Coffee is something I’ve enjoyed in some form for most of my life. Growing up in my grandparent’s home, it was a constant fixture. A big pot of Maxwell House or Folgers drip coffee, every morning. My Grandma would, and still does, take hers with a bit of sweetened, condensed milk and maybe a bit of half-and-half. My mom would always take hers with a half-and-half; maybe some sugar, maybe not, depending on how she felt that morning. My grandfather, a military man, took his straight black. “If you put a spoon in it and it stands straight up, it’s just about strong enough”, he’d say. The smell of brewing coffee was something I was certainly accustomed to growing up. I can still remember sitting in my grandparent’s living room, watching cartoons while my Grandma and Grandpa sipped their morning coffee.

I’m not entirely sure where my personal love for drinking the stuff came from. Possible candidates for the inception of my adoration include the “Jamocha” milkshake from Arby’s and Starbucks Frappuccinos; both of which I used to love. Most likely, though, it was the warm, sweet, milky Cafe con Leche that my Cuban Father used to drink. I really looked up to my dad, and wanting to connect with him and the Cuban side of my genetics, as well as smelling that incredible sent of a freshly made Cafe con Leche, I was bound to take a sip eventually. That was likely the beginning, or perhaps even little samplings of my Grandmother’s morning mug, which was similarly deliciously milky and sweet.

As I got older and began drinking coffee more regularly, my love coffee only deepened as my mother and I bonded over our common love of coffee, regularly going on runs to Starbucks together. Finally, my love for coffee would be solidified as a permanent fixture of my being when I met the love of my life at a small, quaint, local coffee shop where we sat and sipped coffee and talked for hours. The day I proposed to her our first stop of the day was that same coffee shop.

Over time I slowly started taking out the milk and sugar from my morning coffee until I was drinking it black. Primarily it was a way to reduce my caloric intake during my massive weight loss after high school. However, at the time I think I also subconsciously chose to do it as a way to be cool like my Grandpa, who was the only person I knew who would drink coffee black, and is kinda a badass. I drank my coffee black every morning for a while; primarily K-Cups, Drip Coffee, and the occasional Venti or Trenta Starbucks Cold Brews. I would indulge in seasonal frappes from Starbucks with my mom, and have the occasional espresso-based Starbucks stuff. I drank it semi-regularly throughout the day. When I met my fiancée we started going to local coffee shops and my affection for the warm brown drink was at an all time high.

Unfortunately my love for coffee hit a major roadbump when I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Myocarditis caused by a viral infection. The cardiologist was not pleased with the notion of me having multiple cups of coffee a day, and told me I was to only have one cup a day maximum. It was a massive blow to my general morale. 25 years old, a heart condition caused by factors out of my control when I was the healthiest I had ever been in my life, and to top it all off I had to cut out most of the coffee I drank. One of my favorite small indulgences in life was being taken away. No more multiple-shots-of-espresso drinks from Starbucks, no more big cold brews. One cup of regular joe a day.

This, as it turned out, was just the beginning of my journey into coffee. I would not be defeated. I decided that if I could only have one cup a day, it was gonna be the best goddamn cup of joe I could muster. I researched and experimented and I’m now a full-on coffee nerd who laughs at the basic coffee I used to like. Now it’s only local, freshly roasted beans, ground fresh with a burr-grinder, brewed fresh every morning by hand using a Hario pour-over setup. The only constant is that I still take it black; no cream, no sugar; only now it’s so I can taste all the subtle nuances in the freshly roasted beans. I’m constantly learning more about coffee and experimenting. The restrictions of my condition only made my passion for quality coffee stronger and made me extra critical of every cup, for now I have to savor it.

I love coffee. A unforgivably basic and cringe-worthy statement to some, perhaps, but it means a lot to me and has been a positive force in my life. A source of bonding and connection. Every cup smells of nostalgia and fond memories; rides in my father’s ’96 Chevy Impala while he sipped Cafe con Leche, car drives to look at Christmas lights drinking Chestnut Praline Frappuccinos with my mother, and first conversations with my future wife over Dirty Chai Lattes at a little local coffee shop. When I’m making my morning cup and the smell of the brewing coffee hits me, sometimes I can close my eyes and be right back in my grandparent’s house. Sitting on the carpet watching cartoons while my grandparents sipped from their mugs, the smell of coffee gently permeating the room from the pot in the kitchen nearby. Memories of simple joy, before life became complicated.