I am a bona fide coffee addict. I start drinking coffee at 10:00 AM to get through the school day, and need a second round to get through my homework. I’m not kidding when I say that I crave the taste of black coffee, and corroborate that by drinking at least 16 ounces of it a day. Clearly, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to coffee.
But here’s the thing – it hasn’t always been this way. For most of my life, I hated the taste of coffee and was uninterested in trying it. When I started high school, though, it was clear that I needed to start drinking coffee to survive my increasingly stressful schedule.
Here’s how I’d recommend going from a coffee noob to a regular coffee-drinker, based on my experience.
1. Start With a Flavored Latte
It might feel silly to order something so seemingly frivolous, especially if you’re behind someone who orders a red-eye or straight black coffee, but this is a situation where you just have to trust the process. If you jump in the deep end, the odds that you’ll enjoy drinking strong coffee and espresso are slim to none.
To acclimatize yourself to the taste of coffee, start with a coffee drink that has plenty of milk and other flavors. For me, I love a good vanilla latte or peppermint mocha. These are almost guaranteed to taste good, and will provide you with a solid amount of caffeine—just make sure you’re getting two shots of espresso.
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If you’re vegan or staying away from dairy, there are lots of non-dairy milk options. At Starbucks, they offer both Soy or Almond Milk—choose whichever you prefer on its own. A friend (and fellow coffee enthusiast) strongly recommends using oat milk as a substitute, which you can use at home or find at some hipster coffee shops.
Sure, these aren’t the healthiest or cost-efficient options, but they will soon become an infrequent treat once you’re more used to the taste of coffee on its own. Also, you can make your own to save money and control what goes into your drink.
2. Move On To Unflavored Lattes
At some point, you’ll feel confident enough to ditch the added flavor and graduate to a regular latte. The coffee flavor is better with more indulgent additiive (think whole or 2% milk), but if you’re looking to be healthier, skim is just fine (that’s what I went for).
If you’re missing the sweetness of flavored drinks, you can always add sugar to your latte or sprinkle in some cinnamon or cocoa. This way, you can control the amount you’re adding, and gradually reduce the amount you add as time goes on.
Some people stop here and become lifelong latte drinkers. This is a totally acceptable path because you get pretty much the same amount of caffeine from a latte than you would in most average coffee drinks.
That said, if you’re in this to become a black coffee drinker, the way to do it is to continue reducing the milk to coffee ratio in your latte. The best way to do this is to either order a third shot of espresso or order a cappuccino instead.
At first, the increasingly prominent coffee taste will be bitter and probably a little gross, but over time you’ll learn to love it. trust me, I know from experience.
3. The Deal With Iced Coffee
Iced coffee is a staple for many people for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s the best possible choice in hot climates. Also, it tends to be less bitter and more customizable than hot coffee is.
If you’re struggling to get used to the flavor of hot lattes, try ordering an iced latte. For some reason, this was really helpful for me when I started drinking coffee.
Once you’ve mastered the iced latte, I’d recommend ordering black iced coffee and adding milk yourself. This way, you can gradually reduce the amount you’re adding until you’re drinking it black with no problems.
Cold brew is another fantastic option, because it has a much smoother and less acidic flavor than regular iced coffee. I was obsessed with cold brew for awhile, and I still go back to it when temperatures climb upward.
4. Start With Black Coffee
Ok, deep breaths. This doesn’t mean taking a leap of faith from lattes straight to black coffee. If you start with black coffee, you’re in full control of how much milk/sugar/flavor you want to add.
Start with whatever makes you feel comfortable, and gradually reduce the amount you add over time. Eventually, you’ll end up drinking black coffee without a problem, and at some point, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start drinking coffee.
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It’s also important to note that coffee comes in several different roasts. The general rule of thumb is that the “darker” the roast, the stronger the flavor. “Blonde” is the lightest, most accessible variety, and they get more bitter from there.
If you’re confused about what to get, just ask the barista about the differences between the roasts or talk to a friend about what they recommend.
Drinking coffee is a personal choice, and a personal journey for everyone. Some people do just fine without drinking it at all, some people rely on it to get through their life. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, proceed with your own preferences in mind.
No one is making you drink 5 cups of black coffee a day, but if that’s what you want to do, go for it. You can stop at whichever step of this article you want, whether that’s at flavored lattes or cold brews.
Hopefully, this guide makes the project of introducing coffee to your life slightly less daunting. I know that I needed the help of seasoned pros to start drinking coffee myself, so this is my way of giving back to the world.