Coffee wasn’t a part of my life until my junior year of college when I spent a semester in Italy. My fellow students and I stayed in an Irish convent located in the leafy Trastevere neighborhood in Rome where the nuns kept strict hours and served boiled potatoes with the pasta every night. Most evenings after dinner my friend Ellen and I would go for a stroll to walk off some carbohydrates. Often, we would end up at a bar, not bar in the American sense of a place to swill booze, but an Italian bar which was more of a stand up café that offered pastries in the morning, sandwiches at noon, and coffee drinks and small glasses of wine or beer all day.
We would belly up to the shiny wood counter and order with what we hoped was blasé sophistication, “un cappuccino per favore” much to the bewilderment and offense of the barista who was accustomed to serving them only in the morning. He would shake his head ever so slightly but make them for us figuring we didn’t know better. We did, because our art history professor had taken us out for a proper afternoon espresso (cappuccinos were strictly a morning beverage) the first week of our trip, but we loved cappuccinos, especially after dinner where the addition of a few sugar cubes made them feel like a rich dessert. Up until that point the only coffee I’d had was from the percolator in my grandmother’s kitchen that made me wonder why anyone would drink the stuff for pleasure. This Italian coffee was a whole other thing and it was amore at first sip.
It wasn’t until I graduated college and was living back in the Twin Cities that I tasted cappuccino again, this time at a Caribou Coffee at 44th and France in Edina. It had recently opened next to Gear Running Store, a place I went to get outfitted for my new running hobby. It was Caribou’s first location. The shop was cozy and the Midwestern baristas were cheerful, welcoming, and didn’t bat an eye when I ordered my cappuccino, even though it was late in the day. The rich flavor and creamy texture brought me back to Italy. I might’ve even closed my eyes for a moment.
Some twenty years later that original Caribou is still there, so is Gear Running and so am I—stopping in to indulge what has become two pleasures of my adult life.