A warm bitter affair


Hatred for morning
transforms to best part of day.
Magic in a mug.

– Tori Sharpe

I cannot accurately describe my passionate affection and bond I have with coffee, but I am going to try to tell you how he’s been my best friend since preteenhood. I remember tasting my first cup in the 6th grade. It wasn’t even like it was a weak cup or anything like that. It was that Vietnamese coffee my dad would drink; that sweet, flavorful, bitter kick served in a tall skinny glass over ice with a bright red straw. It was over for me then. Even with my mom’s warnings about stunted growth, I didn’t care.



I know what many people are thinking: “Typical hipster from Portland.” Yeah well, whatever, call me what you will. I count myself lucky to have grown up in a place with some of the best local coffee roasters in the country. Coffee aids me in the morning and sends an electric shock of good vibes to my body when I wake up horribly unattractive and angry at the world. The aromatic sweet smell and the happy buzz and clanks of coffee shops is what I choose to play over speakers to calm myself, while others would choose rain or beach sounds. Coffee shops are where I go to observe a small slice of the world. It’s where I go to relax, take a breath, and reflect.


I never read when I was younger. I know, coffee and books are supposed to go together, but I used to write and draw A LOT. In high school I’d kept myself extremely busy with team sports, a job, and homework. I was also an angry guarded teenager who needed a place where I could go and just get away from people. So, as soon as I bought my first car, off to Powell’s Books in Portland I went. What I discovered there was amazing. From the window, you could see people from all walks of life. The young girl in her bright red coat and yellow rain boots grasping at the hand of her slightly older brother, in his tweed grey jacket two sizes too big for him. Looking both ways before crossing the street to join their angry mother in her green sweatshirt and black jeans, obviously upset that they were lagging behind. The homeless man with his long graying beard, brown baseball cap, red and black checkered flannel, dark blue jeans, and brown boots, standing on the corner. One arm holding a bundle of Street Roots, the other held straight up with a newspaper held tight in his hand,  a smile on his face. The young college boy with his tan beanie barely clinging to the back of his head, his tousled brown hair poking out the front onto his forehead. Reaching into his over the shoulder grey satchel bag for a small velcro wallet, pulling out a donation to buy a copy of Street Roots.


This would go on for hours. Mostly I would sit and watch people pass by the window, sipping my brew, wondering what their lives were like. Were those kids going through what I was going through? Did they feel the way I felt? Were there lives better or worse then mine? The answer was always, “yes”. Even though the circumstances were most likely different than my own, we all experience the same emotions at one point or another. I’d stop feeling sorry for myself. I think Powell’s is where I found my love for people watching too. Sometimes I would sit, and write short stories about someone I saw walking by. Making a world for them through watching a very small instance of their life. I’d take breaks, grab another cup of coffee, and continue to write. Sometimes when i was bored of writing, I would draw pictures. Not of people, but pictures from some art book I grabbed from the fantasy section of the giant maze of a bookstore. Sometimes I would grab photo or picture books, and sometimes I would just sit, drink my coffee, and feel its warmth trace down my throat, into my chest, and settle in my tummy. I’d do this for hours.

I’d often find myself driving downtown, parallel parking my car, and just walking around the city until I found a coffee shop that struck my eye. Some were little run down shops, others were swanky coffee bars, and some were just packed-tight run of the mill cafes. All of them though, felt incredibly familiar to me. I went through a period in my life where I felt like no one, besides mom and the sisters, could be trusted. I didn’t want to share anything about what I was feeling with anyone, because I feared they would not be able to understand my situation or they’d devalue my feelings. I didn’t feel like explaining myself, and I didn’t feel like anyone cared. I also didn’t want to rely on anyone. But I’ve always felt relaxed and at peace whenever I sat down with my cup. I’ve always always looked at coffee with love and adoration, with excitement, with trust. Coffee, you’ll never do me wrong.


The feeling I get, when I smell or see a freshly brewed cup of coffee is probably something similar to what a dog feels when you whip out a piece of bacon and say, “Treat!”  I also get this way when I’ve been walking around a city and see a cute little shop full of baristas behind the counters. Some of the most meaningful and impactful moments of my life have happened through conversations in coffee shops. It’s where I’d been mentored as a teenager, studied for my college exams, corrected hundreds of student papers, explained my breakups, helped my friends, mentored teenagers, laughed with my mom, made goals for myself, prayed, perfected my drawing skills, lesson planned, and just simply relaxed. The shop itself doesn’t matter, it’s all about the atmosphere.

I picked up reading in college. It was kinda one of those things English majors have to do at some point. It was a really really really tough learning curve for me: learning how to read books and stories so quickly. I would spend hours at the Daily Grind, usually from 6-11 in the evening, just reading and studying. Eventually though, I started enjoying the books, and that too quickly became a new hobby. I would grab a coffee, sit down to study, take a break and read, study again, go get more coffee, read, and finish studying. It was a really fun little cycle.


Luckily, Hirosaki is FULL of quaint little coffee shops and cafes galore! I could NOT have been placed in a better city than the one I’m in right now. Today is the first day that I get to ride my bike home from school since the winter hit. This means, that I get to ride past the hustle and bustle of the college students, little kids, salary men, and shoppers. I’m gonna take the long way home, just so I can see how alive the city is. It’s sunny, it’s beautiful, and I’m ready for that sweet sweet honey latte.




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