Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My First Mug, A Coffee Experience

This was my first coffee mug.

I purchased it through the annual pledge drive for my brother's community radio station. Previous year's swag had been long sleeve t-shirts or sweatshirts. I had just started regularly drinking coffee when i acquired it, driven there for several reasons. One, i discovered i had come around on the taste after quite a few years of rapidly expanding my consumption of strong, dark beer. Two, i found out that, like beer, there are significant quality differences in the type of coffee available to drink. I thought everything was garbage Folgers or something similar - I was terribly naive. Three...well the third reason is that I wasn't sleeping enough, I was often awfully tired, and I got over my belief that i was somehow "superior" to people who needed coffee to function in the morning. I was happy to find a reason to turn to caffeine in the morning.

This was a curious mug. It features a cow that has just been branded with the KBUT call letters, and there are steam lines rising from the hide. They don't appear to be steam lines, it just makes the cow look stinky. It was a strange size, not small enough to be a one cup mug you drink in your kitchen and offer coffee in to your visitors, and not the larger size of a travel mug carrying several servings and keeping the heat. I realized when I would visit Knockbox Cafe, using my cowmug for their bottomless coffee, that i was not getting as much coffee as the other patrons. I apologized to my cowmug, and I stopped taking it along to Knockbox despite the staff there being fans of the curious cowmug.

I visited my brother's apartment in colorado, and i took my mug with me. At the Golden, CO coffeeshop that he visits they asked why i was drinking out of his mug. I would ski in Breckenridge with my father, and our cowmugs would rinse & dry in the kitchen sink next to each other. Taking my mug on a visit to my younger brother for its homecoming further up into the mountains, he poured his french press brew into our matching vessels. United by name, united by blood, united by mugs.

The mug is ceramic, with a rubber lid that doesn't seem like it will safely seal the coffee from spilling. It seals well. The ceramic material alarms TSA agents at the airport, and multiple times my backpack has been chosen for inspection due to the presence of my cowmug. They chuckle at the illustration and send me on my non-threatening, now-delayed, way.

My dad, who has an excel spreadsheet detailing every drive and putt and hole and round of golf he has played for the last 10 years, always said, "drink it black, because it will save you an immeasurable amount of time in preparation over the course of your life." Or something like that.

In the year since purchasing my mug with a charitable donation I became a lover of coffee. I quickly grew away from the overpowering strength offered in the Einstein Brother's neighborhood blends. The scent of a Dunkin Donuts coffee may be pleasant in the air, it's not something I seek out. I try to support my local businesses, and chicago-based coffee companies have gained a solid foothold of my budget. My fine neighbors at Star Lounge offer something different and delicious nearly every morning, and has generally become my first stop on weekday mornings.

When my younger brother visited once years ago, i borrowed (permanently) an instant coffeemaker from a coworker for the week. I was not yet a java colleague but wanted to be accommodating. That coffeemaker was "lost" during my last move, pre-conversion. At a recent company holiday raffle, i spent all of my entry tickets on the coffeemaker, still not owning one after finally committing to the bean. I lost. The next day I bought a french press. That evening I made my first cup at home, and I enjoyed it in the curiously stinky KBUT cowmug.

I enjoyed my weekend cups brewed at home for the next several weeks before making another holy pilgrimage to the Rockies this past weekend. The brothers, dad and I watched the Superbowl together with nonstop eating and a verticle tasting of Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barleywine. We did not share coffee, and to my knowledge our four cowmugs have never joined in a toast.
They never will.