I never acquired the habit of coffee drinking. My mother, like your typical caffeine addict, needs a few cups to get going in the morning. But my father doesn't indulge, and in this I emulated him.
Because coffee is such a quintessentially adult pastime, I sometimes feel a twinge of anxiety going to meetings or non-meal gatherings. Inevitably, coffee is offered as the default refreshment. I feel funny refusing, almost like I have to offer a reason. It's strangely similar to the unneeded explanation my mother often volunteers when a restaurant server asks if she wants a cocktail. "We don't drink," she says; instead of just declining, she justifies herself. And so those who innocently ask whether I'd like a cup of coffee are treated to an overly-detailed discourse in which I explain how I never learned to like the stuff.
So I never expected I'd be spending so much time at the Starbucks that opened up on campus this year. My default drink at coffeeshops for years has been a chai latte. But that feels like an indulgence, almost like dessert -- not the sustaining and stimulating essential that I imagine coffee drinkers are seeking.
After giving up soda earlier this year, though, I missed the continuous refreshment that I used to sip throughout the day. I filled my water bottle, but found that I used it only to quench thirst, not for enjoyment and comfort. In desperation I turned to the unsweetened iced tea that Noel guzzles by the bucketful. I've always hated the stuff. But what other low-calorie beverage is available without artificial ingredients but with plenty of flavor, even if it's a flavor I can't stand?
I drank unsweetened iced tea without much enthusiasm until I tried Starbucks' shaken iced tea. Black tea shaken with ice cubes -- a biting, lively flavor in a cool venti-sized refreshment. Where I used to sip my iced tea and then throw out half of it after the ice melted, I find myself at the bottom of a Starbucks cup far too soon.
Noel asked me yesterday if I liked iced tea now. I couldn't go that far. It's still not a drink I would have if I had another light, natural choice. It's better than water -- more interesting, more enjoyable -- but it's not what I really want. Sometimes, though, craving a Starbucks tea in the middle of the afternoon, it's almost a drink I could love.