Why So Bitter? My Experience With Coffee

As a college freshmen studying for my first round of finals, I’ve been coming to coffee shops in order to study because the school facilities and libraries are crowded. Naturally, I must order something in order to be able to use these coffee shops as a workplace.

Now, I have never been a coffee drinker. It was always either water or some other soft drink for me. Coffee smells good, but when I was little, I remembered the taste as being very bitter. Given that I’d be spending a lot of time around coffee, I figured I’d adopt an open mindset and try coffee again. I seriously needed some caffeine in me in order to say awake these days, and maybe my taste buds would’ve matured by now, who knows? All I knew was that I was ready to try anything.

I walked into a local chain (has about 5 stores total, all in the surrounding area) rather than a Starbucks, figuring that the quality would be better than a hastily made Starbucks drink. I looked up at the menu and saw many strange names that were completely foreign to me. The people in front of me in line were quickly ordering their favorite drinks and the baristas (who were dressed as if trying to reinforce hipster-barista stereotypes) were quickly bustling around behind the counter making numerous types of drinks. I had originally planned on asking for a recommendation on what to get since I was still completely lost when looking at the menu. However, the people in line seemed agitated and, not wanting to hold anyone up, I instead just picked something random and hoped it would taste good.

The guy at the counter was wearing a black turtleneck, sported a huge cowlick hairstyle, and thick, black rimmed glasses. He asked, “What can I get for you?” in a hurried tone. I said “A small Macchiato please.” I paid $2.85 ($3.07 plus tax) for it and walked away. Once I received my drink a few minutes later, I sat down and looked at it. It looked really good, the smell wafting from it was amazing, and I was imagining what it could possibly taste like.

I took the first sip. Immediately I gagged, spurting it out onto my laptop and the table, much to several onlooker’s disgust. What went wrong? All my sensory perceptions of this drink had indicated that this, this cup of beige joy and happiness, was meant to be simply amazing. The taste was something completely different than what I had expected, it was bitter and tasted like the feeling of someone who had just eaten burnt cardboard. I got a cup of water and sat down staring blankly into the cooling cup. After several sips of water, I figured I ought to research what the different types of coffee were before making another selection. I was not going to let one bad cup ruin everything for me.

English: Espresso Macchiato as being served in...

Why, oh why must this taste so bad?                                  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came across a chart titled “An Illustrated Guide to Coffee”. I saw “Espresso Macchiato” labeled. I learned that it was composed of a shot of espresso and milk foam. Thinking that the absence of milk/cream might be the problem, I decided to get a latté. I took a sip of the latté and, for a split second, didn’t react violently like with the Macchiato. Maybe,  just maybe, this wasn’t so bad. Then, the aftertaste hit. The taste was as bitter as a jaded police officer who was just waiting the years out in order to be eligible for his pension. Fuck. Never have I ever been more disappointed than in that moment.

Dreams of enjoying a hot cup of coffee on blustery winter day while browsing reddit/doing homework were crushed. Never can I ask a girl if she wants to get coffee because then I would have to awkwardly explain that I do not, in fact, like coffee at all. My shitty, undeveloped palette had rejected this liquid that so many others consumed with sickening enthusiasm and regularity. In the days that followed I tried every other variant I could buy. Vanilla and caramel lattés, cappuccino, mocha, regular coffee, etc. You name it, I tried it.  With each successive drink, my hope diminished that I would find something good. Sure, I could drown out the flavor with mega-fucktons of milk and sugar, but that’s a cheap cop out that doesn’t get around the fact that the coffee tasted like regurgitated elephant dung. Trying other coffee shops didn’t help either.

I sit here now, in a coffee shop, reluctantly sipping my caramel latté that I’m drinking for the sole reason that I paid for it. I ask myself, am I just one of those people that will never like coffee? I figure I ought to try tea next and try coffee again in the future. Perhaps it’ll taste better then. Most likely it won’t.