The best cup of coffee to be found in the U.S. may well reside just one town over, in Acton, MA. Terroir Coffee, run by international java guru George Howell, operates out of an indistinct industrial building surrounded by hay fields. Actually, you can only get a cup of coffee there if you attend one of George’s occasional coffee presentations. The rest of the time, you can order their fabulous coffee online. If you’re local and want to pick it up, you save on shipping costs. Terroir is the be-all for single sourced, hand-crafted coffee.
My worst cup of coffee was my first. Years ago, I was a reporter travelling with a political campaign touring through Connecticut. It was a day of cold October rain and I’d been out in it since sunrise. I was a tea and occasional cocoa drinker. At one of the stops, the press were offered styrofoam cups of weak, but hot, coffee. I loaded mine with milk and drank it down for warmth. Warmth was all I got out of it, except for the notion that sometimes a cup of coffee was a good thing. It filled a special place that tea never reaches.
The best, the worst … and every day? Somewhere along the way, I decided that I wanted every day to start with the best cup of coffee I could manage. Here’s my recipe: coffee beans, sometimes from Terroir. Sometimes from Starbucks–because they can be had at reasonable cost at Costco. Yes, I like Starbucks, even though George Howell finds them anathema. I’m partial to Sumatra. My secret weapon is an ancient coffee grinder that belonged to my grandmother. Rather than burring the beans in a high speed electric grinder, I crank the spin-wheel. With each rhythmic rotation, I’m transported back to my grandmother’s kitchen in a small house atop a northern Connecticut hill. It was a place of warmth and comfort in every way that a child craves those things. Admittedly, I drank tea with my Irish born grandmother, but the coffee grinder sat on a side table, waiting for me to come of age. Grinding coffee by hand also brings me the satisfaction that some people find in knitting or woodwork. It’s slow, meditative, connected. In a high-speed world, it’s centering. I’m fortunate to have my grandmother’s grinder because I don’t know where one could be found these days.
I pour the finished coffee into one of my favorite blue pottery mugs and take it into our music room …when it’s warm outside I go onto our screened porch. And I sit, hands wrapped round the warm pottery, thinking that life is good. Life, for the time it takes to drink my coffee, is connected to earthy beans, fire, water. And family.
For many of us, coffee is ritual. The cup at home or the stop at the favorite shop. What starts your day?