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Coffee Resolutions for 2012

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[Photograph: Espresso on Shutterstock]

While everyone else is busy setting unrealistic goals for themselves in 2012, you can focus on some small-but-significant changes to your caffeinated routine that will work wonders toward improving your quality of life, in the morning or whenever else you enjoy your favorite cuppa joe.

Here are five easy things you can tackle now and cross off your resolutions list right away.

Upgrade Your Cup

Have you been paying $1 for a hot cup of swill from your local bodega? Does your afternoon coffee break find you hovering over the K-cup machine in your office kitchen? Does your morning routine include scooping long-ago ground coffee out of a bag kept in the depths of your freezer?

No more, friend. This is your year to make positive changes, to up the coffee-quality ante in all areas of your life, because you're worth it. Find a craft coffee shop in your neighborhood that will hand you something better than that brown bodega water. Ignore that pod contraption and treat yourself to a practical office-coffee setup you can keep at your desk. (Electric kettle, hand grinder, French press—boom. Done.) Buy better coffee in smaller quantities, and buy it more often. Grind it fresh. Get the year started off right.

No More Chugging

Okay, sure, whatever—you need your coffee first thing or you devolve into some kind of lurching caveman. I understand. But that doesn't mean you have to guzzle the stuff! Once a week, take the time to slow your consumption down and really try to savor what you're drinking. Linger over that liquid for 20 minutes instead of 20 seconds.

If you attempt this only to find that the stuff in your cup isn't worth savoring, see resolution #1, above.

Cut Back on Caffeine

This might seem contradictory, coming from a coffee professional, but ridding yourself of a caffeine addiction is a sure-fire way to get yourself out of the I'll-drink-whatever-as-long-as-it's-turbo-charged doldrums. As soon as you can drink coffee because you enjoy it instead of needing it, you will come to appreciate the good stuff that's out there and more easily snub the bad.

Kicking caffeine is hard, and though it's not life or death to go cold turkey, it can be extremely unpleasant. If you have a serious four- to five-cup daily habit, try reducing your intake by a half a cup a week until you're down to one or two each day. The gradual decrease should save you the headache of, well, those caffeine headaches.

Go Organic

You know it's better for the environment, you know it's better for the farmers, and you know it's better for you. Maybe it's a little more expensive, I'll grant you that, but with good reason: It takes an incredible amount of work to grow anything organically, and coffee's no exception—almost every step of the process involves real human contact, manual labor, and diligent attention. Not only that, but organic farming overall tends to yield less product, making it harder for the folks who grow it to turn a profit without charging a premium.

Organic coffees have long had a sort of dodgy reputation in terms of flavor, but not so anymore. Some of the world's best beans are now grown with a mind toward environmental sustainability, and it's worth all our whiles to support that effort (and reap the flavor benefits). By making a commitment to bite whatever marginal cost bullet there might be to going organic, you're speaking volumes about your care for quality food and drink, and your concern about the important ecological and financial issues we all face, worldwide.

Sit and Sip

Are you guilty of endless grab-and-go cappuccino pit stops? Do you find yourself drinking and walking (and, inevitably, spilling) every day, every coffee? Remember that coffee is woven into our social and cultural fabric as a luxury item, and enjoying has long meant spending time lingering over steaming cups while chatting with friends or colleagues, sharing news and laughter and tears.

If you haven't sat across a table with someone else with a pair of mugs between you, make an effort to do so at least once a month this coming year. Not only will the coffee automatically taste better (it will, trust me), but you'll also find that the time spent reconnecting with someone else brings new meaning to the coffee break we all so easily and unknowingly take for granted.

Are you making any other resolutions—coffee-related or otherwise—this year?

About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista and an audacious eater, but she remains a Nervous Cook.

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