My small hometown got its first espresso drive-through just as I launched my freshman year in highschool. This happening changed my life. Pre-drive-through, I was not a coffee drinker. Perhaps this was because my exposure to coffee was of the generic pre-ground variety found in cans on the grocery store aisle and brewed by my parents. Suffice it to say that somehow the taste never appealed to me. But then a friend told me about a Caramel Latte from said espresso spot. “It’s got coffee in it and it’s delicious!” And apparently it wasn’t only the flavor fellow students enjoyed; it was also the caffeine buzz they received. Admittedly, I was curious.

Enter my first 12-ounce Vanilla Latte with whipped cream on top. One sip and I was over the moon. The creamy milk, the sweet caramel flavoring, the vanilla infused whipped cream, the thick caramel drizzle, and the chocolate covered espresso bean–talk about a whirlwind of enjoyment! Though I could barely taste the espresso, my love affair with coffee had begun.

Things evolved. Vanilla Lattes gave way to imbibing a little coffee with my cream and flavor, and in a strangely simultaneous progression, with the start of every school year, my palate for coffee developed. I transitioned to taking just a little cream in my coffee, no added flavor, thank you. Somewhere along that timeline, I found myself preferring the delicious flavor of artisanally roasted and prepared straight (black) coffee and espresso. By my senior year in college, I was roasting my own.

Obviously the connection between school and coffee is dear to my heart, but as my classmates and I discovered, coffee has a broader application. Not only is it delicious in its various forms, the caffeine punch inherent in the brew increases concentration, effectiveness, efficiency, and provides a long-lasting burst of necessary energy to complete difficult mental and physical tasks. Case in point–my Masters of Business Administration degree. There is no way I would have been able to tackle working full-time and going to school full-time with a toddler to boot (need I add the descriptor “full time?”). without the wondrous work of coffee. So as school launches once again and life plunges headlong into fall, it only seems fitting to give a nod to this indispensable and empowering gift. Yay, coffee!

— Marcus

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