Friday, July 17, 2009

coffee: a writer’s best friend

Confession: I drink an embarrassing amount of coffee. I love its taste, aroma, and guaranteed ability to keep me going. There’s not a moment of my life I remember not loving coffee. The thing is, though, I am also a writer. A writer who has recently been working pretty much around the clock and putting sleep way at the bottom of my to-do list. Don’t worry; it’s a phase. History shows I will go through this sleepless storm of writing and editing and marketing and all-crazy-caffeinated-things for a stretch of time and then ‘normal’ life will somehow get back on schedule. Rinse, repeat.

The other day, though, my husband commented on the cycle of coffees I go through when I am in this marathon-like stretch of productivity. In fact, it was he who suggested I blog about it, so thank you Dear Spouse. What he was commenting on was the transition I make with the various beans and blends, depending on what type of work I am doing, for how long, and to what extent I am beginning to show signs of burn-out-syndrome. Perhaps those of you who are self-proclaimed coffee addicts can relate.

Topping off my list of favorites is Kicking Horse Coffee. This little Canadian-company-that-could grew out of the Rockies, addicting innocents like me with their Fair Trade goodness. My two favorites are 454 Horsepower (for those moments when I need a serious gear-shift) and Kick Ass, for when I need a kick in the… well, you get the idea. Both are wonderful dark roasts, possibly too dark for most people I know, but ohhhh so delicious and wonderful.

Now that I am no longer on Canadian soil, it’s not as easy to pick up the black-bagged beans. Plus, economy rules, so usually when I make my ultra-cool trip to Costco (come on, work with me… it’s cool to go to Costco, right?), I grab a 2.5-pound bag of Starbucks French Roast. I am an equal fan of the Italian Roast, only Costco doesn’t carry it in its usual army size option. If I’m really pinching Costco pennies, I’ll even pick up the adequate alternative of Starbucks House Blend packaged as a Kirkland Signature product. Hey, it’s a rough economy. Sometimes we need to make compromises.

Ahh, but you caught me. House Blend and French Roast are on entirely different sides of the roast chart, you say. You are correct. But this is exactly what Dear Spouse was referring to. Yes, I prefer – by far – a super dark roast. But, as I drink… oh… about 15-20 cups of coffee in a 20-hour period (don’t judge!), I concede it is not always the best choice to only consume dark, dark coffee.

Thus, here’s my ritual. In the morning, when I wake up, I enjoy a couple of cups of premium dark roasted coffee. Yum! But, for the majority of the day that follows, I defer to a smoother, milder brew. Yes, that generally increases the caffeine intake, but it also allows me to enjoy the next dozen or so cups of coffee without entirely losing my tastebuds. Perhaps in the late night, I will relax with another dark roast, but throughout the day I have found that variety in beans keeps me fresh. It also keeps the coffee tasting fresh. Each new pot is like that first cup in the morning.

So, what grounds me during my hectic day? Ha. Get it? Grounds? Okay… that was a lame one, I’m sorry.

While in Canada, my choice coffee for the big stretch of the day was President’s Choice West Coast Dark Roast. Yes, I know, it’s a dark roast (technically), but it also has a very smooth bodied taste (in my opinion). Now that I am on US soil, I have fallen in love with Trader Joe’s Smooth & Mellow Blend. This is a very smoooooth cup of coffee, sold in whole bean (just the way I like it), offering a perfect balance of taste, aroma, and addictive elements.

I am also a big fan of picking up locally roasted beans. Usually when perusing a farmers market or passing through a quaint little town while on vacation, I will come across a local roasting company or a mom-and-pop kind of establishment. This is such a great way to discover coffee and add to the pantry.

One of the bag of beans I recently picked up was a French Roast from The Righteous Bean, a Fair Trade coffee company. They have distribution throughout 30 states, but I happened upon it at a little local market. I was very pleased and will definitely buy this delicious bean again.

Another favorite of mine, when I lived in Canada, was a London, Ontario based company called Las Chicas del Cafe, otherwise known as "the coffee chicks." They make a really, really great Dark/Continental Roast that I swear I will stock up on when I pass by there again someday.

As a writer, it’s important to have a complete tool-box to keep me going: Notes on my current projects, a cooperative computer, sticky note reminders, workshops and local events to keep me motivated, online groups to meet new people, and… a well-stocked pantry of various coffee beans. It’s a staple. It’s just as important (no, more so!) as giving myself time and space to think about character development or plotting. I have never had coffee block. Coffee has never rejected me. And coffee always gives me four-star reviews. Now, what writer can do without all that?

So, dear reader, whether you write books or simply enjoy reading them, what’s your favorite coffee (and where can I get it)? Do you have marathon sessions at work or in writing that you turn to coffee for moral support? If you don’t drink coffee, what’s your secret? Go on... spill the beans!

I’d love to continue this discussion, but I’m afraid I have to go make a fresh pot of…


  1. I have this deep seated fear that I will never be a "real" writer because...

    (to be said in a dramatic whisper)

    I don't drink coffee.

    Alas, what is a girl to do?

  2. Aww, never fear, Kiersten!

    Growing up loving the books and authors I did, I figured it was mandatory to drink like a fish, smoke like a chimney, have a rustic cabin where I fished my days away, and/or behave like an egotistical maniac in most public situations until my miserable (perhaps self-inflicted) death.

    Alas, the great rock stars of yesteryear’s literati did it their way, modern writers seem to be a bit more mellowed, well behaved, and sometimes (but not always) free from coffee addictions. Well behaved and mellow I can do, but I reserve the right to maintain at least this one addiction. Ha.

    Thanks for popping by, Kiersten!

    And to all the blog readers out there, very soon you will see Kiersten guest-blogging here and you’ll see that she is, in fact, a talented – and real – writer. ;)

  3. Just give me a can of Folger's or Maxwell House and I'm good to go. I do spring for a bag of Independence Coffee, that is roasted just down the highway from me, every now and then. I've got to have my cups all morning long and then maybe a little white tea in the afternoon. Anyway

  4. Ha! Now I have the Folgers theme song in my head.

    Ricky, I like the sounds of Independence Coffee. There’s something extra special about a locally roasted bean.

  5. Ah, how I loved the Ethiopian Yrgacheffe, french roast, at the Dekalb Farmer's Market here in Atlanta. Dark, strong, oily, sweet.

    I have a big bathtub of a Parisian style coffee cup, so on writing days (when I don't teach in the morning) it's me and that cup and about half a pot of ref: above.

    Lately, my market hasn't carried the Yrgacheffe, so I am deferring to anything I can get that's an oily, French roasted bean. Hoping for fair trade, so I buy what I can at Trader Joe's.

    Need to try some Batdorf Johnson roasts at The Dancing Goats shop here.

  6. Oh, Jessica, we think alike. Don’t you just love the rich oily goodness of a beautiful French roast? Yum. The Yrgacheffe you mention sounds lovely. Hopefully they fix your fix again soon!

    You know, I really like the coffees from Trader Joe’s. I’ve so far just discovered a few (French, Mellow & Smooth, and another I can’t quite recall the name of) but I am consistently happy.

    I have to admit I am also a sucker for a well-named bean and/or coffee company. The Dancing Goats? I’d so try that, just for the fun name.

  7. Lori,
    What about good old-fashioned Tim Horton's?
    I drink about 10 to 12 cups a day, often making a pot around 11:30 or midnight, to the raised eyebrow of my non-coffee-drinking spouse (shamefully, it's true).
    I'm just outside of London, Ontario - I'll have to check out that 'chick coffee' on my next trip, thanks for the tip.
    If I could have just one beverage for the rest of my life, it would be coffee. Coffee doesn't just wake me up or keep me up, it's my life blood!

  8. Hi Karla!

    You know, I don't know if it's just me... but I think Tim's tastes different here in the US than it did back home. Although I recently read somewhere that Tim Horton's has made a big impression in Manhattan, so what do I know.

    Tim's is great when on the road, for sure. Although sometimes, on some of the roadtrips I go on, I'll stoop to drinking gas station coffee if I'm desperate, so I don't know if that says anything about my state of being.

    But I'm like you... it's not a maybe, it's a must. Coffee all day, coffee all night. (I say this as I type a response at 4:06am!)

    Oh, and please do check out Les Chicas. If you can't make it to their homebase, you can buy it at Sunripe Market in London, at Oxford and Adelaide, across from Shoppers Drug Mart. (Yes, I love that coffee that much!)

    Another great London bean is Fireroasted Coffee. This is their website,, and you can find it at Kiss The Cook on Richmond Row in London. It's delicious and it's Fair Trade Certified.

    Thanks for popping by, Karla! Let me know how you like the London coffees.

  9. I admire your coffee prowess. I cannot handle the truth, er, the coffee. I drink tea. I am limiting myself to one cup a day now, to cut down on my sugar consumption. I cannot drink coffee or tea without sweetener. I am such a wimp. Coffee also gives me reflux. Pleasant, huh?!

    If I could handle the sodium I would drink Real Limeade all day. I don't know what that says about my personality... LOL

    Like your blog!

  10. Ha! Thanks for sharing, Dee.

    What kind of tea do you like?

    I'll be honest; I've tried so many different kinds but I always come back to Earl Grey as my fave, and Orange Pekoe as the close second. I know, standard, boring picks. But it's what I like - and while I don't use sugar in my coffee, I do add a little sugar and milk to my tea. Usually, anyways.

    Glad you like the blog!