My second reflection on coffee is still about a sentiment and not yet about taste. It was almost ten years before I had my next cup of coffee. I was 14, a freshman, and a few sophomore guys invited me to go drink coffee and play board games at “Liquid 360.” It was the cool coffee shop, one town over. We didn’t have any coffee shops in my town. We had barely gotten our first stoplight, let alone a trendy coffee shop with chess and Trivial Pursuit. But these guys had cars and could drive to the next town. They were also respectful safe guys who did their homework and liked art, reading, and music, so my mom let me go. I’m sure there were other girls there, but embarrassingly, I can’t remember them. I can only remember how cool I felt standing with them looking around at the iron spiral staircase that you carried your games and drinks up to get to the second floor lounge. There were even college kids, studying and laughing. I also remember not knowing what to to order. My friend Matt helped me decide on a white chocolate mocha. They couldn’t believe I’d never “got coffee” before, and I couldn’t believe they had invited me along. I don’t remember what the coffee tasted like that night either, but I remember wanting to go back. Not just for coffee but for belonging. And we did go back, lots.
Eventually, my high school girlfriends and I also starting “getting coffee.” You could get your license at 14.5, which I see South Dakota is the last state to still entrust them that young. Montana has since moved things up to 15, and sadly added a speed limit, but by our sophomore year, we too had cars and independence. We too had access to coffee shops a few towns over and when we went, I always got a white chocolate mocha and felt cool. But I got more than that. I got laughter and shared secrets and tears, some probably about those sophomore boys who had become juniors. It was about being somewhere with your friends. The coffee wasn’t the pull yet, the time together somewhere outside your small world was. It counted as ‘doing something’. ‘Want to do something?’ ‘Sure what.’ ‘I don’t know?’ ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘We could get coffee.’ Somewhere after bike rides were cool and before drinking other beverages was normal, there was a coming of age story with coffee, and it mattered more the flavor of the moment than the taste in the cup. So when did I start caring about good coffee? Only seven years ago, when I was choosing our supplier.