Last Minute Holigay Gift Guide 2013: Caffeine is the Key to Everyone’s Heart

I can get a little cranky around the holidays. Maybe because the compulsory consumerism both irks the social justice-y nerd in me and compels me to weep over my bank account. Maybe because there is not enough booze in the world to get me through another holiday (any day?) with my family. Maybe because I CANNOT DEAL with another rendition of “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” (But no offense to you, Mariah, or your bountiful curves.)

Still, I do enjoy having a socially acceptable excuse to share my favorite things with people I like. And then maybe they’ll share them with me. Cue COFFEE LOVE. Coffee, tea, and related products are awesome, affordable, shareable things that I love to give and receive. Here’s why:

They’re thoughtful. Reinforce your awesomeness as a gift-giver by showing you know your lover/friend/coworker well enough to buy them a medium roast instead of extra-dark, or 70% dark chocolate rather than milk. (But make sure you know what your gift recipients actually like… there is no greater buzzkill than having the love of your life buy you a tricked-out Keurig with a steaming wand when all you drink is espresso-strength black Aeropress coffee. Awk.)

They’re inexpensive (or can be). Of course there are always super fancy expensive coffeemakers and authentic Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee that you should feel free to buy if you can swing it. For those of us who might be a bit thin of wallet around this time of year (or, um, always… youth workers and nonprofit professionals, holler), sharing a cheaper but well-chosen gift can make the holidays way less stressful and way more appetizing. (No, seriously — who can get through all that coffee/chocolate on their own anyway? Sharing is caring.)

They last. With coffee makers, beans, and clutch accessories like chocolate, the gift keeps on givin’ with each new brew or bar. Yay, happy holiday feelings!

They’re fabulous LAST-MINUTE GIFTS. The items I’ve listed here are some of my favorites, but def check out your city’s coffee shops, bookstores, and farmers’ markets to see what goodies are to be had on the local level. A lot of coffee and tea products can be had (quickly and easily) through Amazon or other big-box stores, but you’ll get major brownie points with your partner, family, and your own holigay soul if you start within your own community. Buy local and buy queer if you can!

Anyway. Here are some coffee-related things I hope can find a home in your or your girlfriend’s hearts and cupboards. Nom!


There are about 500 methods for brewing solid coffee: the automatic drip coffee maker, French press, percolator, pour-over, vacuum, cold-brew, Keurig… and you should feel free to spend hours doing obsessive online research into the pros and cons of each method to figure out what you like or might like or might like to give someone. In the meantime, I’m gonna link you up to two solid options for the gift-giving coffee lover who believes in tasteful but budget-friendly gifts.

AeroPress Coffee & Espresso Maker

I am the ultimate AeroPress fangirl. Here’s why: The AeroPress brews coffee with less than one-fifth of the acidity of regular drip coffee, so they’re great for those whose stomachs can’t handle the bitterness or acidity of conventional coffee. You can make coffee or espresso of whatever strength you’d like.

AeroPresses are relatively cheap and very portable, so you can have one at work, one at home, one for traveling… They’re also made by the same people who make boomerangs. Yup. I swear it’s real.

Melitta Single-Cup Coffee Brewer

What to say about Melitta? This single-cup pour-over method predated the auto-drip coffeemaker of today, and works quite decently if you’re using good, freshly ground coffee. I’ve seen this shit at coffee shops and festivals right next to expensive machines.

Key points: It’s ridiculously cheap. It’s freakishly light and portable. You can fit it with reusable filters to avoid waste. And it’s called a BREWING CONE. Sounds delicious.


To complement their brewing method of choice, the object of your gifting affections may also need…



Coffee beans. Buy whole beans! And make sure your lucky gift-recipient has or can get access to a grinder. Check the roasting dates on the bag before buying, and grind the beans shortly before using them for max flavor. Give the gift of fresh local beans! Some of my favorite roasters: Gimme! Coffee from upstate NY (I have savored goods at each of their locations in Ithaca and NYC) and Counter Culture Coffee, based in NC but now with a regional training center in Boston! Woo!


A basic blade grinder. I’ve seen these for sale at my local coffee shops. Buy the hand-crank grinders if you’re mega hardcore… OR buy the electric burr grinder if you often find yourself trying to brew coffee when you are tired/hung over/not fully awake because duh, you haven’t had your coffee yet.


A water heater or electric kettle. Available basically anywhere for not too much money. Electric kettles are great if you want temperature controls for those of us who are hardcore about our brewing. Then again, you can always buy an old-school tea kettle, you know, the kind you can find at any store or yard sale and just pop on the stove and wait for the whistle. SPACE AGE, I KNOW.


A solid thermos, sized appropriately to your gift recipient’s caffeine needs. Good thermoses will keep your beverages hot all day (which is especially convenient when you kind of forget to clean out your thermos and woke up late and it’s too early to make coffee so you’re stuck with the remnants of yesterday’s brew… good thing it’s still hot!). They also come in hilariously massive sizes and cute patterns and colors. Choose carefully.

And for anyone feeling overwhelmed by all the options and where the hell do I even START with all this shit should definitely check out this fabulous article by Lifehacker. It makes the art of coffee seem much more affordable and much less terrifying.

Delicious Places and Things

What goes well with coffee? (What goes well with everything?) CHOCOLATE!

I am forever in love with Taza Chocolate, a chocolate factory local to Somerville, Mass. Taza makes organic, stone-ground Mexican-style chocolate through sustainable means and fair trade. (And by grossly obsessed, I mean to say I may have done literally all of my holiday shopping at their store. Buy $75 worth of product, get extra chocolate for free! DONE AND DONE.)


Taza Chocolate Mexicano Discs

All of Taza’s chocolates are gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free. And who wouldn’t appreciate knowing that their holigay gift is also ethically sourced?! Their round Chocolate Mexicano disks and bars are also available in flavors as unique and varied like Spiked Eggnog, Coco Besos, and, of course, Coffee. My heart just beat a little faster.

For those of you local to eastern Massachusetts: Taza also offers factory tours for just $5! You get to poke their vintage chocolate-making machines, enjoy obscene amounts of free samples, and hear the word “cacao” even more than in a Portlandia episode. Great place for a holiday date.

And to those of you who are down for traveling to get your fix, I seriously recommend buying tickets for the 2014 Coffee & Tea Festival in NYC and Philly, which will feature more coffee, tea, chocolate, and Alternative Lifestyle Haircuts than you’ve ever seen or heard or imagined in your wildest, queerest dreams. Go with an open mind and empty stomach.

Eat, drink, be merry and gay! Any other recommendations, my fellow Straddlers?

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I'm a queer grrrl with a cause — erstwhile sociology major, social justice nerd, aspiring social worker. My passions are working with urban and immigrant youth, advocating for sexual health care and education, and trying to broaden my understanding of reproductive justice each day. I also have an unseemly love for good food, good coffee, and cafe dates with good friends, and am aspiring to have more of all of these things. Can't live without music and human connection; can't and won't forget my working-class rural roots. Queer, bipolar, plotting adventure.

Wren has written 1 article for us.


  1. First, I have to say I love you. And I don’t mean that in a crazy stalker-girl way. I just have a love for anyone who so “gets” coffee and the need for it in life. Were it not for coffee and cafes and music and good friends, I would have either exploded from frustration or died a withering lonely death by now. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the way you have with words about coffee. Merry Christmas, happy holidays and I truly hope someone special gets you something coffee related. :)

  2. Thank you so much for writing this post. I was beginning to feel like no one got coffee and its importance the way I do. It has created so many friendships, relationships, and hours of companionship for me. When strangers are alone together sharing a cup of coffee, it makes us all feel just a little less alone. And especially this time of year, when I feel the most alone, this post reminds me that there are other people out there for whom coffee occupies an identical space.

    Basically, you’re the best. And if I was at Harvard Law School right now (I’ve deferred admission, but every single person I know thinks I’m stupid for doing this), I would totally buy you a cup at Crema Cafe.

    • I TOTALLY AGREE. Especially the a-bit-less-alone sentiment. I found that I felt a sense of community even with strangers on a long, otherwise lonely road trip thanks to spending time in cafes.

      Also: a) You’re not stupid for deferring admission, and b) when you do make it to Harvard Law, let me know and we’ll grab coffee! Oh, and Crema Cafe — talk about strangers sharing a delicious cup of coffee basically on each other’s lap…

    • 3 Little Figs is bakery-licious and awesome! And they’re now open Mondays, which has pretty much made my year. Also, Portland’s coffee haunts ARE awesome… how can you beat Stumptown? (Except maybe with Gimme Coffee, which is what they serve at 3 Figs…)

  3. OKAY EVERYBODY. Now that I’ve survived the grad school application gauntlet and have emerged from my hermit-shell I would love to meet any of you in the area for coffee! In fact, I am caffeinating as we speak (second fix of the day).

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