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Coffee: Love Requited

Hearing me proclaim my love for a cinnamon roll, a moon rise over the valley, morel mushrooms or the spring peeper's song, Dad used to advise, in his mild way, against using the word "love" for non-humans. Dad remains my first and best teacher on living a good life. On this one point, though, I'm still considering. Because it really does feel like love, this open-hearted rush I have toward good coffee.

Late afternoon latte at Wild Fig Books & Coffee

Late afternoon latte at Wild Fig Books & Coffee

Michael Goodin, University of Kentucky associate professor of plant pathology, studies coffee ringspot virus, an emerging coffee enemy in Brazil. It was his focus on friends and coffee, though, that caught my attention during a talk he gave last week. "The best coffee is the one you are enjoying with friends."

Given new ways of knowing what happens in our brains when we anticipate the pleasure of particular foods and drinks, Dr. Goodin's statement makes sense to the scientific brain as well as to this layperson. I love the experience of coffee, in part, because of the host of people, places, and associations that come with that inimitable aroma and that dark, complex, bitter flavor.

  • Early childhood. Family members home for weekend visits. Coffee percolating on the wood stove for a mid-morning sit-down visit around the kitchen table. Ultra-thin slices of homemade fruitcake for the grownups—"dark or light?"—and molasses crinkles—we say "sorghum crinkles" now—for the kids. The smell of laughter and teasing, the sweetness of rest in a work-filled life.
  • Aunt Bea let her children drink coffee with milk, country café au lait. Jealousy!
  • The first real coffee-centric café I ever entered: a large, bright room in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • The Espresso Café, Lexington's first (premature, it turned out) coffee-and-sweets place.
  • My sister Paula's kitchen. Paula's coffee. Often in beautiful teacups with saucers. A small swirl of cream.
  • Peace Corps Philippines. Our training director's talk of coffee production in Mindanao, not my island. First knowledge of shade's importance, introduction to the differences between Arabica and Robusta.
  • Early Starbucks visits, saturating clothes, hair, book bag, and probably skin with that smell of connection, conviviality.
  • Alfalfa's 42+ years of cinnamon coffee and cinnamon decaf.
  • Mark Newberry of Caffe Marco at the Lexington Farmers Market, patiently sharing a tiny percentage of all he has learned about coffee, what makes it good for growers and the earth as well as good in the cup. Mark took the challenge to make locally roasted coffee ubiquitous in central Kentucky. He and Caffe Marco are favorite Savoring Kentucky topics, a status conferred one drizzly, cold November Saturday morning in 2008, when Mark came with coffee to the Lexington Farmers Market even though it was not likely to be a big morning for customers. Growers in their chilly booths held cups of Mark's warming elixir, and Mark's presence, with the magical connection-making liquid, made the place a community. See here for a Caffe Marco description,  here for Caffe Marco as holiday fixer, and there's always more about Mark.
  • Good Foods Coop, where the coffee aisle always smells like heaven, most local roasters' products appear, and all coffees are fair trade.
  • Pat Gerhard and Third Street Stuff & Coffee: the most significant contributions—person and place—to community-building, community-sustaining, and community-visioning in my time in Lexington. "Locally roasted and Fair Trade Certified Organic, we happily do our part to serve our community and the world, one cup at a time." Yes, yes, yes.
  • Venerable coffee places like Common Grounds and Coffee Times, and a welcome sprouting of new places, including North Lime Coffee & Donuts, Wild Fig Books & Coffee, Broomwagon Coffee + Bikes Daily Offerings Coffee Roastery (gratitude for the completely delicious, completely gluten-free pastries), A Cup of Common Wealth and Southland Perk Coffee House.
  • Newer roasters, including Magic Beans and Nate's Coffee, each adding wonders to local coffee options in Lexington.

So many reasons and so many ways to love coffee, they are beyond counting. What's even better? With its caffeine boost and its antioxidant contributions, coffee loves me back.

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Sponsors included in this post: Good Foods Coop and Alfalfa Restaurant. Thank you! If you like Savoring Kentucky, support our sponsors, all of whom support community and a local food economy in extraordinary ways.

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