27: Coffee Corner

27: Coffee Corner

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Coffee Corner

I orchestrate my mornings to the tune of coffee.

~Terri Guillemets

I opened my eyes and stared at the green numbers on my bedside clock — 4:30 a.m. Last time I’d dared to peek, it had been 3:45. Clearly, I wasn’t going to be able to talk myself into going back to sleep. Might as well get up. At least I’d have time for some quiet meditation and maybe even a walk around the block before the demands of the day came at me full force.

But first… coffee.

I padded down the hall to the kitchen, flipped on the light and headed to the coffee corner, which occupied every inch of counter space between the sink and refrigerator. When I’d moved into this house more than twenty years ago, the only thing I’d kept in that spot was the electric percolator I’d inherited from my favorite aunt. Though it made good coffee, it had been such a hassle to clean that I’d eventually bought a drip coffeemaker to use instead. I didn’t get rid of the percolator, though. Sure, I lived alone and didn’t really need two coffee pots. But what if I had a big crowd for breakfast and needed to serve a whole lot of hot coffee all at once?

Not long after I bought the drip machine, I learned about the benefits of fresh ground coffee beans. So I bought a grinder and wedged it between my two coffee pots. Then I bought an espresso machine — which I used twice. I don’t even like espresso.

A few years later, I succumbed to advertising pressure that had me convinced I couldn’t get along without a single-serve coffee maker. Though such a machine was expensive and took up lots of room, the idea of fixing just one cup of coffee — in less than a minute and whenever I wanted it — was impossible to resist. As was the idea I could have a dozen flavors, in decaf or regular, at my fingertips if I would purchase a handy-dandy forty-eight-pod carousel to keep nearby. Which I did, of course.

Add a sugar bowl, which I never used but which I kept on the counter because it was pretty, and a matching cream pitcher I never used because I poured cream straight into my coffee from its carton in the refrigerator. And a small basket where I kept packets of three different kinds of artificial sweeteners.

Get the picture?

Above the cluttered counter was the cabinet where I stored my mugs. On the top shelf were cups and saucers that matched my dishes. The middle shelf held an assortment of plastic travel mugs in various sizes, along with a hodge-podge of lids, most of which didn’t fit any of the mugs but which I couldn’t bear to throw away.

The bottom shelf was home to my miscellaneous collection. Mugs that pictured Santa and Rudolph and a family of happy snowmen. Orange and black Halloween mugs. Mugs from seven different national parks. An Atlanta Braves mug. An Elvis-in-a-white-jumpsuit mug. And my favorite — a mug that said “Teachers do it with class.” Although it had been decades since I’d taught school, something about that mug made me smile. Maybe it was the sentiment, but just as likely it was the size, shape and handle style that made this the mug I reached for every time it was clean.

Which, much to my delight that morning, it was. One decision I wouldn’t have to make, thank goodness.

But I did need to decide which coffee maker to use. The single-cup machine didn’t seem like a good choice. At this hour, a whole pot was what I needed. I opened the cabinet to grab a filter for the percolator, but the box was empty. Scrounging around behind an almost-empty bag of hazelnut beans and an almost-empty bag of regular beans, I finally found a filter that fit the drip machine.

I unplugged the single-serve machine, plugged in the grinder and emptied both bags of beans into it. Then I unplugged the percolator and plugged in the drip machine. I debated which kind of artificial sweetener to use, chose the yellow and pulled the cream carton out of the refrigerator. By the time my first coffee was finally ready to drink, I was too out of sorts to meditate.

So I did something else instead.

I chugged my coffee and then went to the basement and found a couple of sturdy cardboard boxes. I loaded the percolator, espresso maker, single-serve machine and bean grinder into one box. Then I wrapped the sugar bowl, cream pitcher, and every mug except the one I was using and put them in the other box. I would keep the cups and saucers (twelve in all!) that matched my dishes and donate everything else to the thrift store. I’d take my leftover single-serve pods and handy-dandy carousel to the coffee bar at church. On the way home after work, I would stop at the store and buy a canister of already-ground coffee and a box of paper filters.

Which is exactly what I did.

I smile every time I walk into my kitchen these days, even if it’s four-thirty in the morning. My coffee corner holds everything I need and nothing I don’t. In a jiffy, I can set a pot to brewing, pour a steaming mug just a few minutes later and be in exactly the right frame of mind for meditating. And still have time left for a walk around the block before the demands of the day come at me full force.

~Jennie Ivey


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