A Cup To Keep Life Moving Along: A Guest Contribution Blog by Avalon Lackey
When my town went on lockdown, I had a few things to keep me sane – my little cabin was surrounded by hiking trails, I spent a good amount of my time on paintings, and had the vast expanse of the internet to keep me entertained.
But before the pandemic, I was living out of my car, and to find space for my paintings, I'd spend the better half of my off-days in cafes in town; seriously, from 8 in the morning until 6 at night I was befriending baristas. I loved coffee, and previously had an interest in its complexity that I’d forgotten about for quite some time.
The stars aligned when I stumbled upon a vacant cabin to take refuge in at the beginning of the lockdown, and with it, soon found myself longing for that familiar cup of coffee in the mornings and afternoons. On one of my few grocery trips, I decided to pick up some grocery store beans and a french press from Target. Me, being new to this, I did a YouTube search on how in the world this works – and that's when I got thrown down the rabbit hole: James Hoffman's "Making Perfect Coffee With A French Press."
Yes, I learned how to use a french press that day, but I also binge-watched dozens of his videos back to back, leading me to educate myself on coffee varieties, the importance of grinding beans right before you brew, and other brew methods that were available to me. A few weeks later, I got my hands on a Moka pot, a small food scale, and the best manual grinder on a budget that James Hoffman could recommend, inevitably leading me to decide all this equipment was deserving of high quality beans. I finished the last of what I had from the grocery store, and started to browse specialty coffee with the goal of trying as many varieties as I could.
I started with Bourbon and SL-28, and my morning (more like afternoon – no structure to my day turned me completely nocturnal) cup of joe became a ritual. Instead of getting out of bed and floating around wondering what I was going to do with all this time, I got my water boiling on the stove, woke my body up by manually grinding my coffee, and woke my brain up with a cup that tasted of something more than the dirty bean water I’d known.
I'd spend my afternoons, after years of drive-thru quality drip coffee, with my mind being blown away by what flavors coffee can produce. I never expected it to have the ability to taste floral, fruity, nutty - to have a flavor worth savoring instead of being treated as an energy drink. In this period of uncertainty and isolation, it gave me something to pour my energy into every day, and have that passion be rewarded with tranquility and comfort.
Since then, I've thrifted milk pitchers and cappuccino mugs to play around with latte art, added a Flair Neo manual espresso maker to my collection, and spent my days encouraging my friends to come down the rabbit hole with me. Socially distanced hangouts on my porch are accompanied by a hot cup of coffee to share the experience with them.
There's a deep appreciation that specialty coffee has given to me – an appreciation of varieties, brew methods, and the wholesome feeling of being involved with the process in the morning: from having to grind your own beans, to working with manual equipment rather than electric.
Whether you're using a drip machine, or a french press, a high-end espresso machine, a percolator passed down from your grandfather, or if you're new to this world and haven't jumped on a piece of brewing equipment yet – I highly encourage you to do so, whether it be at home or supporting your local cafes, and to share the inevitable love for it with those around you.
The world of specialty coffee is blooming like a pour-over, and it's an incredible world to be a part of. Start small or big, because whether you begin with a Target french press like I did, or a fancy espresso machine, this world isn't picky – as long as you've got good beans, some hot water, and your favorite mug, you're part of it.
Check out Avalon's art page on Instagram: @apaliland