Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coffee Scents and Caffeine Dreams

The sense of smell is a powerful thing, isn't it?
Just a small whiff of something can bring you right back to another place.

I walked past the coffee beans in the market two days ago and I was immediately transported back to my days as a barista. I remembered the evenings of grinding coffee and filling coffee filters and drinking copious amounts of the evil stuff. At one coffeehouse in particular one of the end-of-shift duties was to grind the beans into portion-controlled bags to make it easier for the next shift to quickly brew coffee. The house blend was a combination of Mexican and Colombian beans. This blend made for the perfect cup of coffee in my opinion. It was not too bitter that you needed to cut it with hot water or milk, but it was also strong enough that you knew what you were drinking. It was smooth and strong. Kinda like me.

I hadn't thought about working at the coffeehouse in years. I had almost forgotten about it. It was a tiny little place in shopping mall that time forgot, tucked between towering office buildings. The owner used to roast the beans right in the shop. You could smell the aromas for blocks and blocks.

Just when I thought I was finished with the scent-induced flashbacks, I was hit again. Yesterday I picked my wife up from the caffe and as soon as she sat in the car, I was sent back to my days behind the bar. Certain places have certain scents, am I right? This smell was undeniable. If it was the other way around and she had picked me up somewhere, I still would have known where she had been for the last three hours. I still would have remembered all of the cafe mochas I made, topped with home-made whipped cream. I still would have thought about that one customer who used to spend hours in the caffe and who never drank coffee. He only ever wanted fresh brewed ice tea. He would spend afternoons there conducting business and flirting with the female baristas I worked with. Some weekend evenings he would bring his dates to the caffe just to show off that everyone knew him and that he got his drinks for free. Then he would spend the rest of the evening talking the poor girl's ear off.

I have never experienced any other smells that reminded me of any other past jobs before. Maybe it's just coffee that does that to me. Maybe because I worked in so many coffee shops and cafes and coffeehouses, the caffeine scents just stick with me. I rarely visit coffee shops any more. After I lost my last barista gig, I stopped going. It was too hard for me. I know I can do so much better than who ever is behind the counter. I know I could create a better quality product and I know I could create a better atmosphere for the customers.

Any time I visit a locally owned shop, I know for a fact I could do it all better. I also stopped drinking coffee, so I really have no reason to step foot into a cafe. Maybe that's why coffee sets off my flashbacks like it does. I have been separated from it for so long that it's calling me back. It misses me. And if I'm honest, I miss it too.


  1. The smell of coffee gets me every time. It transports me back to a small cafe I worked in all throughout college. I can vividly recall the people, the food and space.

  2. Sorry to have set off your flashbacks. I get that too when I first step in the place in the morning. I want so badly to be back in it, but this time on my own terms. We could do it better, but life is getting in the way.