Ode to Black Coffee

Black CoffeeLike most black-coffee drinkers, I am a bit righteous about it. When a server asks if I want cream or sugar, I proudly answer no, making sure all at my table hear. When a barista or some- such offers to leave room for cream, I decline confidently and wait for the nod of approval.

But the truth is this: I don't drink black coffee to feel superior. I drink it because I like the taste. That first, bracing, sense- awakening sip is the best. What others call bitter, I call flavor—coffee should taste like coffee, thanks very much, not coffee-flavored Kool-Aid or water with a hint of joe. I also love the way it smells. Even bad coffee smells good when it's brewing. It smells like morning, creativity, possibility. I even love the way it looks. I prefer a white ceramic mug, because it sets off the luscious deep brown.

It hasn't always been this way, of course. Growing up, I wasn't allowed to drink coffee, not that I was all that interested. It seemed a chore for my parents, one more thing to do before going to work. The few sips I sneaked were horrible, acrid, burned. But during my junior year of college, a semester spent studying in Europe set me right. And I've never looked back. —Richard Thurmond

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