When I was a kid I never thought I’d like coffee. The concept was based on something so foreign; yet there it was, day after day, brewed in the kitchen every morning without fail. Even on the weekends when we would all sleep in, the coffee brewing ritual remained. I would ask to try it on occasion, just to see what all the fuss was about - and with each taste, it remained a mystery. Let’s be honest - coffee tastes gross. It’s not sweet or salty or anything, it’s just some bitter brown drink. Little did I know it would eventually play a big role in my life.

The high school winters were brutal and dark in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. The ferocity of the ice-cold winter wind shotgunned off the face of Lake Winnipesaukee and would pierce right through even the thickest and warmest winter coat that money could buy. It

seemed like days and weeks went by and the sun wouldn’t show itself even for a brief moment.

In the darkness and the cold, there existed a shining light, a glorious savior, the warmth of a cozy fireplace right at your fingertips. That was it - it was everything. It was Jack Frost. Not the guy from those Christmas stories or whatever - it was the Jack Frost. I slowly but steadily grew a taste for it - and the taste grew to an obsession - this specialty latte was my gateway drug into the wonderful world of caffeine addiction.

On those harsh winter days with no sun and what seemed like an endless class schedule, the Jack Frost was the escape. The wondrous blend of espresso with slight hints of hazelnut and vanilla combine delightfully to give the lucky patron both the deliciousness of the flavor combo with a sassy punch of bitterness. The foam is like the comfiest pillow imaginable - but it's warm and toasty as it melts away on the tongue.

James was one of my best friends in high school. It was him who turned me on to this wintertime elixir, having discovered its wonders by himself on a random visit to the Downtown Grille and Cafe, a two-minute ride from school. When I tried it for the first time, I detected the bitterness I detested for such a long time as a child but saw something more. That lingering coffee bean taste that rusts on your tongue was invigorating, and at the tail end of those 24 ounces of delight, my nervous and reserved high school exterior was replaced with a more positive and talkative spirit - one that helped me to be more open when speaking to new people and even more active in the classroom; raising my hand often and participating with my own genuine opinions.

Returning to school one day from a Jack Frost run, James and I took a moment when we sat in the car to contemplate. “It’s like..summer. It’s just the sun,” he said. I agreed, in fact, I knew exactly what he was trying to say, but I took it even further. “It’s like..spring break. Cabo.”

“Cabo…” we repeated in unison. That’s what it was like! Never having been to Cabo, or even being able to place it on the map, that’s what the Jack Frost was. It was paradise in a hand-warming cup that took us off our feet and swept us away from the cold wasteland that Wolfeboro proved to be.

As we grew more fed up with school, the visits to Cabo became more frequent. What were once weekly trips downtown escalated to two, three, even four escapes a week. We’d go during our free blocks, during lunch and even on some occasions during classes (all depending on how much we needed a break from school). The money my dad would give me for going out to eat once a week or so with my friends was increasingly exhausted by Downtown Grille trips. Sometimes I would be out of money and dip into my own savings - and other times James would offer to cover me all in the name of enjoying a Jack Frost. Despite how many trips we made each week, it never offset the Sunday brunch ritual of “Java and Grub.”

We sat at the lone table in the very front of the cafe where the door is. It had the best view of Main Street from inside and we could see people when they came in. Aside from the obvious order of the Jack Frost, we’d also indulge in the “grub” portion of the brunch ritual. This part wasn’t as set in stone as the Jack Frost, but often it resulted in a croissant sandwich with sausage. The flaky buttery goodness of the croissant complimented the fresh crisped sausage and the over-hard egg (just how we like it) perfectly. On occasion we’d switch it up, throwing in a chocolate chip muffin (grilled and buttered) or the occasional Belgian waffle.

A larger group of us would get together on these Sundays sometimes too. We’d have to migrate from our usual spot to accommodate the six or seven of us. That’s where we took our cheesy group picture together, and where we hatched our ingenious plan to send it into the yearbook and pretend to be a real club.

That was us - the “Java and Grub Club” - and that’s what we were doing missing those free blocks or those classes, or at those extra Sunday brunch meetings. Just breaking down barriers and being ourselves.