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Sunday, May 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: Do You Remember When Coffee Was Just Coffee?


There’s something comforting about sunrise; about the way it breaches the edges of night,⁢ casting warm hues of gold⁢ against the quiet town of Schenectady, and in a way, applying a‍ soft filter on all those looming shadows of technology and unnecessary complications that ⁢seem to have taken hostage of the world we’re in. Waking up every morning, I drag my feet across ‍the worn-out carpet,​ my ⁢footsteps syncopated⁣ with the creaking of the wooden floor ⁤that had seen 50 years‍ of ⁤my life.

In this rhythm, I prepare a cup of coffee – or at least, ⁤what you youngsters would ​now call ‘coffee’. ⁤See,‍ when I ⁤was growing up here, attending Lincoln Elementary where the walls held steadfast⁣ against⁤ the restless spirit of time, coffee used to be⁢ just that—coffee.

Three, was it four decades ago? My parents ran a small coffee shop, aptly titled ‘McCarthy’s​ Cup.’ A blue-collar haunt nestled in the heart of Schenectady. We had⁣ simple​ brews: two⁤ types of roasts, and if you were feeling fancy, sugar and cream. The aroma of the beans roasting ⁤was the only alarm clock we needed, the only dashboards were in‍ our cars, and a bit of conversation was the cherry on top of your ​cup.

The menu⁢ today… it might‌ as‌ well be hieroglyphics. Who knew that ordering a cup of coffee would one day require ‌a Rosetta stone? Back at‍ McCarthy’s Cup, the closest thing we had to ‌an exotic option was an ‘Irish’, which ⁣was more about adding a​ wink of whisky than any delicate measuring of foam⁢ or dash of nutmeg.

And don’t get me started on⁣ our fixation for decaf. Now, I might not be young anymore, but somebody ⁢has got to explain to me the‌ logic of coffee ​styled to not act ⁤like ⁣coffee?‍ Why would anyone spend almost three dollars on ‍practically flavored hot water?‌ It’s akin to investing in a stick shift car that doesn’t shift.

Next in line are those⁢ served in absurdly small⁣ portions. A double shot of espresso, they call it. Guess what I ​call it? A rip-off! Maybe it’s meant to compensate ⁤for⁣ the barrage of ‍oversized caffeinated monstrosities that would’ve made my dear ol’ Ma choke on⁣ her brew.

Oh, ‘Venti’ she would have said, in her warm Irish ‍brogue, Venti was large in Italian, not a guzzler that ⁣could drown a small dog.

And then there’s the Macchiato incident. ‌I remember it well; it was a dreary⁢ Tuesday, ​and full of wrong-headed optimism, I walked ⁤into one⁢ of these modern, neon-lit, over-air- conditioned⁤ coffee temples. I asked ⁤for a Macchiato, thinking it was ​just some new-fangled type of⁣ brew. The barista, a bright-eyed girl​ with more colored ‌pins ⁤in her apron than I’ve ever seen, asked me if I wanted caramel with ‌that.‌ I thought she was⁤ joking!⁢

Turns out, ​a Macchiato these days is fifty-percent caramel, ten-percent milk, thirty-percent something called ‘foam’, and topped with a ‍drizzle of confusion. I miss ‍when coffee was innocent⁤ of the crime of dessert impersonation.

When did we replace the simple ⁣joy of coffee with an ‌over-complicated, over-priced pantomime? When did we trade earnest, unadorned flavor ⁢for​ confusing concotions and nauseatingly sweet artificiality? ⁣

Maybe I’m a dinosaur, an⁤ old man ranting about how the world used to be simpler. But the thing is… well, it used⁤ to be simpler. There was joy, there was flavor, there was ​community ‍in‍ that simplicity. And all the caramel drizzle in the⁣ world can’t replace that.

So here’s to the breaking dawn, to the town ⁤of Schenectady, ‌to the lost charms of simplicity,‍ and to⁤ the comforting⁤ sensation of ‍a ‍cup ‌of good ol’ fashioned coffee, untouched ‍by needless complexities. Here’s ​to hoping that amidst our unending ⁤conquest for sophistication, we don’t⁤ lose sight of the inherent‍ charm of simple things, of the ‍beauty in a‍ ‘cup of joe’, that used to be just that—a cup of coffee.

Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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