You didn’t know why you knew so much about coffee, you don’t even drink it. But your mother adored coffee. She would always sing a little song as she ground up the beans and then smelled them. The aroma filled the house as though she had been baking cookies or cupcakes.
As she got older would she ask, “Can you make me a cup of Hawaiian Kona? I feel like something sweet and flowery with a little bit of nutty.”
Your experience as a barista and studying the world of coffee just for her sake made you a rather reluctant expert. Personally, you couldn’t handle the bitter taste. Even with sugar or cream, there was something about it that your taste buds couldn’t agree with; so you stuck with making it instead.
A short few years ago, you got your mother a Nespresso machine, you even taught her how to use it. She could just pop in the small plastic pod of whatever she desired with whatever she wanted in it; usually one and a half teaspoons of sugar and a dash of milk. You secretly never agreed with her use of milk instead of cream. But nonetheless, she still preferred your carefully ‘hand-crafted’ coffee.
“Mom, you know I didn’t pick the beans myself,” you would say as you poured the coffee beans into the grinder.
“Well, it sure always tastes like it.” She would retort with a smile.
Now, that Nespresso machine sits in her kitchen right next to the sink. Barely used. The only time it was touched recently was a few years back when you made hot chocolate as you were making her coffee; then you would sit beside her in the living room and she would tell you stories of when she was a little girl. It was the only time she talked about your father. Maybe you weren’t completely honest about yourself in relation to learning about making coffee. You were a single 32-year-old with a dwindling dating life. Your parents met in a coffee shop, believe it or not.
Your mother told you that she accidentally spilled coffee on his nice dress pants at the café she used to work at as a young adult. She would laugh as she recalled the memory of getting on her knees and wiping the hot liquid off his pants or begging to let her pay for the dry cleaning.
He said, “No need for that, just let me take you out on a date.”
“A date? Fine… deal.” She replied.
From that first date your parents were together. They traveled the world and drank wonderful coffee. Or so, your mother would tell you. They went everywhere, Brazil, Columbia, Vietnam, Austria. Their lives were full of big cups of Joe and love, until you came along. Your birth halted their world-wide coffee runs, not that they minded. Maybe you became a coffee expert to pay them back or maybe you secretly pursued coffee because one day coffee might just save your love life. Your sister, Angel is a more of a tea person rather than coffee and neither of you really inherited the coffee craze gene. Angel just stayed far away, and you had to actively learn about it all on your own. But maybe it was better this way that it was simply a hobby to keep your mom happy.
Unfortunately, you’ve become the coffee star at work. Your co-workers ask for tips on their coffee habits. They ask you what they can do to make it taste better, which brands are the best, how to grind coffee beans and the difference in the refinement of that grind. And unfortunately, you would know all the answers to those questions. It’s almost become your second job, one that doesn’t pay, of course.
You went from being a secretary at a law firm to the coffee expert. The fact that you know so much about coffee is something you try to hide as it’s a big thing for a lot of people and you feel uncomfortable sharing your secrets about coffee. You feel as if those secrets are attached to your family and you want to keep it that way. But you knew your mom would want you to make people happy by sharing it, by giving them something no one else could.
You hoped you would forget all about coffee when your mom passed but when she did, you did the opposite of forgetting; you remembered more than ever. You began to hate coffee but you still felt it in your bones, the aroma sticking to your skin. You never forgot that Arabica was by far better than Robusta or that your coffee stays warm 20% longer when you use cream instead of milk or that your mom couldn’t go a day without a cup of coffee or as she got older, she could only drink about half as she used to.
No, it wasn’t the coffee that you couldn’t forget. It was your mom. Your mom loved coffee so much that it became how you identified her. She became the thing you were trying so hard to learn about. You never liked coffee, but you would stay up all night reading boring books about the different types of beans from all over the world, memorizing which one was better and the how to make them taste good, which ones had what aromas or flavors to them. You spent countless nights in your kitchen grinding coffee beans and trying to make them taste like how your mom liked. You would get frustrated when they didn’t turn out right, all coffee was bitter to you anyway. But now that you didn’t have anything else to learn about, you wanted to learn more. You wanted your mom back, you wanted to make her coffee again.
So, you did.
You forced yourself to back to her grave every year, despite the pain, despite the hurt of her death; you went back. You learned more and more about coffee every year. You would make her favorite kind, Hawaiian Kona, take it to her grave with your own thermos of hot chocolate and talk about your year. Just like old times.