The old man gets up every day in the same one-piece long underwear he wears to bed, sits down at the breakfast table in the slanted-floored kitchen, and drinks black coffee made from a large can with beans ground at the local grocery store. The coffee cup sits inside a small, white china saucer. He tips the cup until the coffee spills over into the dish. Tearing off a piece of toast, he dips it into the spilt coffee. Swallowing, he tips the cup again.
Coffee was not my drink of choice as a young man. The bitter, harsh liquid seemed more appropriate for use on rusted locks. No, I was a Mountain Dew kind of guy. Adventurous and sporty. I sat at my work desk and sipped a gigantic container of pop from mid-morning until it was time to go home. Keeping my body in a constant state of sugar hydration seemed to be the unspoken goal. Sure, a diabetic’s nightmare, a dentist’s dream, and a bonus for my expanding waist. But everybody had to do their part to keep the American pop industry first. I did mine for years.
Then mochas became my gateway drink. A chocolaty concoction that is a malt for adults. It had sufficient sugar, chocolate, whipped cream, and who knows what else to replace my beloved Mountain Dew. All I knew was that the extra goop nicely hid the fact that there was actually coffee in the drink. Now that’s a coffee I can like.
Ah, but eventually, without any warning from my mom or the Surgeon General, I developed a taste for coffee. Two shots of espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate, please. Hold the whip cream.
See, a slippery slope.
A small coffee shop opened in Beaverdale around this time. Grounds for Celebration. One of the early shops in the metro area. I was thrilled. I could get my mocha fix right on the way to work. Yahoo.
“George and I thought Beaverdale would be a perfect place for a coffee shop. We started educating ourselves. We went to coffee fests. We wanted to see what was out there. Java Joes had opened. This little spot came open — a barber shop and a beauty shop were there originally. We gutted the spot ourselves, and George designed the store.”
Jan Davis is bright-eyed and open-faced. She makes no bones that she is running a business, but prides herself on treating her customers and employees well. Jan and her husband, George Rivera-Davis, opened the first Grounds for Celebration in 1994. Before long, she and George were opening stores in Windsor Heights and other metro areas, and expanding the original Beaverdale store to a much larger spot around the corner. They built a staff of 30 experienced employees, grew their own coffee beans on their farm in Panama, and roasted all their coffee on site with their own roaster. Coffee drinking became an experience.
So times were good. We all got older. A harsh, bitter taste became my sweet spot. I transitioned into lattes. No flavoring. Two shots of espresso and steamed milk. Nary a crystal of white sugar or a lump of chocolate to be found.
And coffee shops grew up with me. They became much more than a place to experience a great cup of coffee. They became destinations with Wi-fi and local art and soft chairs. Yup, even fireplaces.
“It is kind of like a day-time bar. A fun neighborhood place that people can hang out.”
Really? A salon for coffee lovers?
“We get to know a lot about people’s lives. We see funerals and weddings. Two of our employees got married. We had three different couples that actually met in line. They made a connection and they got married. We even got an invitation.”
Jan smiles at the thought.
And her own experience growing up with coffee?
“I remember the first time I tasted coffee, it is a very distinct memory, my mom had it in her thermos at a football game. I took a taste. I thought, how in the world could anyone drink anything that tastes like that. It was horrible!”
Jan laughs. Brushes back her hair. Raises her cup of coffee with two hands. Takes a sip. And gives an audible sigh as the dark, rich smell of roasting coffee drifts around the room, tickling long-ago memories.
The old man does not read the paper or watch TV or listen to the radio as he dips his toast in the china saucer while I eat my cereal. Small nods and smiles take the place of conversation. The smell of coffee settles in the kitchen like a morning dew on green cornfields. Dark and strong. Neither of us knowing that the old man, my grandpa, will die at nearly 99, many cups of black coffee later.