Category Archives: Coffee

Give me a hoot, hoot.

As someone with more than a mild case of OCD, I consider myself an expert on obsessions. And when asked to identify my top three obsessions at work the other day, I loudly proclaimed: COFFEE. OWLS. C-SPAN. (In that order.)

Now for anyone who reads this blog, the first proclamation needs little explanation. I eat, live, breathe caffeine-fueled fumes, and in the absence of them, I am a shell of myself. I am apocalyptic in thinking and hollow in emotion.

But how did I identify owls and C-SPAN as two other objects of desire? Well, let’s begin with the former. An old co-worker once told me to find my spirit animal, and to more importantly make sure my significant other identifies said spirit animal selection. Failure to make the correct selection could result in instantaneous breakup. (Note: I have not yet asked my SO to make such a selection.)

Regardless, when I took less than 60 seconds to ponder the possibilities, I immediately landed on owl, the creepy wise creature of the night. Me, in a nutshell. And if you don’t believe me, examine my wardrobe and accessory collection for evidence. Necklaces, shirts, skirts, and even a winter hat proudly exhibit the old geezer.

In fact, I even subscribe to an esty forum for owl addicts. Though, of course, we prefer the term “lovers.” To me, owls are New Yorkers with wings– deeply cynical and hardened members of the Audubon family who only truly come alive at night. And consequently whenever I hear, see, or feel their presence, I come alive– in a manner similar to my post-latte resurgence. Owls sightings, like coffee, invigorate me.

Similarly, C-SPAN– the nerdiest cable channel on Time Warner Cable– and I have a love-love relationship. When my parents got divorced, my father and I would spend Sundays glued to C-SPAN, watching as old white men debated old white men issues. It was at that time– around age 7– that I decided I wanted to join the old white men club and spice it up with some female sentiment.

And for the next 10 years I pursued a career as a senator, watching the channel daily, memorizing the names of each and every representative, solidifying my loonie leftie political leanings, and learning just enough information to impress the president of my current company in a closed door meeting.

So much so that on the way out of said meeting, I informed my boss that I have watched 1-2 hours of C-SPAN daily for the last 16 years. To which he replied, “Well that explains so much about you, doesn’t it?”

I’ll drink to that. Happy Friday!


The Seven Year Old Refrain.

This week marked the loss of my literary inspiration Nora Ephron. For the first time since Heath Ledger, the love of my cinematic fantasies, died, I cried and more than I expected. Nora was my go-to Wellesley gal; the one who inspired and informed my desire to write, to blog, and to report. She, unlike any other journalist turned rom-com screenwriter, mastered the art of humor and used it to enlighten.

She certainly enlightened me, as the following entry, which I have revived from the depths of my blogosphere, explains. Before I knew the difference between a Democrat and Republican, I learned how to fake an orgasm in a crowded New York delicatessen. And all thanks to Ms. Ephron, who so cleverly incorporated it into her 1989 classic, When Harry Met Harry:

As the first and only child, I have been subject to many parenting experiments. For example, as a three year old I watched a psychological thriller involving an abusive parent who pushes his children down the stairs. As an imaginative child, I thought said behavior was simply entertainment.

When entering my nursery class, I proceeded to inform my teachers that “Mommy pushed me down a staircase.” Within hours child services had been called and my mother was forced to explain to the principal that she had mistakenly let her pre-school aged daughter watch a film containing a scene of parental abuse.

I, in my toddler-esque ways, had misinterpreted the film and mistakenly reappropriated it to be my own personal narrative. But as my mother argued, I was all smiles and no bruises. Or, as my father says in my infamous baby videos, I was very much a “wanted child.”

Now one would imagine that after that failed cinematic attempt my parents would refrain from viewing PG-13 and R-rated films for awhile. However, at age seven I was again subject to another film well beyond my years: When Harry Met Sally (1989). An adorable little rom-com, there are inescapable sexual overtones– ones that even at age twenty-one still make me blush.

One scene, in particular though, generated quite a hullabaloo for my parents. In explaining women’s desire to sexually satisfy their partners, Sally, Meg Ryan’s character, fakes an orgasm in the middle of a bustling New York diner.

Now as a second grader I did not comprehend the reasoning for these noises, but I did remember the last sentence of the scene, uttered by a female witness to Sally’s refrain– “I’ll have what she’s having.” I, too, wanted to inspire my fellow diners to make smart foodie selections.

And so upon entering a diner resembling the one in the original film, I began to make some very odd noises. Attempting to mimic Sally, I was subject to perplexed gazes. My grandmother, witness to my antics, asked what had prompted this behavior– before demanding I cease and desist. My answer, “Nora Ephron.”

However, before I was silenced I turned to a woman at a nearby table and said, “Don’t you want to order what I want?” Her response, “Honey, of course.”

I then distinctly remember her ordering a latte. And while I was not a coffee drinker from birth (unfortunately!), I’d like to think that even at age seven I was inspiring caffeine-deprived individuals to add a few stimulants to their diet.

The only living girl in New York

Sometimes I wish I was a life-sized latte. It’s true. I strive to find a warm balance between a sharp dose of espresso and a mild tempering of milk. And worse yet, I dream of propagating my caffeine love. In the few freaky pregnant dreams I’ve had, I’ve given to birth to grande skinny vanilla lattes and venti white mochas. I credit this fantastical leap of logic to my current job situation, which is to say the balancing of two jobs that each require more hours than there are in the day. And I suspect that these fantasies shall persist for the next two months, as I struggle to be the Wendy Wellesley I always knew I would be.

There are no decaffeinated folks in New York City.

Just like there are no atheists in fox holes, there are no (functional) New Yorkers who are not high on caffeine, be it in coffee, tea, or pill form. It’s nearly impossible to make it through a day in this city without consuming a latte or two (or three). And the reason if self-evident: it’s a city of over-achieving, insanely ambitious go getters, who will stop at nothing to make their childhood suburban dreams an urbanite’s reality.

As one of the aforementioned New Yorkers, I found myself this week in a state of perpetual action. As my high school principal once said to me when I refused to silence myself during a Bible class in which the issue of homophobia arose (ok, it’s didn’t arise until I raised it, but anyhow), “Speak little. And do a lot.” Though I haven’t fully mastered this ancient proverb– I still talk a great deal– I have managed to internalize the “do a lot” bit.

This week my loyalty skills were put to the test, when a friend indeed became a friend in need. Spending three nights in the hospital with her, and much of my day running errands on her behalf, I began to understand the concept of running on adrenaline, or some sort of caffeine-driven fumes. Rearranging my evenings, maximizing my one hour lunch break, and limiting my sleep time allowed me to attempt to be the best possible friend I could be.

It also reinforced my reliance on my drug of choice: the Almighty Latte. And as stressful situations often do, it drove me back to my original coffee haven, Starbucks. I will admit that since returning to New York I have been playing the coffee field, sampling Gimme Coffee!, Balthazar, Joe’s, Cafe Grumpy, and on the rare occasion Bowery Coffee too.

But this week was all about the ‘Buck. I returned to my roots– my core caffeine values– and chose to run on the original grind. I reasoned that given the chaotic nature of this particular week, in which every single day had several calendared events, I needed to reinstitute some stability in my life. Some people eat comfort food when they are down on their luck; I drink Starbucks skinny vanilla lattes. Same concept. Starkly different price points.

And I must say it was wonderful to reconnect with my past– revisiting pseudonyms (namely: Liz and Jesse) I used to employ when ordering my drink du jour; chatting with baristas who knew me when I was lowly intern; fighting for the corner seat during the morning rush. As I departed each morning, afternoon, and evening from Starbucks, I was energized, emotionally prepared, and ready to embrace my personal adage, “There are no decaffeinated folks in New York City.”

After all, as T.S. Elliot, the only literary superstar to make an appearance on my Wellesley hoop (used in the traditional Wellesley senior hoop roll), phrased it, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” And if my calculations are correct, I’ve had quite a caffeinated 22 years thus far.


Things I’m Really Good At.

Any girl can tell you that there are certain times of the month when she finds herself in a state of hormonally generated chaos. She feels things– lots and lots of things– which she can’t quantify, but so profoundly affect her emotional well-being. Some scientists call it pre-menstrual syndrome. I prefer the term UKD, or uncontrollable kvetchy disorder.

It is during these days that I find myself in a persistent state of self-doubt. Suddenly I am convinced I am unable to do anything  well, and it has therefore become tradition that during my darkest hours I sit down and continue to build a list I began months before– “Things I’m Really Good At.”  Below is a taste of the items that have my made my slowly expanding list:

1) Consuming caffeine. Seriously, if there a coffee olympics I would be the Michael Phelps of the latte competition. I have an uncanny ability to drink vast amounts of caffeine and still remain completely calm. I also am particularly skilled at befriending the right gay male baristas who have a love of all things Selena and are happy to share unlimited cups of coffee with fellow Selena fans.

2) Alphabetizing files/books/cds (do people actually buy those anymore?). I’ve always been averse to the Dewey Decimal System. As a believer in the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) philosophy, I think a more simplified organizational structure based on the ABCs is the most effective way to organize almost every facet of one’s life. And, ladies and gents, after 22 years of structuring my life in such a way I can say with certainty that I am extraordinarily speedy at completing this task.

3) Blowdrying my hair. You think I jest, but when you’re me and flying out the door at 5:45 am Monday-Friday, you don’t have time for a slow dry. You need to be chick-chock; in and out; one, two, three. And after a little finagling, I have mastered the art of the quick dry. Also, did I mention that my hair looks pretty spanking straight and suave when I am done with my 150 second air dry? Be jealous. Be very jealous.

4) Remembering minute details of peoples’ lives. Some might mistake my remarkable memory for my first grade best friend’s mom’s birthday as an old school version of stalking, but I promise I’m not that creepy. I just listen, and like a human sponge, soak up all the random factoids my friends, family, and subway acquaintances offer on a daily basis. And when people aren’t disturbed about my memory for their personal details, they are often pleasantly surprised that someone actually took the time to really listen to their life stories.

5) Choosing ripe avocados. It’s a talent, and not one my mother taught me either. I am self-taught avocado connoisseur. With a simple gentle squeeze I can fully assess the ripeness of an avocado and determine then and there if said avocado has a place inside my next batch of guacamole. Given my avocado addiction, this has proven a most useful skill.

And 6) Party planning. My backup plan if both the legal and journalism professions fail me, or I fail them, is to become a wedding planner. As my propensity for alphabetizing might have indicated, I have decent organizational skills. And wedding planning is the perfect venue to showcase my skills. It also gives me an opportunity to take part in creating one of the most meaningful days in any person’s life.

Now given my rare skill set I certainly have reason to smile, or at least not kvetch.  After all, I’m one in six billion.

Blame it on the genes.

A year ago today I was sitting in Human Biology 109, learning the significance of fainting goat syndrome in everyday human existence. And while my professor played a particular youtube video on repeat and babbled on about the dangers of myotonia congenita, the genetic disorder that the aforementioned fainting goats suffered from, I contemplated a variety of topics that had little to do with animals with uncontrollable muscle contraction.

One such topic: How badly I wanted a pipping cup of Jo at 8:30 in the morning, the time of my biology lecture, and how many Wellesley biddies I was willing to sacrifice in the process of acquiring said cup. I am not ashamed to admit that when my professor asked me in the subsequent office hours if I thought he should incorporate any particular topics into the course, I responded, “Caffeine. And make it interactive, kinesthetic, a learning experience in which we get to sip up the experience.”

Though he never listened to my advice (which was surprising given his well-known Starbucks propensity), I determined to conduct my own background research on the subject. If I was an addict, at the very least I should know the risks involved in my precarious behavior. My only major discovery, though, was that I would probably have issues reproducing at the onset of sexual activity. However, since I’d settled on adopting, this didn’t seem like too major a risk.

Today I– and by I, I mean my mother, the biologist– came across a new piece of caffeine-inspired literature, and this time I paid attention to the text. Apparently we have a genetic predisposition towards caffeine. There are two genes that have been linked to caffeine metabolism: CYP1A2- directly involved with caffeine digestion and AHR, which plays a role in regulating CYP1A2.

While every person has copies of both of these genes, we have varying versions of these two traits. In a recent study, involving over 47000 subjects across North America and Europe, researchers found that those with the more caffeine-seeking version of CYP1A2 drank an average of 38 more milligrams of caffeine each day than those with a less coffee-loving version of the gene. The same basic differential applied to those possessing a more caffeine-dependent version of the AHR gene.

Needless to say, my mother quickly concluded that both she and I are carriers of the coffee-loving version of each gene. And well, I think that just about excuses my unhealthy obsession with all things caffeine-related, right? I mean, we can’t help it– it’s in our DNA.

The Failed Hit and Run: the Umbrella Edition

When I was seven, my mother labeled me a “klutz,” a Yiddish term for someone who is more than a bit rhythmically challenged. It also meant, at the point I internalized this nickname, that I lost all coordination. I tripped, I fell, and I, of course, bruised easily.

But then I turned eight– and in a miraculous turn of events– I outgrew my klutz stage. I began taking modern dance classes, experimenting with tap, and learning to walk in a straight line while entirely sober. I was the Jewish J.Lo., tush and all. And I was certain that I would one day be a backup dancer for Britney Spears. This was before I realized Orthodox Jewish women don’t dance in front of men. And that while I was a good(ish) dancer, I was not Britney good.

Even though I never made it into a sold out pop princess tour, I thought I had mastered the art of balance and basic rhythmic coordination. However, I forgot one caveat: All rules are null and void in the absence of caffeine.

This explains why today, on route to my new favorite coffee shop where my tattoo-laden barista was soon to ask me out, I walked right into a parked truck- umbrella in hand. Yes, somehow I managed to stumble sideways into the, ironically enough, Boar’s Head all-you-can-eat-bacon truck.

And instead of acknowledging my own klutzy demeanor, I began to whack the truck with my umbrella. My violent outburst propelled the pig-loving driver to run out of his vehicle and pry my weapon of choice from my albino-colored hands.

“Girl, what is the matter with you?”

“I haven’t had a cup of coffee, and your bacon-dealing truck just about killed me. G-d damn bacon!”

“Um, do you hear yourself? You are claiming my stationary truck ran into you–”

“Um, you do realize I haven’t had my morning latte yet?”

And with that, he returned my umbrella to me. He also threw in a $5 bill and said, “Go get your sanity back, on me.” I smiled, hugged him (despite the fact that he reeked of swine), and promised to put his money to immediate use. Which I did less than 60 seconds later, the point at which the tattoo king asked me if I was single, and I responded, “Make it a venti please, and I’ll think about it.”

I’m still thinking. And right now I’m thinking I need a Coffee Daddy.


One year old never looked so good.

Avid readers, today is a magical day. It’s Living on a Latte and a Prayer‘s first birthday, and I must acknowledge all the lovely subscribers and commentators who have made my entrance into the blogosphere oh-so-special. Your kind and critical words have helped to make me the certifiable caffeine addict that I am. My only hope is that you continue down this crazy coffee-laden road with me in the months and years to come.

It’s quite strange, but the true source of inspiration for this blog was a brief comment a friend once made regarding my study abroad blog. She wrote, “Yaf, for a girl who claims to have a blog devoted to European adventures, you sure do have a talent for finding a way to always bring it back to coffee.” And with a rare talent such as that I soon realized I needed to create a blog to fit my personal mantra: You can never have too much caffeine.

Given the aforementioned mantra, I determined to celebrate today with a coffee-cupcake: part baked good gooey goodness and part liquid euphoria. L’Chaim!

Living life like I’m an R&B singer named Usher

For those of you who lived through 2004, you might remember a little R&B diddy called “Confessions,” in which Usher admits to being less than the ideal boyfriend. I remember being so disturbed by the success of both this song and the album of the same name, which sold over 1 million copies in the first week of release. Were Americans actually condoning cheating?

Well, judgmental 15 year old Yaffa has now given way to a twenty-something version of a mini-adult, committing the same egregious act for which I repeatedly condemned as a teenager.

I should clarify, though, that my discretion is a modified version of the boy-girl conflict Usher so smoothly delineates. In place of wronging a young man, I am wronging my favorite coffee establishment.

Yes, there have been several times when I’ve ventured into Stumptown territory, and even the occasion when I frequented more independent caffeine establishments in the East Village, but since moving to Nolita, I have taken infidelity to a whole new level of coffee-based immorality.

In place of walking approximately four minutes out of my way to frequent Starbucks, I have stopped at Gimme! Coffee, a coffee shop whose very name resonates with me. And despite the constant barrage of hipsters I am forced to contend with when I arrive, I keep coming back for more. In fact, after tomorrow I will have earned my first free Gimme! Coffee drink. (Note: this implies that I have already purchased nine drinks from said coffee bar.)

I could excuse my adultery by arguing that it is a matter of convenience, as I dash off to tackle the daily challenges of New York law enforcement, but, in actuality, it’s because I secretly love Gimme’s lattes.

I admit it, Starbucks no longer gives me the same immediate adrenaline rush that it once did. I have become so desensitized to the sensation of its caffeinated glory that it takes multiple cups to have the necessary energizing effect. Gimme, however, and at least in the interim, provides me a swift and wondrous burst of energy. I strongly suspect I will in the very near future pull a Joseph Gordon Levitt and share my immediate happiness with the Mott Street passerbys:

I detail my coffee shenanigans, though, to highlight a central fear I have about long-term relationships with the opposite sex. What if I wake up one day, and I decide to exchange Mr. Starbucks for Mr. Gimme– with little to no warning to the former? What if I simply outgrow him, and he no longer thrills me the way he once did?

Some might argue that would be my cue to enlist in couples therapy, but assuming I am still buried beneath a mountain of law school debt, I doubt that will be an affordable option.

A co-worker today, when presented with my coffee/romance dilemma, argued (as all lawyers inevitably do) that I should order a new drink from Starbucks. Instead of being the venti skinny vanilla latte girl for life, I should spice it up– try a skinny hazelnut cappuccino just for kicks. Or, as she phrased it,  be “creative and innovative; make it feel new and fresh and exciting all over again.”

So tomorrow I resolve to give Starbucks another chance, and if my caffeine experiment succeeds, perhaps recover from my fear of long-term relationship ennui.

Caught in the midst of a 1990s love song.

For those of you who remember the hits of 1998, you will undoubtedly know and love the Monica and Brandy R&B collaboration for “The Boy Is Mine.” In the opening of the song, the two have a brief but memorable exchange:

You look kinda familiar 
Yeah, you do too 
But um, I just wanted to know 
Do you know somebody named…. 
You, you know his name 
Oh yeah, definitely, I know his name 

Now if Starbucks were an attractive young male, this song would categorize my Wellesley commuter rail experience. After an excruciating painful, but ultimately successful apartment hunt in New York, my roommate and I were headed back to the Bubble for one final week of college madness.

Tired, confused, and somewhat under caffeinated, we boarded a Boston-bound bus and then a Wellesley-bound train. While on said train, a blonde who looked vaguely familiar approached me and said, “You look kind of familiar.”

And in true 1990s pop culture fashion I responded, “Yea, you do too.” She smiled and then asked, “But um, I just wanted to know–.”

Before she could complete her sentence, I exclaimed, “if I go to Starbucks?” And with a simple nod, I launched into my ode to the Wellesley Square Starbucks. As a loyal supporter of the establishment since 2007 I had seen many baristas come and go, and said blonde was definitely one of the most recent baristas to go.

Having quit her post to move across the state, she was returning to say her final goodbye to the store that began her career in the coffee business. And she admitted that she was happy to serendipitously meet me because she could now bid her favorite grande skinny vanille latte ordering customer adieu.

I must confess that she her admission make me teary-eyed. I had been able to resist the sentimentality that normally accompanies impending undergraduate graduation until that point. But the sudden realization that I was going to be leaving the baristas who’ve made my neurotransmitters fire at lightning speed for the last four years was a bit more than I could take.

I know I will begin building the barista-coffee addict relationship anew once I settle in New York. And yet, I am also fully aware that the small town New England charm that made the Wellesley baristas so agreeable will not be present in the Starbucks Soho counterpart.

Annie– the blonde barista at the epicenter of my teary-eyed experience– reminded me, though, that even when I left New England, I would still carry a piece of it with me. Perhaps, she proffered, I would be a bit kinder than the average New Yorker; perhaps I would smile when I see someone familiar on the street; stop to listen to the music of the traffic in the city; and even linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty.

I interrupted her before she suggested I incorporate color into my wardrobe. I may have a love for everything nautical-themed, but I was not about to become a Lilly Pulitzer model. In the words of a D-list actor in a D-list film, “I have a rep to protect.” And as a true blooded New Yorker, my wardrobe would continue to remain black.