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Organic Decaf: How I Enjoy Coffee Once Again

Like alcohol, I never looked at coffee for any kind of mental effect. If I didn't like the way it tasted, it was a no-go. If it made me feel a mess (up or down), it was a no-go.

(Perhaps this is why my relationship with food has evolved so much over the past year, learning to re-train my body away from the addictive components resulting in saying farewell to 45 pounds thus far)

Coffee was never a Must Have for me - and was purely experiential. While I grew up with grandparents who had the bottomless pot of Folgers brewing, when my parents bought a - VERY loud - espresso machine (so loud my stepfather would wear ear protection and we all stayed out of the kitchen, LOL...) it was intriguing. Being a GenX-er growing up in the Portland area, coffee culture was closely tied to books, and the first cafe I remember going to was inside of Powell's. In a town where rainy days abounded over winter, it was a place to get cozy, find the cheapest version of a used book on the shelf, and have a cuppa something warm. That was also back when there used to be Coffee STORES. Younger gens might not know what I mean so let me explain this - this was a retail store with shelves to the ceiling of various coffee & tea, equipment, and the like...where if you were lucky there'd be a small counter to try out the coffee. (Not a cafe to sit at one's laptop and monopolize tables half the day while glaring at people who dare to converse next to you.). You would walk in and immediately smell COFFEE. For me, that place was Kobos, Portland's first micro-roaster who had a huge store in John's Landing 15 minutes from our house where my parents would drag me along, and by the time I got to high school and would skip school and grab a bus downtown (then eventually work & live down there), they had a hole-in-the-wall shop with an espresso machine that made me feel oh-so-grown-up getting a cafe mocha (before my tastebuds fell in love with the almighty cappuccino and sugar became a thing of the past).

From a video narrated by Kobos himself about the company history, before he retired several years ago. Check it out....

In teens and early 20's, Portland coffee was still fairly working class, even with espresso machines dotting the landscape (let us not forget the iconic Coffee People...which was literally a selling point when I bought my first home, tragically turning into a Starbucks a year later, ugh...). My hometown was not always filled with douchey hipster vibe coffeeshops selling $6 pourovers while looking you up and down to see if you were cool enough to treat like a human being. Hell, we were more known for strip clubs than coffeeshops back then. Anyhow, going to Portland State, I remember the Telecafe a few blocks from my first apartment, which had phones (phones!) on the table so you could make A Phone Call (!) right there. They also served up a quad mocha that knocked a girlfriend and I flat on our arses til at least 4am, which taught me a valuable lesson about caffeine...

Over the years living up and down the West Coast and in my travels abroad, I have fallen in love with a good cappuccino. From the street cafes of Paris to my favorite hole in the wall in Melbourne to the various places closer to home that were sanctuaries over the years for me to write, converse, observe, and yes, sip.

And during that time, I've learned a bit. I've learned about the corporate coffee industry that has taken advantage of farmers for generations. I've learned about the chemical processes and the habitat destruction and how that, and what makes it, affects our health. I've seen the greenwashing, and how all too many who claim to care about the planet (and human rights) conveniently turn a blind eye when it comes to what they choose to drink.

As consumers, if we are conscientious at home yet ignore what we are eating and drinking when out? Like it or not, that makes us hypocrites. So we must do better.

Groundwork (ironically, who acquired Kobos when their legendary owners retired a few years ago), explains here why organic, fair trade, and regenerative practices are so essential.

For me, my evolution was spurred in several ways:

  • I needed to up my eco-impact,

  • I needed to find a product that also protected my increasingly sensitive tummy, AND

  • I needed to find a way to replicate the cafe experience at home.

Organic? Check (see earlier link).

Tummy? That was a big one (along with my sensitivity to the caffeine that all too often reminded me of my lightweight-nature in my early years with alcohol - I didn't like the extreme buzz). I'd always thought that it was coffee's acidity that bugged me, but turns out it wasn't - it was the caffeine. A 2017 study found that caffeine's bitterness induces gastric acid secretion, and while not everyone's bodies react the same (our individual stomachs have a lot to do with it), I learned a couple years ago that for me? Switching to decaf made ALL the difference. So much so, in fact, when we bought the house we live in today, I actually suggested we finally upgrade from our longtime trusty AF stovetop Bialetti of a decade to a Grown Up Espresso Machine. Yup, one where my husband could pull shots or have a cuppa joe and where I could make my beloved cappuccino. Furthermore, I've ensured the decaf I buy is chemical free (aka "Swiss Water process") to keep the seriously gnarly chemicals out of my cup..

And while I still don't drink a cup a day (nor would I want to - I have never seen the fun of dependence like that), I now own this latest bit of my sustainability evolution...and have even started experimenting with my steamed milks for that luscious foam (I recommend goat....).

PS - Coffee packaging is NOT matter what they tell you. Those paper bags are lined with plastic and those plastic bags, no matter what they are filled with, are plastic - i.e., they are made with fossil fuels that are literally destroying our planet. None are compostable either. So stop buying individual bags and bring your own jar or reusable paper bag to refill from the bulk section at the grocery store (every store has one, y'all). Own it, y'all.


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