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By: Sonia Leung

If you cut me open, I would probably bleed coffee. If you find me on Instagram, you would probably find dozens of pictures of Americanos fondly filtered with slumber or gingham. My name is Sonia and I am a coffee addict. I wasn’t always this way though.

Summer after second year, I went job searching and landed a job as a barista at a cafe near McMaster. It was just a job — I needed to pay rent and my barista job afforded me that. Little did I know, I would eventually tumble down the rabbit hole of coffee and all things related.

At this point in my life, coffee was just a tool, a pick-me-up for the groggier of mornings and the occasional all-nighter for that extra resilient project that didn’t like when you tackled it. On such occasions, my virgin tongue would shudder in anticipation of the bitterness that the “double-double” imposed.

In the following months, however, I had the misfortune of developing lactose intolerance and my digestive system no longer responded amicably to the dairy component of my “double-double.” Soy and other dairy alternatives aren’t comparable as creamers and were not worth the 50 cent add-on.

Notably, in the same timeframe, I also decided to reduce my sugar intake as per my family history of diabetes. And so it went, I now drank my coffee black. This one change, though unassuming, would lead me to new discoveries.

1. To my surprise, coffee breath was no longer an issue. The culprit to the unanimously dreaded case of acute coffee-induced halitosis is dairy and sugar. Black coffee does not mark its territory! 

2. Black coffee has pleasant flavours even without creamer or sweetener stirred in.

3. Caffeine is a laxative. 

These findings were serendipitous; no longer must I channel my exhales carefully so as not to subject my peers to coffee breath. I also found that I enjoyed coffee much more without the embellishment the “double-double” calls for.

Tasting the flavour notes of coffee requires a few steps. First, inhale. Gently waft in the smell of your cup of java. Let the aroma saturate your nasal cavity, hold your breath for a brief moment, and exhale. Your olfactory senses contribute to your perception of taste, so this step primes you for optimal enjoyment of coffee. Then, take another breath, drink some coffee, and swish it around your mouth and let it evenly coat your tongue for a few seconds. After you swallow it, exhale through your nose. Discernment of flavour notes comes with practice, but the first two domains of flavour you will experience are fruity (from varying levels of acidity) and nutty (varies between crops of coffee and levels of roastedness). Graduation from this dichotomy of flavour entails experiencing other tones. Three cheers to you if you taste that your coffee is earthy, herby, spicy or flowery.

Due to my penchant for flavour, I made the switch from drip coffee to Americano (FYI, Americano is a mix of espresso and hot water). The subtleties of flavour aren’t so subtle in such a beverage.

Drop the cream and sugar in your coffee if you’re feeling a little adventurous today. And in case you’re wondering, the best coffee I’ve had in Hamilton is the Americano from Pinecone Coffee Co. on John Street South.

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