What is coffee?

I was recently inspired by listening to this conversation with John Johnson, the former coffee director at Rising Star. 

At its least lovely, coffee is just a delivery system for caffeine that we choke down reluctantly. Some common coffees are so burnt that it pretty much tastes like licking the char off of a grill. As a kid and young adult that's what I thought coffee was - I thought it smelled nice but gosh, what a terrible flavor, why would anyone drink this stuff?

Evolving from that burnt horribleness, for a long time we've added milk/cream/strange non-dairy creamer and various sweeteners that make such charred coffee palatable. These sugary, fatty things are essentially dessert drinks that mask the true flavor of the coffee.

I agree with John from the interview above - that coffee is not a commodity, but a really amazing and delicious gift developed in part, I'm sure, by luck and serendipity when it was discovered by goat herders in Ethiopia. 

The chain of events that come together to create delicious coffee is complex, impressive, and to me, unlikely. We're lucky to have access to such excellent culinary art here in Cleveland.