“Caffeinated Curation” is a routine book and beverage pairing that highlights Blueprint Coffee and relevant reading recommendations from High Low resident artists and community members. Our latest chapter of the series comes from High Low barista Josie.
Sometimes a book just calls to you. One day working at High Low, “Leo the Late Bloomer” by Robert Kraus just jumped out and intrigued me deeply. After picking it up, the art touched something in me even more. Upon reading, it still surprised me.
Leo can’t write, draw, read, or talk … yet all of the other kids can. In some aspect of our lives, all of us have felt “slow” or “behind,” or that we didn’t live up to the expectations of others. Every time we see Leo, he looks uncomfortable, frustrated, or defeated. His watchful father is constantly looking for signs of progress. “What’s wrong with Leo?” We learn after a while that bloomers can’t bloom while being watched. Even when not being watched, the seasons pass. Still no blooming. Still no blooming! Until finally out of nowhere, he does. The first time he speaks, he says a whole sentence. Turning to his mother and father with elation in his eyes, he says … “I made it!”
The drink I’ve chosen to pair with this book … Let’s just call it Josie’s Special. Really, it’s my guilty pleasure. This book made me cry a lot, so I do need it. I also find it fitting because I make this drink in a very individualized way. I cater myself in the way I would for someone I really want to feel loved. To make it extra special, just for that person exactly the way they like it. Which is my favorite way to prepare any beverage.
First, I add just a tiny bit of water to the bottom of a 12 oz cup and completely fill the rest of the cup with ice. I brew a double shot of espresso and pour that over top, in an even swirl to melt the ice. I then agitate the beverage and swirl the cup for as long as it takes to fog up the glass and bring everything to its coldest possible temperature. And then I fill the rest up with even more ice. Lots of raw sugar, to taste. I usually go back and add more. A lot of ice, because I savor it and want to drink it slowly (probably over the course of a couple of hours) without the flavor diluting too much while the ice melts. It has to have a straw so that I can texturally enjoy the crunchiness and the more complex molasses-y flavor of raw sugar as a chaser. When the coffee stays separate from the sweetener, each shot retains its individuality and I remain an active listener to the flavor and present in my sensory experience.
This drink has been with me — and there for me — for a long time. To this day, I have a soft spot for the burnt-toast flavor of the over-roasted and unevenly extracted shots I tasted in some of my favorite community-oriented spaces over the years. A lil’ bit of sugar can take the edge off of anything.