Grace Gavilanes is the writer-editor at Vital Proteins, where she oversees all editorial content on the Lively blog. Here, she writes about trying coffee for the first time.
A little over a month ago, I had my first-ever cup of coffee. I’m a 27-year-old Latina whose culture centers around the caffeinated beverage, so the abrupt change in emotions – a swift “ugh” to “yes!” transition that spanned minutes – was life-altering. Up until that moment, the only other time I gave coffee a fair chance was when I asked my mom for my own mug of café con leche when I was 7 years old. I was curious to see what all the hype was about even at that age. Plus, I already thought coffee smelled nice, so I’d have to like the taste, too, right?
My mom happily obliged and presented me with my own serving of her go-to morning and nighttime blend. I took a few sips, placed the mug on the center table in our living room, and dramatically plopped on the couch. I hated it. Within about five seconds, my stomach started sounding off. I felt a tinge of discomfort. It became apparent to everyone around me: I wasn’t meant to be a coffee drinker.
There’s something semi-isolating about politely declining a cup of coffee at every family get-together or social outing. From saying no to “Mija, quieres café?” to asking if black tea is on the menu when faced with a “Hey, let’s check out this coffee shop!”, it felt as if I was missing out on an important social ritual. Was I less Latina because I reached for chai lattes over coffee? The answer, of course, is no. Your identity is not defined by your preferred source of caffeine. But even if a part of me did feel proud for never having finished a cup of coffee in my life, I knew I was rejecting a universally accepted experience.
In the weeks leading up to April 2019, I saw a handful of Vital Proteins employees enjoying the same iced coffee drink. At the time, there were rumblings about the buzzy new beverage that seemed to have found a home in every staffer’s hand: What was in it? Did it have a name? Did it taste as good as it looked?
Becca, our in-house barista and unofficial office mom, told me the drink was the brainchild of marketing team member Hannah Tate. Aptly named the Bronzed Hetate (inspired by Hannah’s Instagram handle), the sought-after drink is made up of espresso, honey, regular oat milk, chocolate oat milk, ice, cinnamon, and Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. The original Hetate has a similar makeup with one minor change – it skips the chocolate oat milk.
For the first time in the 20 years I had sworn off coffee, I was intrigued. Whether it was subliminal or not (it definitely was), I was ready to finally give into this new craving. It just looked too tasty to pass up. So, I placed an order and waited at my desk. After a few minutes, the drink was ready. I came face to face with a glass that was filled to the brim with two types of oat milk that mimicked marble when mixed. A squirt of honey, two shots of espresso, and one scoop of our Collagen Peptides settled into a uniform blend at the bottom of the glass while ice was prominently displayed throughout. A blanket of cinnamon topped it all off.
I took a sip and immediately asked Becca, “Wait, is this really coffee? This is so, so good.” She smiled and confirmed that yes, the drink she had just made me was coffee. The drink itself is sweet without being overbearing. It skips over the bitter flavor I prematurely associated with all coffee drinks. To my wide-eyed amazement, a bitter taste usually isn’t the case with lattes. I’d been too preoccupied with brewing ginger turmeric teas to really care. And now I can’t get enough.
I fell in love at first sip and have been regularly ordering Bronzed Hetates ever since. Personally, I’m seeing this iced latte as a delicious entryway to other more traditional coffee drinks. Maybe one day I’ll even give my mom’s favorite coffee a second chance. Maybe.