hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

September 8, 2013

Coffee options keep our cups brimming

By Tom Vartabedian
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — “How do you take your coffee, sir?’’

“Good and hot — and in a cup please!”

For years, we brewed our coffee in a small pot every morning. It was a breakfast ritual. I’d fill the container with the desired amount of water and measure off three scoops of coffee the night before.

First thing upon wakeup, I’d start the brewing process and, within a minute or two, it was ready to serve. No fuss. No bother. Always a fresh cup.

As time passed, we began grinding our own beans. The aroma of fresh coffee being percolated was as stimulating as fresh blueberry muffins out of the oven or cinnamon rolls from the microwave.

Truth be told, of all the meals, breakfast is my favorite and it begins with the coffee. I cannot start my day without some caffeine in my system. It gives me that get-up-and-go. Evenings are another matter. Should I indulge with a second cup, it would be a non-caffeinated blend. Otherwise, I’d be up all night counting sheep.

The first prerequisite for a good cup of coffee in the morning is getting your spouse out of bed so you can enjoy it together. The power of nose infiltration works well. Pour yourself a cup, then carry it to your bed and blow the aroma into your spouse’s face. That’ll get them moving quickly.

One day, I stood in back of a guy at Dunkin’ Donuts who ordered a small coffee with four sugars. Never mind a level spoonful. These were heaping portions. He may as well have ordered a cup of syrup. I cringed at the thought.

People’s coffee habits are as diversified as their culinary tastes. It can become quite discriminating. A cup of instant coffee over boiling water would suit my pleasure during a power outage.

This brings me to another story. One afternoon, in walks my wife carrying a large box. She brought home an unexpected gift.

“Look what I found by the Dumpster,” she announced. “A brand new K-cup machine. Doesn’t look like anybody’s touched it. Either it’s a gift from heaven or some resident in our condo association left it for a lucky trash disposer. And I just happened to come along and see it first.”

I’ve heard about these contraptions. People in my family put it right up there with the invention of the microwave and computer. Every house should have one.

Not mine. I was very content with my little coffeemaker until the glass pot caught the end of a broom handle and went crashing to the floor. My trusty container had met an untimely death.

“Hello K-Cupper. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” A box of pods arrived at our home and it worked nicely, just as its reputation had indicated. I had no idea what options we had with this brewmeister. The guidebook alone was 35 pages. Three words described its magic. “Choose. Brew. Enjoy.” Simple as that.

Fifteen of the world’s premier gourmet brands would bring me more than 200 varieties of coffee, tea, hot cocoa and iced beverages. Suddenly, I was being introduced to a new coffee world.

The more I looked, the more I’d seen them everywhere. In my doctor’s office. At the health spa I attend. Hotel rooms and offices I visit. One carousal contained 30 different pods.

The first time I used it, the maker worked perfectly. I placed a pod into the holder, lowered the lid and put the desired portion into my cup. Out dribbled the coffee in a steady stream until it stopped.

Welcome to the new coffee world, Tom. What was left of my small coffeemaker was suddenly discarded. My coffee habits were also about to change radically.

The next day, my dream machine turned into a nightmare.

I filled the container with water, stuck a pod into the carrier, and pressed the desired button. I waited five minutes, then 10, nothing. The message on my time screen read “Not ready.” I repeated the process once more and then again. I still came up empty.

By now, my nerves were shattered and I needed a cup of coffee badly. I removed my trusty jar of instant coffee from the shelf, filled a cup with water, followed by one minute of microwave time. It wasn’t crème caramel or Macademia nut, but it was better than nothing.

Writer and photographer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.