Chapter Nine: The Caffeine Fiend
An aside to the reader before continuing on to the chapter –
I am aware that this blog has progressively turned into me talking about myself, but I’ll return to my strange ramblings and explanations of explorations of the world once this project has come to a close.
Rather than recounting a singular experience regarding food and friends, I’d rather explain how paramount it has been for me to celebrate the existence of camaraderie over a cup of coffee or tea.
Both beverages have such a rich history, and while the latter is better known in this day in age as an Englishman’s beverage, it mustn’t be forgotten that centuries before the warm leaf water made its way to the monarchy it was the beverage of choice of dynastic Emperors. Leaf water has been the beverage of leaders for millennia.
Our North American culture has warmed up to the idea of tea recently, but we have kindled an obsession with ground bean water for a much longer period of time. Either way, plain water apparently doesn’t do it for us, and we must add caffeinated properties to the liquids we ingest.
My first experience with tea was disgusting and I hated myself the second the sun-warmed Lipton tea hit my childish taste buds. Little did I know at that point that Lipton tea is the bane of any tea enthusiast’s existence and it should be avoided at all costs. I was enemies with warm leaf water for years after that point.
Coffee, however, was a highly sugared experience, thanks to my bugging my mother about finally letting me try it. I was a youngin’; probably around age eight or nine when I first got my taste of roasted bean juice. My mom had gotten a small green cup, probably the equivalent to a four-ounce volume, and filled it a quarter of the way with vanilla creamer and then topped it off with the drink I had actually requested that I try. Maybe if she had avoided the creamer I would not have developed such an affinity for the drink, which I immediately downed within five minutes-much to my mother’s disappointment.
In my personal opinion, unless it is a group gathering, tea is a rather solitary drink. I have been a part of quite a few tea parties in my day, one of which was my 16th birthday celebration, and another of which was my 17th birthday celebration (which also included an informational session regarding pre-20th-century female costuming at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. I am actually a Grandmother. I am aware). It’s safe to say that I didn’t indulge in tea parties as a child, which may be why I am making up for them in my later adolescent years. I don’t resent it, however. Tea parties with imaginary friends wouldn’t be as entertaining as tea parties with actual friends.
Coffee, on the contrary, can be enjoyed both in solidarity or with another aficionado. When shared with another soul, coffee can bring two together in discussion; if you run out of topics to converse about, you always have the beverages in front of you to discuss.
Mayan Buzz Café, across the street from the Intersection in downtown GR, holds a poetry night every Thursday from eight to ten pm. While poetry is the main event throughout the night, local music artists and freestylers come in every so often to perform their work. Since the atmosphere is full of like-minded people who share vulnerability in their various art forms, just existing within the crowd is an uplifting, emotional experience.
Two other places I like to get my imaginative cogs turning in are Madcap Coffee-which I’ve mentioned before in the article I dedicated to Maija before she said sayonara to the Great Lakes state-and Simpatico Coffee, which calls the Downtown Market its home.
I’ve gone on many a study date to Madcap, whether with companions to study scholarly ventures,
Or completely alone-and on such excursions I have had many a distinct experience.
The most recent experience I had involved sitting for two hours on a window seat, editing a makeup video that I was creating to procrastinate my actual responsibilities, such as writing one of these posts for my Creative Writing class or reading the book I’ve chosen to be my mentor text for AP Lang (let me just say, the Dalai Lama knows his stuff). Past adventures have included romance-novel-esque discoveries, where I once was approached by a lovely boy who became a way for me to explore what I wanted out of a possible relationship for about a month. Other times, I just go there to be.
Simpatico, on the other hand, has only been a discrete destination for me once-and quite recently. I was introduced to the Downtown Market by my father about a year ago, and haven’t been able to go more than three months without trying to introduce another human being to its wonders.
When we went, we sat down at Sushi Maki, which is co-owned by Shun Chen, the owner of Fugiyama, which has always been my father and I’s go-to restaurant whenever we want to spend time together. The market has such a diverse offering of food, beverages, and various items for purchase that it’s like entering a different part of the world every ten feet. The miniature culture shock is abundant.
Anyway, I digress. Simpatico has been placed across from Fish Lads and to the left of Relish Green Grocer, if you are entering the market from the farthest door to the right as you approach. They have tucked their seating away behind their counter, so as to inhibit unnecessary traffic from burgeoning in on the placid coffee drinkers that frequent their kiosk. I sat here for the first time a few weeks ago to work on poetry, hoping that my Hazelnut Cappuccino would somehow spark some poetic genius (which it did, in fact, do).
In the wise, albeit outdated words of Thomas Hardy, “She was a sort of celestial being-one who owed her existence to poetry.” -Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Some of my other favorite local breweries to frequent I have not the photographic evidence for, but are still worthy of intense praise.
Lyon Street Café is a local-bakery-based cafe on-you guessed it-Lyon Street, with more of an emphasis placed on their sweets than Madcap, with whom they share grounds. It is owned by Kameel Chamelly, who also owns the Martha’s Vineyard on the same block, and provides the desserts from that market as well as baked pleasantries from the Nantucket Baking Company. In other words, the café is the melting pot in which all vendors on the block marry.
If meandering downtown is too much of a stretch for you, and you’d rather spend your days dilly-dallying around the Plainfield area, hit up Silverberry Kitchen. A friend of mine worked there for quite awhile, and if not for him, I wouldn’t be surprised if I simply passed it on my way to receive my education on a daily basis. They provide breakfast items and sweets as well as coffee, fruit smoothies, and tea, and the ambience within their petite eatery is absolutely adorable.
My aforementioned coffee aficionado friend, Kate, recently acquired her first job at Clique Coffee Bar, a tucked-away, college-kid’s dream café. Just down the road from Celebration Cinema North and quite close, in fact, to my father and I’s beloved Fugiyama, they place an incredible emphasis on knowing their customers and treating them as more than walking revenue.
In a converse sense of locality, if downtown Grand Rapids isn’t far enough away for you and you find yourself in the Big Apple wanting to wake yourself up in the city that never sleeps, here are a few suggestions for you:
At the LGBT Center, you can walk in and experience the luxury of agender bathrooms, working space for students and collaboration space for anyone who wishes to bounce socially-aware ideas off of each other, and the lovely, minimalistic aura of the incredibly culturally and economically aware Think Coffee. Honestly, if you click on no other link on this link-peppered page, click on that one and be absolutely blown away by the impact that Think has had on the families and communities that provide the beans and other produce they sell.
If you’d like to experience a more scientific and frou-frou approach to the creation of your beverage, I would highly suggest Roasting Plant Coffee. My Sumatra Badger Supreme wasn’t the best beverage I’ve ever tasted, but I would return to the store in a heartbeat, not just for the tubes that line the ceiling to project your chosen beans into the shop’s espresso machine, but to give the place a shot (budumtiss) at redemption. It is entirely possible my taste was informal and uneducated.
I must place all the blame for my obsession with quality caffeine on both Kate and myself. Kate, for developing my palette for a multitude of brews, and myself, for somehow developing the need to bring a different brew of tea to school each day. That genesis I cannot completely put my finger on.
All my love to you,