.

Predictably, I made a face and yelled, “Bleck!” The grown-ups all laughed at me, but I thought they were a sad group if they had to drink that nasty black brew. I never wanted to grow up and live in their dark and bitter world.

Oh, the Age of Innocence! Frankly, I don’t miss it at all because, now that my taste buds are all grown up, I totally get the hedonistic bliss that comes from a great cup of coffee. In fact, without my own version of Grandma and Papa’s morning ritual, I would be a remarkably dark and bitter person. Does this make me an addict? Not really. I just enjoy a good cup of joe.

Denial is just a river in Egypt, you know.

I seek out new coffee experiences regularly at one of my favorite places…the Starbucks at my local Barnes and Noble Booksellers. Whoever first thought of combining bookshop with café deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Books and joe together under the same roof positively breed goodwill and community. The staff at my bookseller/café greets regular customers by name, asking after their businesses, their children, their significant others. There’s even a homeless man who visits regularly on cold winter evenings for a free cup of warmth.

All are welcome at the table of peace, love, and understanding.

My bookseller café is managed by a lovely woman named Gloria. Gloria’s husband had prostate cancer, which is thankfully now in remission, and they both have Harleys and travel extensively. They’ve been to Sturgis, and I remember the energy and noise of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally every August of the four years we lived in South Dakota. Gloria always asks about Jack if he isn’t with me, and if he is, she talks to him. When she receives a response, she’s delighted, and if she doesn’t, she isn’t bothered by it. She gets the autism thing.

I love Gloria. I love anyone who makes me a deliciously decadent, creamy mocha with caramel drizzle; or an icy cold, flavored frappaccino; or a simple black coffee.

My friend Liz once told me, “It’s impossible to be unhappy when drinking a mocha.” She’s right. People walk into the café with hang-dog expressions that magically transform as they order, and by the time the staff calls out “Venti hazelnut mocha with chocolate drizzle,” their faces wear beatific expressions most often seen in Renaissance religious art.

Just like my grandmother before me, I make coffee every morning for myself and George. He fixes a travel mug and heads off to work. I check email and blog while sipping a hot, home-made mocha.

A few weeks ago, Albert Boyce of Coffees of Hawaii sent me a free sample of his Malulani coffee to try. Albert is an Ironman like George, and so is his sister Mary, who lives in Colorado and whom I cheered on at Ironman Wisconsin a few weeks ago.

See what I mean: coffee brings people together across oceans and over mountains.

I made a pot of the Malulani and sipped it black because I like coffee two ways: either strong and black, or over-the-top embellished with milk and chocolate and whipped cream and copious drizzles of whatever sticky-sweet stuff you can think of. But strong and black is the true taste test; the coffee can’t hide behind other yummy flavors.

Coffees of Hawaii Malulani is the best cup of coffee I have ever tasted. Yes, I tend to exaggerate, but not this time. This coffee is smooth, without even a hint of bitterness, and a pure sensory delight.

After tasting it (because I didn’t want to be influenced by the marketing), I went to their website and read about Malulani. A blind assessment states,

“An impressively sweet, cocoa- and dark-chocolate toned coffee with a silky mouthfeel and gentle acidity…a hint of the chocolate note persists pleasantly in the finish.”

Read that out loud to yourself. Go ahead. I dare you. Are you salivating? Yes, I know. It’s beautiful. And that’s just how the cup of Malulani tasted.

Albert’s coffee is my new favorite—and George’s, too. If you are like me and enjoy searching out new coffee experiences, check out Coffees of Hawaii. You will not be disappointed.

Even if you don’t like coffee (and for some reason are still reading this paean to it), please check out the website. The coffee plantations are in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and Albert shares gorgeous pictures that will have you longing for an island vacation. While you’re on his site, click the “Ironmen Need Coffee Too” box at the bottom of the homepage. Albert has posted delightful pictures of dolphins swimming with Ironmen in beautiful blue Hawaiian water. Bliss.

Morning rituals. Global communities of peace, love, and understanding. Books. Coffee.

In a world with these things, how can a person not be happy?


  1. I love my percolator. We bought it from the neighbor lady's garage sale for $1 and have been enjoying it for something like 9 years now. Mmmmm, strong coffee. In fact, because of my own idiosyncratic nuttiness (I didn't start drinking coffee until I was 30 years old somehow), I only know how to brew coffee in IT. Show me a regular coffee-maker and you'll get nothing but blank looks.

  2. good morning susan,
    i am sitting at my computer, reading your blog, drinking my coffee. life is good. thank you so much for sharing these wonderful bits of wisdom, wit, and beautiful prose. i visit everyday, and am always inspired, rejuvenated and thoroughly entertained. thanks for sharing your life and thoughts with us. gratefully, marty ferraro

  3. Hi I visit you every time i can, I like how you write, i got here by mistake thinking this was your card making blog, but i'm still here, love reading it!! Love coffee too!!!....gina F.
    PS i have a nephew that is an IRON MAN too..;o)

  4. Hi, Susan! I have been stalking your blogs for weeks now, content to admire from afar, but this post demands a comment :) Please. Trust a stranger. Try cold-brewing your coffee! I am not exaggerating when I say that cold-brewed coffee has changed my life! I know, I know... but it has! I have kicked my $4 a day mocha habit and have never enjoyed my coffee more! Check out and read her cold coffee post. Really. Do this... I'll wager that you will love your Hawaiian coffee even more! And forgive my enthusiasm, but I really love coffee :)


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!