When asked to define paradise during an interview, Johnny Cash responded simply: “This morning, with her, having coffee.” It’s an evocatively beautiful phrase, though one that lost its initial impact on me following repeated exposure during a back-to-back-to-back series of trips to Nashville (home of both The Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame), where it was printed on everything from coffee mugs to throw pillows in area boutiques and cafés.
As a result, I didn’t give that phrase much thought again until last year.
A little background on the coffee front: I spent several years as a beat reporter at the local NPR affiliate in Louisville, Ky. The station was located in a central corridor of the downtown area, less than two blocks from Nancy’s Bagel Box, a miniature deli. Due to the proximity, daily coffee from there was non-negotiable. I suppose I didn’t consider whether it was “good coffee” — but it went down smoothly and fueled me through my early morning editorial meetings.
For a long time, that was my attitude towards coffee — function over form, typically purchased while rushing between interviews. I then began dating a man named Stephen about three years ago.
As our lives became more entwined, so did our respective colossal collections of cookware. I brought the Dutch oven, the heavy-duty colander, and the blender; he brought the knife roll, the stock pot, and the sturdy cutting board. He also gradually established a coffee station in my apartment after it was discovered that my home kitchen lacked “coffee infrastructure.” It began simply — with a grinder, a moka pot, and a bag of beans from a nearby coffee chain.
Then a mutual friend, Ren Doughty, who works at Batdorf and Bronson Roasters as the outreach and customer support coordinator, sent us a bag of the company’s “Whirling Dervish” blend. The taste of that first pour is one of those gustatory memories that will live with me for the rest of my life. It was like drinking a chocolate-covered cherry, and it was the first time I had considered what constitutes “good coffee.”
Our coffee prep station has grown in size over the course of our relationship. It now includes an espresso machine, a more advanced grinder, a milk frother, a standard countertop pot, and an infinite number of bags of beans.