Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Smell of Coffee

Spotlight on Coffee

     Many of my childhood memories are laced with the smell of coffee.

     I remember my father driving us out to the peninsula on weekends to visit my aunt and uncle in the country. There, in the damp shadows of tall firs and alders, a crackling wood fire on the hearth often greeted us. If we drove out on Saturday there would be hamburgers for dinner, and if it were Sunday there would be tender roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy. I remember my aunt’s lemon-filled layer cakes and wild huckleberry pie for dessert, and the perpetual aroma of coffee brewing on the stove. Yes, coffee smells like weekends in the country. 

Honking Pine

     I remember too, the terrible Columbus Day Storm when I was seven years old.  A violent storm with unequaled gusts tore through our town, uprooting trees, breaking windows and knocking out power; it was the worst storm I have ever experienced. I crouched in the dark before the shivering light of the fireplace that wretched evening, listening with my family to the news on the radio, restless with the nagging fear that there was danger in the world larger than the safety of my father’s arms.  I was terrified most of the night and crawled into bed with my older sister thinking the house might fly away just like Dorothy’s did in The Wizard of Oz.  By morning, with my father brewing a pot of percolator coffee and frying up stacks of pancakes for breakfast on the Coleman campstove in the kitchen, I felt safe again. For me, coffee is the smell of comfort.


     When I was in my teens, Ruth, the egg lady from Cherry Blossom Farm, would bring her eggs into town on Saturday mornings to deliver door to door. She always stopped at our house first for a cup of coffee and a long chat with my parents. Then she and I would drive all over town in her Volkswagen van delivering eggs to her customers. Ruth drove and kept the records of delivery and payment, while I did the legwork. Customers soon began calling me the egg lady too. We often stopped for a cup of coffee with an old and usually tipsy man and woman at the end of the route; it was a kindness on Ruth’s part, and I learned patience. So then, coffee is also the smell of hospitality and coming of age.

Coffee Connoisseur

     I married a dedicated coffee drinker. It is the smell that starts and ends our days together. When the kids were little, my youngest would sometimes drink a cup with daddy in a baby mug of coffee-flavored milk. We lived in the heart of Starbucks country long before it sprouted on every street corner in the nation and beyond, and for many years my husband has been a loyal customer. Now that he travels so widely, the international community has begun to influence his choices. He sprinkles ground chocolate on his cappuccino because of the Brazilians, bought a state of the art espresso machine and burr grinder because of his mates in Australia, and is switching his loyalty from Starbucks to Intelligentsia because of an Irish-Canadian sommelier he works with. In our house, coffee smells like companionship and culture.


     And yet, I never drink the stuff. I am the only one in my family who never developed a taste for it. Even so, the smell of coffee is so entangled with the fabric of my life I have no wish to go without it.

Coffee Art® painted with coffee by artists, Angel and Andrew Saur


  1. I've returned to revel in this post a few times because I am also a dedicated coffee-drinker and now I wonder what thoughts the aroma of coffee will arouse in my kids some day a few, already coffee-drinkers:) You have the gift of painting with words and I look forward to each post whether I comment or not. I'm off to brew a coffee;) Your posts would make a beautiful coffee-table book.

  2. I also look forward to your postings and totally agree with the book idea!

  3. Excellent post Judy, The book idea should be called "The Smells Of The Day"

  4. Coffee is so reviving, dear Nib.