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Image: Svetlana Nikolaenko

The Black and Decker is a temperamental drug pusher.

It gurgles from my kitchen, hisses with steam. It may be done in a minute, but it could take longer. I don’t know. It’s drip.

I’m typing the first of these words before the first cup of the day, an animatronic version of myself with sand caught in the gears. Only coffee will slay the lingering effects of sleep, of what a quick Google search tells me is the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid. (I’m not awake enough to pronounce that, and even if I were I’m sure it would come out sounding something like “Grandma Amy is on acid.”) 

Eventually a warm cup will be in my hands, the caffeine will take hold, and my mind will burn through the fog. That can’t happen soon enough.

“People joke that coffee is what makes life possible,” writes senior editor Allecia Vermillion in her profile of Seattle’s provocative impresario of cafe culture. Count me among those people. Except I’m not so sure I’m joking. 

Luckily, we live in the greatest coffee city in the country, as Vermillion and associate editor Darren Davis, a former barista, chart in the cover story. If my coffeemaker were to leap off the counter right now and go splat, I am—like you—only a few groggy blocks from some of the finest cafes, roasters, and baristas on the continent. Vivace and Victrola in my case, maybe Milstead and Caffe Ladro in yours.

Visit those or any of the other spectacular coffee shops in our story and you come to realize that much of the joy lies in the anticipation, the gap that’s like a pause in a musical composition. If there’s a line, you stand in it with almost precipitous excitement. You wait patiently as the barista pulls your shot. Or turns the top of your latte into a simulacrum of foliage.

Back in my kitchen, the B&D has huffed through its one job. The caffeine is poised to both mimic and block the neurochemical adenosine (thanks again, Google) and to light a fuse in my brain. But I wait, and savor the last few seconds of anticipation, before tipping the cup back.

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