I would like to hire a few elves for my kitchen. There would be the Dishwashing Elf, of course, because I cannot keep up with my output of dirty dishes. There would be the Floor-Sweeping Elf, because a smooth, clean floor feels amazing against bare feet. And there would be the Coffee-Buying Elf because I have a bad habit of waiting until I am out of coffee before buying a new bag.
Such was the state of things this morning. I knew it was coming, but I forgot, probably because of last night’s margarita. When I pulled out my almost-empty bag of coffee, I immediately began thinking about how to rectify this grave situation. Is it wrong, I wondered, to go to a coffee shop in pajamas? Really? What if I’m just in-and-out, BOOM? Am I really embarrassing myself, even highlighting my own chemical habit?
The answer, I decided, was yes. I was too embarrassed to run to Blue Baker or Starbucks in pajamas, so I waited. I ate breakfast, toodled around on the internet, showered, and dressed in my weekend uniform, which is pajama-like without being pajamas, and I rode my bike over to Starbucks for a pound of coffee.
Interestingly, perhaps even fortuitously, they were having a special deal at Starbucks this morning: buy a pound of whole bean coffee, get a free tall beverage! I was tempted, very tempted, by the concept of free coffee, but then I remembered two very important things. One is that I hate the idea of disposable cups, and I always feel a bit guilty whenever I buy a cup of coffee in a throwaway container. I feel so guilty, in fact, that if it’s a plastic cup, I’ll take it home, wash it, and tuck it in the cupboard so I can reuse it. Am I a little nuts about environmentalism? Perhaps. But why can’t Starbucks create a system to recycle all those coffee cups instead of putting them in the trash?
The other important thing is that I had homemade cinnamon syrup and storebought soymilk at home, and I wanted to make a big mug of coffee to fuel myself through some editing work.
So I took my pound of coffee and rode my bike home, where I proceeded to make myself a mug of coffee exactly the way that I like it, in a pretty orange mug and much less hand-wringing about trash.
This morning was my first mug of coffee made with soymilk. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve had coffee with soymilk in the past and not liked it very much, but this time, with some friendly advice, I tried Silk’s organic soymilk. It wasn’t half bad! It’s still different from dairy milk, but different in an innocent way. The flavor is not quite as rich as dairy milk, so the coffee is a bit blacker in flavor, but it certainly pushed all the right caffeinating buttons in me.
Along with the soymilk, I wanted to tell you about this cinnamon syrup I made, which is lovely and spicy and sweet. Last week, deep in the trenches of grant-writing, I desperately wanted to relocate my office to Starbucks, where I could sip iced coffee, contemplate my own prose, and eavesdrop on any interesting characters. On Friday, I finally gave myself permission to take my laptop to Starbucks and indulged in a two dollar coffee.
I don’t know about you, but these days, I feel like my spending is equivalent to pouring my money in a sieve, hence the frugal two dollar coffee. But happily, you can get an iced coffee for two bucks, and you can even get a shot of syrup. I chose the “cinnamon dulce” syrup, and wow, was it good! Much less cloying than any of the pumpkin spice stuff that shows up in the fall, cinnamon dulce brightens with a spiciness that makes an iced coffee on a hot Texas afternoon even more refreshing. It was really delicious.
I liked it so much, in fact, that I went home that evening and made my own. Or at least I made a cinnamon syrup inspired by Starbucks’s. It was super easy too—just simmer sugar with water until the sugar is dissolved, then throw some cinnamon bark into the syrup and simmer for a few minutes. Cool the syrup and fish the cinnamon out, then pour into a little container and store it in the fridge.
I like to add about a tablespoon of this syrup to my morning coffee in lieu of sugar. Best of all, it gets along well with soymilk!
Cinnamon-Infused Simple Syrup
Syrup-making instructions borrowed gratefully from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark
I used cinnamon barks in this recipe, which you can buy at Indian grocery stores or, around here, certain gas stations that also sell Indian foods. I’m sure cinnamon sticks would be fine too—I’d use four or five sticks to make the syrup nice and potent.
1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 cinnamon barks (see headnote)
1) Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat to medium and add the cinnamon barks.
2) Simmer for 3-4 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the syrup cool.
3) Fish out the cinnamon, then pour the syrup in a jar and store covered in the fridge.