Americanos and Cream

It’s cocoa. It’s burnt charcoal. It’s something quite good. It’s the smell of stimulation, if you dare to imagine that this sensation holds fragrance.

The smoky flavor seeps through the corners of the chairs, crawling from the window seats to the aisle seats like a serpent, playing around the circumference of each nostril and sparking the corners of the eyes into an awakened state.

Yes, we’ve gotten past take-off, the lights in the cabin are dimmed, and it’s just about my bedtime on this quick red-eye back to Boston…but this demanding aroma nudges me toward my backpack – to my laptop to write a few words.

So have you guessed what I am thinking of yet?

Hint: (Its coffee).

Yup, the person a few rows in front of me to the left has ordered this trouble-maker beverage that triggers my thoughts and instigates this particular reflection. We can thank him later.


Coffee and tea, both are morning drinks. Yet while a cup of tea is sensible, gentle, irreplaceable, like a mother who offers good advice and instills wholesome values, coffee is not the same. Coffee is quite quite different.

Who is this “coffee”? Hmm. I surmise that everyone forms their own unique relationship with coffee, but here is my take.

COFFEE is a lover who makes sense for the moment. Hits the spot. Its aroma initiates desire, craving, a memory of something or someone you have forgotten all about, the taste of excitement.

COFFEE is the most versatile actor, playing the role of a bourgeois frothy creamed flat-white to completely basic, no-nonsense like, and rather rough-around-the-edges black drip style. Oversized mugs, Styrofoam cups, and espresso shot glasses, coffee exudes character, no matter which outfit it chooses. It also carries mystery with its many disguises.

COFFEE is sinful, it is passionate, and recklessly amusing. It gets your heart racing, makes you smile, and leaves you wanting more. You can easily get attached, but I do wonder if it reciprocates these feelings back towards you – coffee is quite fickle.

COFFEE is gorgeous, romantic, captivating – if you have ever poured cream into black coffee and watched the two swirl into each other, as if they are dancing, you know what I mean.

COFFEE is spontaneous, unnecessary, and so necessary all at the same time.

My yoga instructor, Guruji BKS Iyengar, LOVED coffee. At the crack of dawn, before his yoga practice, he would sit and drink it black, in a small steel cup. This cup has a very thin rim, which brings the coffee to your mouth faster, but you must hold carefully around the edges as to not toast your fingers on the hot metal. I remember drinking delicious South Indian coffee like this at the ashram in Chennai. I love this memory, this image.


From my own limited experience, I observe that coffee goes beyond the physiological taste. Sure, the taste-buds crave the bitterness of the beverage, like they do sweetness of ice cream. But it is not just the flavor alone that sells the drink. Coffee goes deeper than that, to I’d argue, a cellular level. It is the cells which speak up, asking for the stimulation, craving for the taste of caffeine, looking for the wake-up and let’s-move sensation. I picture it as if someone is prodding you in between your shoulder blades, encouraging you to sit up straight from your languored slouch. As the caffeine compounds permeate through the whole being, moods sweep in another direction, thoughts speed up, speech changes, thoughts change.

Yet, I’ve never let myself get too close to the drink. The substance carries the quality of nature, rajas, that brings about action, motion, dynamism, as well as tension, stress, anxiety. It can be a gift to lift you out of the torpor of sleep. And perhaps a curse if you drink it on an empty stomach in excess during your finals.

For someone like me, easily excited, light sleeper, craving adventure and busy-ness, often pushed toward the rajas spectrum of life, coffee can be quite dangerous. Coffee makes me tremble into hots and colds. It makes my stomach flip flop. It makes the space behind my eyes tighter. And when I drink the beverage, I am up for hours. So what I know of coffee is the occasional milky latte or a scoop of coffee ice cream. I envy those that can drink coffee every day without being phased and I often find myself inching near coffee-drinkers, just to enjoy the aroma of their beverage.


But perhaps when you want to like something, the game changes. Just like how Harry wanted to be in Gryffindor house, not Slytherin, the eagerness, the fascination, the desire to subscribe to coffee culture, is starting to manifest itself within and I am finding myself either more tolerant or perhaps more reckless, walking into more coffee shops, not to order tea, not to order milky drinks, but Americanos with a hint of cream. Truly a bold move for me.

Last week, I even made my very first cup of french-press coffee. In house. It wasn’t perfect but I think I could get the hang of it pretty soon.

Oh dear coffee, cafe, my new beloved. Where did you come from so suddenly?

It may or may not have something to do with my surroundings. When I arrived in Boston, just a simple tea-drinker, no coffee, my yoga community was shocked…WHAT? What do you mean you don’t drink coffee? You are Guruji’s student and you do not drink coffee?? Unbelievable. From then on, I do feel like they were on a secret mission to change all of that nonsense.

In addition, my younger brother, the coffee-lover, who I’ve been visiting often the past few months has a coffee-pot alarm clock. Waking up to the sputtering spewing sound of fresh coffee filling a pot at 6am is just downright dreamy. How can you resist?

And then I suspect the weather plays a role in this marketing effort too, when it decides to drop to 37 degrees F, painting pictures of fireplaces, blankets, cozy cuddles, and good books in my mind. All accented with a coffee in hand, of course.

So, I’ll admit, things are getting pretty serious. I am treading along the borders of a very slippery slope.


Still, I tread vigilantly, keeping coffee consumption spontaneous, rather than a routine, both to allow my cells to rest and to also preserve the special treat-like aspect of the drink. Something along the lines of how birthdays would not be special if they came everyday.

Yet, I do wonder how regular coffee drinkers feel about their coffee – is it always their treat? I have so many questions for you coffee-drinkers.

This coffee neophyte is seeking understanding, coffee understanding. What constitutes a “good” cup of coffee? Where does it come from, how it is grown? Do the beans grow on trees? How do you roast them? What is a blonde roast? What do people mean when they say “bloom” the coffee? Why do you grind the beans exactly this coarse or this fine? How do you cut the acidity? How do you taste coffee? How do you feel about your coffee? Do you have to have it the same way everyday, at the same time?  Is it cheating to add cream? I could go on forever. So, all are welcome to come over for a coffee-chat, although you may want to make it as I don’t think I am doing it exactly right just yet.

And now, since I opted for H20 versus coffee on this flight, my eyelids are getting rather heavy. Beautiful sleep is on its way. I do have more to say and we will chat soon. Maybe in the AM.

Much love,

More later,


P.S. Thank you to the many voices this past month who have sent motivation to continue writing – doing the things that I love! You all are awesome.


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