In a fast-paced world where everything is constantly go, go, go, sometimes you need a moment to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee. Not a latte, or something iced with a lot of sugar, but a good, old-fashioned, undiluted cup of black coffee.
Coffee is a delicacy. It's rich and full of flavors, it's aromatic, and frankly, underrated. When I first came to D.C., I was shocked by the lack of time people give their cup of morning joe. In a world where Dunkin Donuts is always poppin' and McDonalds is on every corner, why should people care about their coffee beyond trying to get the best caffeine rush for their buck?
To backtrack, I am a life-long lover of coffee. Blame it on my Seattle roots, but give me a nice, independent coffee shop and steaming hot cup of coffee without room for cream and I'll sit in the same chair for hours. I had my first full cup of coffee in fifth grade. At the tender age of 9, I was absolutely hooked. Sometimes this can prove to be a problem, as no one likes that pre-morning coffee headache. Every once in a while, I'll take a break, switch to tea and make it past the morning headache phase, only to find myself back in the coffee habit within a few weeks.
There are two factors that contribute to a perfect cup of coffee: the coffee itself and the coffee shop.
Now, I realize that it's perfectly acceptable to enjoy a cup of coffee at home, but the experience is completely enhanced when you switch up the location you drink it in.
In order to properly understand how to get the most out of your coffee drinking experience, it's important to first identify what the worst cup of coffee is. The worst cup of coffee is the one you drink to help pull you through an all nighter, the one that serves no purpose and provides no fulfillment other than making you stay away a few more hours. It is chugged, loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners and consumed over textbooks or your laptop.
The perfect cup of coffee is the opposite. It's your favorite type of roast, strong, and your companion for a long novel. It is consumed in a quaint coffee shop that is neither too big nor too small. There's local art on the walls, comfy chairs to slouch into and lively conversation. The perfect coffee shop is the best kind of environment for formulating ideas.
Now, lack of one or the other of these factors could entirely change the experience. For example, you could stumble upon the cutest little coffee shop with live music and beautiful art– only to discover their coffee is weak and lacks the rich flavor you wanted. Or vise versa, you could have the most delectable cup of coffee, but if the coffee shop is blaring loud music, has generic decor and is half-empty, it's hard to really savor the experience.
This is why it is important to explore coffee shops. Think of it as a quest to find a cup of happiness. Just because all your friends like one place, or everyone is raving a new hot place in town, doesn't mean it'll be the right fit for you. All coffee drinkers are unique– we each have flavor preferences, preferred drinks and different ambient desires.
For example, when I'm back in Seattle and want to write, I'll go to Caffe Umbria in Ballard because I love their Americano and you can always find inspiration from watching the people who pass by; however, if I want to read, I'll go to Cloud City Coffee in Mapleleaf becuase it's well-lit and has a nice, open atmosphere.
When trying out coffee shops, it is important to consider many factors. Don't limit your options based on past experiences. Tastes change, baristas change and one's purpose for a coffee shop changes as well.
It is also important to note that you may not find the absolute best cup of coffee, but if the coffee shop is to die for, then it's okay to find a compromise between the coffee and location. The best cup of coffee I ever had came from Nicaragua. I purchased a bag of espresso roast (that has slowly been dwindling) from a coffee bean farm. Regardless of how ridiculously perfect this coffee is (honestly the chocolate undertones and strong flavor are nothing short of perfection), I still find myself opting to go to coffee shops. I know the coffee at a coffee shop will not be as good as the cup I could make at home; however, the coffee shop atmosphere is worth slightly compromising my ridiculously high coffee standards.
It might take you a day to find the right combination of coffee shop and coffee – it could take years – but in the end, it's all worth it. Never give up hope because the perfect cup of coffee is out there, waiting for you. You just have to get out of Starbucks and go find it.
If you haven't already been able to tell, I'm a big fan of food. Everyone should be a fan of food, it literally helps your body function and makes you stay alive. If you aren't already, go out and become a fan of food.
When thinking about food, it's important to distinguish between what is food and what isn't. Chemicals, artificial flavoring, color dyes? Not food. Vegetables, nuts, grains? Food. I think the most common way people lose track of a "diet" (a diet is literally what you eat, there is no such thing as "going on a diet" you're always on a diet, okay sorry rant over) is because of a lack of understanding of one's body. Here's something important: oils, sugar, and salt are addictive. Chances are if you're craving french fries and oreos, you need to get back in touch with your body.
Recently, whenever I've found myself wishing for a cookie or wanting to bake a tray of brownies, I've referred to a "favorite food" list I made, and opt for something on there instead. This way, I'm still getting to eat something I want, but I'm not putting more artificial things in my body.
Everyone should make a favorite foods list. Trust me, it changes your life. There's nothing better than driving home from work knowing that when I sit down at the dinner table, I can grab an apple and peanut butter. And it's really as simple as just choosing a few items on your list to grab every time you go to the grocery store, plus it's fun because you get to switch it up a little every time!
And before you say, "but Aubrey, you don't understand, chocolate ice cream is my favorite food," take a minute to really think about what foods make you feel happy after eating them. Write them down. Next time you're craving a second scoop, try eating something on your list instead. Trust me, it tastes just as good.
I think our obsession with unhealthy foods stems from this mistaken belief that they're "easier." That it's easier to heat up some tater-tots than actually make a salad. That's why I think having a favorite foods list is so successful. It's not a recipe, it's as convenient and easy as grabbing an item out of your fridge.
Okay so now that I've hyped it all up, here's my list of favorite foods: