"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You Served Me WHAT?!
There are desperate times that sometimes require desperate measures. It was a holiday party at a friend's place where such times emerged for me. The party was at the home of a supervisor where my wife use to work. It was about a seventy minute drive, one way, through high winds and, at times, rain. This twenty-four hours our community saw over three inches of rain, and although it wasn't that bad where we were, it still meant some tense driving n a Friday night before a holiday. The hostess loves me because, among other things, she likes good coffee. This evening I once again brought her a half pound of home roast (Sumatran Mandheling and Colombian Supremo blend). I got a big hug for that.
As I knew it would be a long, dark trip home, I needed something warm with a bit of caffeine to help me stay awake and alert so I had a cup of her coffee just before we left. The brew came from an economy, all plastic drip pot as seem to be found in nearly every home these days. The brew was from her coffee because my home-roast gift was only about four hours out of the roaster and still deserved some rest.
I was alone in the kitchen when i spotted that the pot had finished its brew cycle and so I poured myself a cup. Before sipping I took a long deep nasal draw from the cup. I didn't expect much- I was just preparing my palate for what was to come. I processed the olfactory signals for a moment, and my brain was processing an aroma that was totally unexpected. I repeated the aroma-test once again as I couldn't believe my nose. The aroma was that of "burnt." Not necessarily burnt coffee, but just burnt- bottom-of-the-fireplace burnt. It smelled burnt. It sort of had a coffee smell behind it, but the predominant aroma was that of burnt.
I then did something I normally never do- I added a spoon of sugar to the coffee before tasting it. You know that I always say, 'add sugar because you want to, not because you have to.' This time I really had to. The thought of that fireplace aroma lingering on my palate all the way home was more than I could bear imagining, let alone experiencing. When I finally couraged it up enough to taste it I was surprised (and quite pleased) to find that it didn't taste as bad as it smelled. It didn't have a whole lot of taste at all, and was totally lacking in any nuance whatsoever. It just tasted coffeeish, and a little burnt, and some sugary taste. I purposely didn't stir the cup so that when I finished the last sip I got a good jolt of sugar to cover the rest of the sin that was my night's cup of coffee.
I had my wife smell the cup, and as the first draw was not sufficient she tried it again, much as I had done, not believing my nose at first. Burnt was also he summation. It's a funny trick your brain pulls on you when you see coffee and expect to experience that deep, rich coffee aroma when you smell the coffee, but that burnt smell couldn't have been any more of a shock and surprise had it been the aroma of bananas, inner tubes, or sawdust. They all would have warranted a second sampling before sipping. That burnt taste did to my brain like this statement: "Did you bring your lunch to school today, or did you take the bus." It just makes you stop and think for a moment,.
I asked my hostess what the coffee was and she said it was 'I don't know' blend.
She wondered why I asked her that, and I said, "It was a real dark roast, wasn't it?"
She replied, "Yes. It was. Why?"
I told her it smelled quite burnt.
And that's where I thought the story ended. This morning I was asking my wife about it and she asked, "You didn't post that story, did you?"
"On alt.coffee, yes, I did," I replied
"Well, that coffee was your coffee."
"No. I saw my coffee beans still in the bag, on the counter. It wasn't my coffee."
"She was too embarrassed to say anything, but it was the coffee you brought her last time we visited."
"The.. last time we visited." I thought for a bit and added, "We haven't been there for about eighteen months."
"She said she had been keeping it in the freezer and only using it for special occasions."
"For eighteen months? I am so special that she served me coffee that was roasted a year and a half ago!?"
Many thoughts ran through my head upon learning of this, including the fact that I was served coffee that was about seventeen months older than anything that I would throw into the trash at home because of its age. The blend, as I remember, was two parts Sumatran Mandheling, one part Colombian, and one part Yemen Mocha. At least that wa\hat it was when I gifted it to here. What it had turned into is another story. In the pot is smelled like four parts smoldering oak and one part cheap coffee.
One of the reasons I asked her about the coffee was so that I could find out the cause of the taste and educate here a bit about coffee. My conversation above was based on what she told me at the time. I could have easily explained that the very finest, most expensive coffee (well, second most expensive after Kopi Luwak) would have gone bad over that period of time. I never got the chance.
Well, there you go. I learned something here today.. And so that you don't have that experience, let me tell you that when coffee gets old enough it smells burnt when brewed. I don't now if it was mold, mildew, a form of heretofore unidentified jungle rot, or just age, but if you are ever served some "special" coffee by a friend who knows nothing of the beverage, if it smells burnt, graciously turn it down and walk away. That way, no one gets hurt.