I've always loved the smell of coffee. My mom used to have her Mr. Coffee set to automatically start brewing at 5 am, so I used to wake up to the delightful aroma every day. I remember one day my mom was buying bulk coffee from the local grocery store, and I was hungry and the coffee smelled so good, I was convinced that I could just eat a handful of coffee beans and it would be delicious. I convinced my mom of that somehow too, so I popped a couple in my mouth, and promptly threw up all over the floor.
Fast forward a few years, there was Tully's Coffee location right across the street from my school, and that is where my sister and I would hang out after school, until our mom picked us up in the afternoon. My regular order was a mocha, mainly because I wanted to appear mature and sophisticated compared to other middle school kids who just drank hot chocolate.
I would continue to drink mochas for years, in fact, it was my coffee drink of choice all throughout high school. This time mainly because I never knew any better, so I just stuck with what I knew. They're super sweet, super chocolatey, and super delicious, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. I still go for a mocha every once in a while, if for nothing else but the nostalgia of being a kid again.
After a few years of the occasional mocha, I started drinking drip coffee with like 6 cubes of sugar in it, because there was coffee at the office where I worked, and sugar cubes and whatever we were drinking really needed it. I didn't start drinking coffee black until I went to college, here in Charlotte. The cafeteria at Queens had some decent coffee and I never really liked soda that much, so when I needed a break from water and blue Powerade, I drank coffee. We also had a Starbucks on campus, and I would get iced coffee or an americano as one of my 'meal exchanges.' (Side note: I lowkey miss being able to roll out of bed on saturday, grab all you can eat brunch, and a big iced coffee without having to pay any real money... college.)
It wasn't until after my fourth year of college that I discovered specialty coffee. Maybe because I grew up in Seattle I just took neighborhood coffee shops for granted, but I didn't really know the world of craft coffee existed. I remember first learning what a pour over was, being fascinated, and buying my first little home brewing kit. All during my fifth year (yes, fifth as in 5) of college my roommate would watch me make my coffee by hand-grinding beans and using my little plastic v60 to make all of it happen. Meanwhile he would just wait until I was almost done, press a button on his keurig, and have his cup ready to go before I was done. Looking back, I kind of shudder to think of what I was doing. I still had no idea about brew ratios or grind size, I would just kind of scoop the coffee in, eyeball it and go. Sometimes it would be good, sometimes it would be awful, and I never really knew why.
It was after I graduated from Queens that I went to Peru with my father. He had won a trip through REI for a guided trek to Machu Picchu. One of the stops we made along our hike was on a small, organic coffee farm on the side of a mountain. It was there that we got to see every step that coffee takes from being a seed, to a cup of coffee, and I was mindblown. We even got to roast our own coffee in little clay pots over fire, and brew it right there on the spot. I don't even remember what it tasted like, but I remember thinking "I need to step my game up."
Facebook just notified me that trip to Peru was 3 years ago. Since then I've acquired a Chemex, Aeropress, a stovetop espresso machine, multiple french presses and pourovers, multiple kettles, many different types of filters, and a boatload of different coffees. If you're a coffee person, you are very familiar with the rabbit hole I found myself in.
I didn't start drinking espresso until I actually started playing around with the idea of opening South End Grind. I gradually started ordering drinks with less and less milk in them. The first time I ever made espresso myself was actually at the La Marzocco Cafe in Seattle, WA. At the time, G&B Coffee was the 'resident' and I had ordered a One and One, and then got to play around on one of the machines in the showroom with the assistance of one of the baristas. Since then I have made and enjoyed many espressos. My go-to drink is still a 6-8 oz cappuccino. I feel like thats generally the most enjoyable ratio of milk to espresso for me, with not too much sweetness but I am always open to trying new and different coffee drinks. Next time you come in, let me make you something a bit different than what you normally order!