I don’t remember my first cup of lemonade. I don’t remember the first time I had a Coke. I don’t even remember the first time I had an ice-cream cone. But I remember the first time I had a sip of coffee. My dad let me have a whole cup, likely with more milk than extracted caffeine. I have no memory how it tasted, nor would my underdeveloped coffee palette have been a qualified critic, but I remember clearly how it felt.
Our family was on a ski vacation, and we were staying in a home with friends from my parents’ college. My dad and I were the first two people up. We were always the first two up. He was making coffee, and I was sitting on one of those tall stools at a high-top kitchen island- a peninsula actually; it was connected at the corner and jutted out into the kitchen space. He asked me if I wanted my own cup. I was probably 6 or 7, but in that moment I felt as mature as an adult. Of course I wanted my own cup! He poured his and then poured mine, with a ‘little’ milk and I sipped it hot, special, quiet. I don’t remember what it tasted like. I only remember the joy of the moment, feeling like I was part of the special grown up world, not left out or too little even in my kid pajamas, probably still with footies, which I wore until they didn’t make them in my size. Then his friends were up and treated me like I belonged with the grown-ups too. I got to listen and be part of their morning, sitting on my stool, swinging my feet, sipping my coffee. They made breakfast, drank from their own mugs, and included me in their old stories without talking down to me or changing phrases for their audience. I felt part of it, included and happy.
It wasn't about how it tasted. It was about how it felt. What we sense impacts what we taste, child and adult. My tastes have evolved since then, and I know now it isn't just about how it feels. Exceptional coffee is about how it tastes too. But that memory is just the first in my coffee journey and it tasted good as an experience even if I'll never know its flavor palette.