One of the things I was excited about as I read up in preparation for my trip to Sweden last fall was the coffee. More than one American blogger had referred to it as "black crack" and I quickly learned that was pretty darned accurate.
Coffee figures heavily into the pace of the Swedish day. I noticed that most of the coffee shops weren't open particularly early, which leads me to presume that Swedes make their own coffee before work.
I bypassed the instant Nescafe at our apartment in favor of brewing the Gevalia coffee in a French press. It was black as night no matter how much extra hot water I added, but it tasted wonderful. Despite the fact that it is labled as "medium roast" (mellanrost), it rivaled any espresso roast I have ever seen for darkness. When it comes to coffee in Sweden, "medium" is relative.
The coffee break or fika is enshrined in Swedish culture and we were only too happy to take part as often as possible. When you're traveling with an elderly person, coffee breaks are a great excuse to sit down for a while and get recharged. Fika generally involves a pastry or other snack, and I'll never turn that down.
I found myself creating quite the coffee photo gallery during the trip. Mouse over any photo to see its description.
Once I got used to the strong coffee, which didn't take long, I was happy to drink it as often as I could throughout the trip.
The downside was that all American coffee tasted thin and weak to me when I got back. It took a couple of weeks for that impression to subside so I could once again enjoy the available coffee options back in the United States.
It took a bit longer and a few extra pounds for me to disassociate coffee and pastries. I do care a great deal for those cinnamon cardamom rolls.
My sister and I spent the past two Sundays taking part in activities that involved going from place to place by bus to sample various drinks.
Last Sunday it was a winery tour. We drove to Atchison, Kansas and enjoyed an afternoon sampling various wines at Riverwood, Jowler Creek and Pirtle wineries. Due probably to the climate and soil qualities, Missouri wines are more limited in scope than, say, California wines. In general, the best wines are the dry and semi-dry whites. The dry reds are usually pretty terrible and the sweet reds are way too sweet for my taste.
I had been to two of the three wineries in the past and I was interested to see how those two had started branching out in ways that sidestepped some of the grape "problems," mainly by making wines from other fruits. Riverwood has recently started making wine from the Asian pears they grow and I bought a bottle after my sister suggested that it would make a very nice white wine spritzer.
Pirtle's apple wine has always been one of their better varieties but they also had a very nice blueberry wine. Their mead was better than I expected as well. It was a long, but fun day and we extended it with dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant on the way home.
This Sunday was Caffeine Crawl. Last year I went by myself (and happened to run into friends), but this year my sister agreed to go with me so I bought two tickets. As the weekend drew nearer, she was ready to bow out due to a cold, but when I couldn't find someone to take the ticket she decided to come anyway.
As we had the previous week, we started off with a hearty breakfast. I could tell my sister didn't feel great, but I brought her a nice megadose of Vitamin C and a packet of tissues for the road.
I have given up coffee more times than I can count, and this latest dietary overhaul was no exception. The acid in coffee skews the body's acid balance, as evidenced by the fact that it often gives me heartburn.
But...but I love coffee so much! It smells good, it tastes good and it gives me a much-needed boost that nothing else quite matches.
So I'll admit it: I've been cheating some. At work when there's a fresh pot brewing and the aroma wafts by, I've been having a half a cup from time to time. And on Thursdays when the CoffeeCakeKC truck comes to my office, well, let's just say they have a pour-over with my name on it. But I've quit drinking it regularly and I definitely miss the productivity boost it once gave me.
Which leads me to this. After one of my band's recent gigs, one of the band members edited together some video clips and although we sounded good, it was obvious that my energy levels were pretty terrible. I remembered feeling kind of sluggish during that show, and seeing the evidence was a wakeup call that I needed to improve my stage presence and move around more.
However, the big question was how was I going to accomplish that? It's possible that a nice green smoothie might do the trick, but it seemed a lot more practical to have a big cup of coffee on the way to the gig.
Last night I got my chance to test that theory. Once I was dressed and made up, I journeyed to Caribou Coffee and picked up a good-sized cup of medium roast. I finished it just as we were getting to the club.
And it worked! I was supercharged through all four sets. I felt more animated than usual and I didn't find myself moving around less toward the end the way I often had, despite the fact that it's always three hours past my usual bedtime by the time we finish playing.
I'll be the first to admit that coffee isn't ideal for a singer. It can dry out your mouth and throat and I believe it did that a bit yesterday. However, I had plenty of water on hand and my singing felt fine.
So I think I may have established a new pre-gig routine. I get to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee and fuel myself up with caffeine to help me connect with the audience and stay charged up on stage. Sounds like a win to me.
Dr. Dave and Alisha were in our group as well. Our first stop was at Quay Coffee in the River Market for a pour-over demonstration and sampling. Someone from the Farmhouse Restaurant was there making French toast for us. Yum!
The next stop was The Roasterie. We toured their plant and sampled coffee that had been processed prior to roasting by three different methods.
By the time we left, I was starting to feel a little buzzed from all the caffeine. Fortunately, our next stop was The Filling Station, which has good sandwiches. I forewent the full tasting of coffee-infused bourbons and beer in lieu of ordering lunch. I did snag a taste of one of the bourbons and grab one of the chocolate/coffee/bourbon mini cupcakes they offered.
The coconut milk chai is perhaps the most delicious drink I've ever had. I could develop a serious addiction to them. They also served a beautiful variety of vegan desserts, but I wasn't really hungry. I managed to eat one strawberry-lemon cupcake, though.
The next stop was Lattéland. We got a lesson on espresso and each tried a single shot paired with a homemade fig pastry. I didn't really dig the straight espresso, but it was interesting to try it.
Our final stop was way out in the suburbs at Revocup. Shop owner Habte Mesfin talked to us about traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies and explained the company's goal of improving economic conditions for coffee farmers throughout the world. We were offered different coffees prepared via French press, standard brewing and as espresso. I'd had coffee there before and I knew it would all be good - and it was.
I would show you the photo I took holding one of their adorable espresso cups, but I decided that my manly thumb was too unsightly.
Even though I probably only had the equivalent of about two full cups of coffee, spreading it out throughout the day seemed to intensify the effect. When I got home, I had bursts of house cleaning energy alternating with the desire to lie down. I'm still hoping I can manage to go to sleep at a reasonable hour.
All in all, I had a really nice time and I will definitely go again next year. Kansas City has a very vibrant coffee scene and there are many more coffee shops and roasting facilities I'd like to visit. I'm going to make it a goal to check out some of the ones from Saturday's tour.
Uh, maybe. But I still drink lots of water, too. See?
P.S. For everyone who wanted to know if my Average Jane water bottle is for sale, the answer is yes. Apparently I removed my shop link from the blog at some point, but you can get them from CafePress here.
So I'm drinking coffee again after well over a year without caffeine. I cannot tell you how happy that makes me.
I didn't stop drinking caffeine voluntarily; I did it because I have acid reflux that was just barely controlled by medication. As much as I loved my morning coffee, it would give me all-day heartburn. I hated to give it up, but I had no choice.
Then a miracle happened! No, not really. What really happened was much more bureaucratic than that. I went to refill my meds and discovered that the doctor had switched me to a high-dose, time-release generic drug at the behest of the insurance company. I was suspicious, but started taking the new capsules...and it turned out that the new medication actually works much better than the kind I'd been taking.
Naturally, I had to test it to see just how good it was. I went to Coffee Morning and drank two-and-a-half big cups of coffee. Later that day I had a Pepsi with lunch. Man, oh man was I sorry! My stomach was in such an uproar I was lucky to get to sleep that night.
That's how I learned that I can have ONE cup of delicious, life-improving coffee in the morning.
I love strong, black coffee. It makes me feel more focused and energetic. I get the impression that it speeds up my metabolism, but I may be making that up. I know for sure that I missed it every single day when I wasn't drinking it.
Of course there are drawbacks. The first is that I either need to make coffee in the morning before work or I have to stop somewhere and buy some. (Seriously, our office coffee is undrinkable.) Either way, it's an inconvenience and an expense. Then there's the lovely trifecta of coffee breath, tooth staining, and the inevitable little drops of coffee that land on clothes and car upholstery.
Even with all of that, I'm enjoying my morning coffee while I can. I've lived with acid reflux long enough to know that I'm pushing my luck hoping that the new meds will continue control my heartburn this well. There could quickly come a time when I'll have to go back to drinking nothing but water.
Thus, I'm actively enjoying every drop of my morning coffee each day. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be able to continue to do so for a long time.