I can honestly say that, with one notable exception, I am on friendly terms with every one of a fairly impressive list of former “significant others,” and I think I know why. It’s because they all share my affinity for coffee.
The man I married just out of college doesn’t drink coffee—never did. Which should have been my first clue that the marriage wouldn’t last, and that we would not end up being friends after the breakup.
But no matter how rocky my other relationships became, we could always hash out our differences over a steaming cuppa. Therein, I’m convinced, lies the secret to long-lasting friendship.
Lots of couples share wine, and grape appreciation has been part of my relationships as well, but wine is different. When combined with an argument or even with amore, an alcoholic beverage can cause trouble.
Coffee involves no such liability.
My first post-divorce boyfriend introduced me to coffee with chicory, from the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. He bought it in a bright red cans and added a teaspoonful to freshly-ground beans to render a rich, exotic brew that had the side effect of cleaning out the intestines. I could handle only two cups of the stuff before my internal organs began to twist and shout. Ten years after the breakup, I still kept a can of coffee with chicory in my freezer and dipped into it every once in a while, toasting the memory of that boyfriend—even as the abdominal twitching reminded me to thank God we were no longer together.
Next I dated a man who grew up on a plantation in Malaysia. He was so particular about his coffee that we rarely made any at home, but traveled all over town, passing dozens of Starbucks on the way to quirky little independent coffee shops where the baristas greeted him by name. These establishments no doubt sourced their beans from huge South American farms like the chains did, but he insisted that family ownership added authenticity. Although we decided to “just be friends,” I still drink a dry-roasted toast to him whenever I visit one of our old favorite java huts.
My art dealer boyfriend’s coffee ritual included blending organic, shade grown French roast beans with organic, shade grown, decaffeinated French roast beans and shaking the grinder like a pair of maracas to make sure the grounds combined thoroughly. Then he perched a paper filter atop a decanter, dumped a mound of coffee into the cone, and poured in boiling water, bit by bit. Like the demise of our relationship, it was a tortuously slow process—but like our current friendship, which took some time to brew after the breakup, it was well worth the wait. Now he gives me discounts on my art buys again.
A musician won me over once by serving breakfast of bacon, eggs and authentic Italian cappuccino, perfected during a vacation in Rome. His secret weapon was a Japanese spoon used to whip the froth by hand. Dutch by ancestry, this man claimed with pride that his forefathers introduced coffee to Europe in the 16th Century. What can I say? I’m a softie for a “man of the world.” Of course that relationship cooled a long time ago–let’s just say he poured himself a fresh cup–but no matter. The memory of his cappuccino? We will forever be friends.
I’m still friends with the philandering military policeman, the clingy, overly intellectual newspaper publisher, and the impoverished wanna-be filmmaker, all because we shared a love of all that goes with coffee: the process of choosing and grinding and brewing the beans; the earthy scent, rich color, and sound of something hot being poured from one vessel to another; the perfection of bittersweet flavor as a chaser for scrambled eggs and waffles and sandwiches and cake; the comfort of moist heat in our hands on cool mornings.
Yes, coffee, for me, is a grounds for friendship, if not for lasting love. And friends are wonderful, indeed, but I always find myself looking for more. Coffee, anyone?