On Coffee


photo by Victor Romanyshyn
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When you drink coffee made from beans grown in Sumatra, you are swallowing minute bits of volcanic earth, roasted, ground, brewed, carried in the cup, the taste of Sumatra, Sumatra itself, the actual molecules, not a flavor made in a laboratory.

One evening, at a dinner party in Maine, the hostess served red wine made from grapes grown on her property, a sheltered slope on a bend of the Bagaduce River. She was short, cheerful, a retired chemist with many awards. The wine was pleasant and had a distinctive hint of pine.

We had raspberries and cream for dessert. The first bite opened my eyes wide; I asked where she'd gotten them.

"I grow them, next to the grapes."

"I'll be damned. It's real. Those wine experts who claim to know where the grapes were grown (the lower vinyard on the estate of … etc.); they're right. I mean—that's how they do it. These raspberries (delicious) have the same flavor as the wine. The soil is in the wine."

She nodded. Gracious. Amused. The right way to treat the village idiot.