This is the twelfth of my “Advent Calendar” Christmas ornament posts. For some background information about this project and why I’m challenging myself to complete it, see here. Note: it’s entirely possible some of these memories are inexact, but I’m sticking with them anyway.
I never liked coffee until I got past high school.
Coffee was bitter and left a strange taste on my tongue and gross smell on my breath, and I couldn’t understand why most adults loved the stuff enough to drag cups of it all over the place.
To be fair, the first coffee I was introduced to was instant coffee. It was Taster’s Choice, so at least it was premium freeze-dried coffee granules, but it was still freeze-dried coffee granules. It was what Mom drank, and I therefore believed that’s what coffee was supposed to be. After a taste, I stayed away from it. I drank hot chocolate at Tim Hortons, or the frothy, sugary “English Toffee Cappuccino”, which I doubt had any coffee in it at all.
Then I got to CEGEP, and everything changed. CEGEP is the extra layer of education we have in Quebec, the bridge between high school and college, where students can graduate after two years of a technical program, or move on to college after two years of what they called pre-university education. I was in the Health Sciences branch of the International Baccalaureate pre-university program, and it was hard. My life became essays and lab reports, projects and presentations. There was always something to write, something to study, something to hand in. I was always up early for class, and always stayed up late to study.
The turning point in my relationship with caffeine was my 8am physics class. Classes that early in the day are cruel to begin with, but a jumble of pulleys and inclined planes on a dusty chalkboard is utterly incomprehensible at that hour. There was no hope of me successfully solving for “x” without the help of caffeine. To be fair, even with its help I barely got through that class, but it gave me a fighting chance.
So I started buying cafeteria coffee in the mornings to help me stay awake. A medium coffee and a giant cookie came to just over $2 and became my weekday breakfast of champions. In the cafeteria, three labeled and color-coded coffee pots sat on hotplates – Regular, Decaf, and Flavor of the Day. That last, my friends, is what shoved me headfirst down the slide into caffeine addiction. Irish Cream, Chocolate Truffle, Amaretto, Chocolate Raspberry, Hazelnut, French Vanilla. That’s what did it for me. The flavors. I began drinking coffee because someone invented coffee that didn’t taste like coffee. Unconscionable, really, dragging unsuspecting youths into the sad wasteland of addiction by making it sweet and fun. It’s just like the packages of candy cigarettes from my youth, except that I hated those chalky things and never took up smoking.
But what’s done is done. Chocolate Raspberry got me started. Then I transitioned to French Vanilla. By the time I was at McGill, I was pounding Tim Hortons double-doubles with my Timbits without even thinking about it. I walk around with a travel mug of the stuff. It leaves a gross smell on my breath. And I love it.