I can’t tell you what the flavor notes were. I just remember I really liked the coffee. It was the summer of 1999 and I was in southern Brazil. Well, it was June anyway, but Curitiba, the town I was in, is south of the equator, so it was winter there. The weather was pleasant but cool most days, a lot like Pensacola in November. It got cold over night a couple times and that might be why they served coffee and warm leite with breakfast, or maybe that’s just Brazil. Whatever their reason, I was glad to have a hot drink on those cool mornings. That was when I learned to drink coffee black. The first few mornings I added milk (leite) and sugar, but one morning I decided to taste the coffee before adding anything. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked it. I had assumed that people who drank coffee black were either in a hurry or had burnt off all their taste buds. Maybe both. But that day it occurred to me that perhaps I hadn’t given coffee a fair chance, or maybe coffee in Brazil was just better. In case Brazilian coffee was better I bought some to take back to the States.
That Fall I started college. I didn’t drink the coffee in the dining hall, at first. I knew it would not be as good as drinking Brazilian coffee in Brazil. Then about a month into my first semester the late nights and early mornings began to take a toll. So one morning at breakfast in the dining hall I got a cup of black coffee. Sitting at my table I took a sip and almost spewed it out but I remembered my manners in time, and instead I scrunched up my eyebrows, closed my eyes, pursed my lips, and swallowed. Then I quickly grabbed my cup of orange juice and chased it down. I looked up to see another guy across the room laughing at me. I’m glad someone was amused. I was not. I stared down at the dark liquid in my mug. What have they done to the coffee? I wondered. Undrinkable as it was I still wanted the caffeine, so I found the cream and sugar. It masked the disagreeable flavor a little but it still didn’t taste good.
I had a similar experience with a book recently. The author was new to me but since it was Sci-Fi, I took a chance on it. I like Sci-Fi, and the description sounded good so I plunged in, and wanted to throw it in the trash. You can’t throw an ebook, and deleting just isn’t the same. The problem was the author had yet to master “show, don’t tell.” I tried to endure it, but as I read further I realized his characters were more like cardboard cutouts than real people. I couldn’t stand it. Too bad too because the plot seemed to be shaping up into an intriguing adventure.
The problem with poorly written books is you can’t fix them. You can’t fix bad coffee either. You can try to mask the flavor with cream and sugar but you’ll only ruin the cream and sugar. Thankfully coffee has come a long way in America over the last eighteen years, and a good cup of Brazilian coffee isn’t hard to find, even in this small town. I had one this morning. And well written books aren’t hard to find either. The local library is always adding to its collection. I’m thankful that in the twenty-first century no one has to settle for inferior coffee or poorly written books.
I hope that young author will continue to improve his craft, then someday I will be able to enjoy one of his books. In the mean time I will drink good coffee and read well written books.