Putting the Ordinary Chemist to Shame

A rich fragrance danced in my nose as I entered the roastery. It came from the centerpiece apparatus, accompanied by a whirring of metal and a caustic ...

Dec 5, 2015

A rich fragrance danced in my nose as I entered the roastery. It came from the centerpiece apparatus, accompanied by a whirring of metal and a caustic cloud of heat. Beads of sweat dripped down my forehead and onto my white lab coat as I carefully opened the oven. The beans, once from the distant lands of Arabia, had reached full maturity – rich, homogenous and dark brown. With exact precision that would put the ordinary chemist to shame, I measured out my sample as I cackled maniacally with laughter.
Rushing out of the roastery with the sample grasped tightly in my gloved hands, I entered the hub of the laboratory, with a determined grin splashed across my face. My minions, after one look at my menacing yet resolute smirk, cleared the area with haste - this concoction would prove to be deadly if entrusted to untrained hands.
After carefully calibrating the homogenizer on the central workbench, I placed the beans inside, and watched the portafilter fill with fine powder as I listened to the harmonious orchestra of metal gears whirring and clicking, dry beans crunching and cracking. There was nothing more pleasing to the ear than the sound of beans screaming and screeching in pain and agony.
I inhaled deeply, and placed the portafilter into the extractor; this would collect the pure essence – concentrated trimethylxanthine – from the bean powder. One. Two. Three. I silently count, hoping for the boiling water to break through the powder. Four. Five. Six. I panicked – the extraction process was taking much too long.
Was this an outlier? Had I taken the wrong measurements, used the wrong tools or skipped a critical step? The voices would not stop; I grimaced, frowned and cringed. I could feel the eyes of all around me, staring with contempt, laughter and mockery.
I pulled on my disheveled ginger hair and prepared to uproot every strand at a moment’s notice. As I jumped around in frustration, I begged the extractor to give me even the smallest drop of bean essence. Miraculously, a golden liquid soon began to drip from the extractors’ nozzle into the lonely vessel below. I let out a sigh of relief. The nervous twitching in my hands faded away slowly, along with the sinister songs of the voices within.
Racing against time, I grabbed a heating flask and poured a rich, white solution – labeled bovine gland extract – inside. I watched anxiously as high-temperature steam flowed into the flask, forming a gentle, convecting whirlpool. The coagulating process was complete – I gazed into the beaker to be greeted pleasantly by a smooth, velvety compound.
I soon witnessed the final drop of the golden concentrate drip from the extractor with a loud, affirming plop. With relief, I mixed a pinch of sugar and a few drops of pumpkin extract into the vessel. With satisfaction, I began to pour the creamy substance from the heating flask. With joy, I carried out the final steps: chocolate sprinkles and two marshmallows on the side.
“Here’s your decaf, triple shot, whole milk, extra sugar, pumpkin spice latte."
I had defeated the voices once more. Making customized drinks for nitpicky customers was truly unnerving, daunting and even maddening. The voices, however, kept me going and gave me the motivation to make each order precisely and accurately. I felt my hands shaking violently, my eyes opening widely and the tip of my lips curling into a maniacal grin as I put on a new pair of gloves and greeted the next customer in line.
Thomas Yates is a contributing writer. Email him at 
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