I’m writing an action adventure novel set in the future. It’s not too far in the future, only about 70 years, but there have been some geopolitical and socioeconomic changes in that time.
My main character is meeting with someone who drinks coffee. Coffee is more rare in his world than it is in ours. I want him to react to the smell of the beans as they are ground and later brewed.
Except. . . what does coffee smell like?
In America right now, at least in California, everyone knows what coffee smells like, even people who don’t drink it. You could compare other scents to the smell of fresh coffee. We might not know what gen machai tea or ouzo smell like, but coffee is ubiquitous.
Not so for my guy’s culture.
I started asking people, beginning with the Sig-O. “How would you describe the smell of coffee to someone who’s never smelled it?”
I got a typical Sig-O response. “I wouldn’t. I’m not the one with the imagination, you are.”
I expanded my survey to people who work around the beverage all day, starting with two baristas at the Peet’s Coffee across from my office. They struggled and got into a debate over “spicy” versus “peppery.” Both words are good.
My next coffee expert was Steve, the owner of Cheeko’s Corner, next to Fiesta Market. The question stumped Steve more than anyone else. “It’s. . .acidic. Oh, wait, that’s a taste. It’s. . . earthy?” I said chocolaty. He was dubious. He also came up with peppery, and then, “Bitter. No, wait, that’s a taste again.” He said a coffee taster friend of his told him that coffee has more “taste notes” than red wine.
This was all interesting but it wasn’t helping. I started inhaling the scent of the fresh-ground coffee beans in the morning, trying to imagine what that would smell like if I didn’t know it was coffee.
I came up with:
–Spicy (but peppery is good too)
One or more of those words will make it into my character’s musings, while his business associate is brewing up the java.
The business associate also has a macaw. How to describe one? I googled “macaw pictures,” and looked at a bunch. Then I described what I’d seen. Something things are just easy.