Sunday, January 15, 2012

Café con leche

Once in a while, instead of writing about my fabulous life traveling to fabulous places, I write a bit about myself.  You know - what's on my mind, how I'm doing, really whatever.  Y'all should know that occasionally I have thoughts that aren't, "Hmm...Should I go to Prague or Budapest next?  Will the Vatican stamp my passport?  What about Antarctica?  Why isn't travel to the Moon a thing yet?"  I'm just not in the mood to write about Barcelona right now.

A few days ago, it dawned on me that I'm actually starting to like coffee.  Or rather, I realized that coffee no longer repulses me.  This is my measure of how long I've been in Spain.  

Coffee Oreo Ice Cream at J.P. Licks
When I was little, my grandma and I used to eat coffee ice cream together.  She really liked the flavor, and I looked up to her.  Since then, I've eaten coffee ice cream when the choice was available.  It's a simple gesture, but it always reminds me of her.  Oreo is my other favorite flavor of ice cream, so you can imagine how excited I was to find coffee oreo ice cream at J.P. Licks in Boston.  Oddly, through all those years of eating coffee ice cream, and coffee gelato when traveling, I could never get used to drinking coffee.  I found the taste repulsive.

I had my first sip of black coffee when I was old enough to remember that I didn't like the taste, but still too young to remember more than that.  So, I have no story to tell you, but it's safe to assume I made a face that exclaimed, "Eww!  How can you possibly drink this every day?!"  And no, the face probably didn't intend anything more profane since I had impeccable manners...I hope.

My second sip of coffee was in Costa Rica in 2005 on a tour of a coffee plantation with my grandparents (other side of the family).  I tried vanilla coffee, and still didn't like it.  The guide was like, "Oh, just add some milk and sugar.  You'll love it.  Pura vida!" They said "pura vida" a lot there.   I added a bunch of each, and magically, the mix tasted much better.  I liked it well enough, but decided that I liked the milk and sugar better without the coffee.

Thinking back, it sometimes surprises me that I never became a serious coffee addict during my last two years in high school.  I mean, sleeping four hours per night or less for months on end would be awful even with coffee.  Imagine it without.  Then I remember how much Mountain Dew I drank in the mornings.  Gross, I know.  Coffee just didn't excite me.  Night after night, after ballet, I fell asleep on the floor of my room and woke up with the print of my handwriting from my homework smeared on my face.  I set alarms on my phone for every 15 minutes to try to avoid sleeping, but coffee never entered the picture.  

Also, since no one in my family drinks coffee at home, we don't own a coffee maker.  I have no idea how to make coffee.  That probably contributed to me not drinking coffee in high school.

The third time I drank coffee was at one of those college recruitment presentations.  Actually, I think it might have been for BU.  After the presentation,  I was talking to one of the people, and they offered me a cup of coffee.  I was nervous and wanted to be polite, so I took the smallest sip I could.  Verdict - Still not into it.

During finals in my freshmen year at BU, around 2 am, I was tired, but decided that I didn't know the material well enough to justify going to sleep.  So, I drank a few sips of coffee in the Towers dining hall...and stayed awake until about 5 or 6 am.  Not exactly what I intended.  Sleep has never been a priority in my life.  Most people spend 1/3 of their life sleeping.  If I can keep it to 1/4, I'll be pretty happy.

The following year, I still wasn't a coffee drinker when my roommate, Lesley, and I decided to figure out what all the different words on the Starbucks menu in SMG meant.  We brought a different drink to our Cell Bio lectures every Tuesday and Thursday, courtesy of our dining plans.  How else would you know the difference between a macchiato, a cappuccino, and a frappuccino?  About halfway into the semester, I just started bringing chai lattes to class because I still couldn't get used to the taste.

In my junior year of college, I came to Madrid for the first time and started this blog!  (Hence the name "Dana Goes to Madrid!")  Right away, I decided that I wasn't going to order coffee because I didn't like it.  End of story.  Funny, considering where this post is coming from, right?

Returning to BU, I remember ordering the occasional vanilla coffee at Einstein's in CAS, but that was mostly because it was cold outside and their tea was too hot.  Someone asked me how I could get used to the taste of a martini but not coffee.  The answer is probably that I got almost twice as much sleep in college as high school, leaving no reason to learn to like coffee.  

Spanish Latte at ERC
In my senior year, I started ordering the occasional Spanish Latte at Espresso Royale Café on CommAve at the suggestion of my friend, Katie.  It took some getting used to the flavor, but it was full of sugar and delicious. Plus, the pattern on the top of the drink was pretty.  We liked to study there and had to order something to justify sitting at their tables for hours.  I liked the drink but figured it was only an ERC thing because I had (somehow???) never heard of a specific drink called a Spanish Latte before, and I didn't think I'd find one anywhere else.  Then I went to Spain.

So why now, during this magical year in Madrid, in which I have no worries, sneak the occasional siesta, and hop gloriously from country to country, do I find myself ordering café con leche?  

I am neither exhausted nor stressed.  After all these years, could I have actually started to enjoy coffee?  Is that even still possible?  Yep.  Trust me, when work buys coffee, you get used to it faster.  And with more energy!

Café con leche
Well, let's back up for a moment.  It's not that simple.  When I arrived back in August, I was like, "Oh, I'll have some tea, thanks."  I was very London (new adjective!) - and I hadn't even been there yet!  Anyways, as the fall semester in Madrid progressed, everyone who works in the office ordered coffee during breaks on the BU trips.  Eventually I stopped ordering tea because it was just easier.  Later in the semester, at one of our tertulias (discussion group/outing) with the students, I ordered café con leche (desnatada, of course) because I decided that I should give it a chance since it may as well be the national drink.  Now, here I am at the beginning of the spring semester eagerly awaiting my next café con leche date with BU.  I even ordered un café con leche desnatada with my breakfast twice over winter break, and another yesterday at lunch during the spring semester orientation.  Spain, you're really getting to me!

I don't do it quite right though.  I'm not ever tired enough to drink coffee here for the purpose of waking up.  I hardly ever drink coffee in the mornings either.  It's more of a brunch-lunch time ordeal.

This morning, it dawned on me that I have only really ordered a café con leche in Spain.  I don't know what to order if I want the same drink in the United States.  Ordering a "coffee with milk" sounds weird, and I don't know if it would be the same thing.  Thus ends my friendship with coffee once and for all?

Café con leche 
On the way to Toledo


  1. So do you think if I drink enough coffee I'll get used to it? Will you need a coffee maker for grad school? Great blog entry!

    1. Glad you like the post! Yes, I think if you come back here to check out Desigual's new collection and drink more coffee, you would eventually get used to it. When you add milk and sugar, it tastes like coffee ice cream, except that it's warm. I think it would be better if I did not have a coffee maker for grad school.

  2. I still think coffee just tastes bad. No reason to learn to like it. And it's a known bad habit that can also be expensive.i'll pass.

    1. Just wait until you arrive here in the spring and I order you some coffee to help you fight off the jetlag. You may change your mind once you wake up.

      Here, ordering coffee is typically half the cost of ordering a Diet Coke (Coke Light in Spain).

      Café con leche is a lifestyle here. Typically, it comes with every breakfast combo, and after every meal, whether you want it or not.