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Sandra Boynton, of All People, Makes My Favorite Coffee

Photo: Audrey Gelman

Coffee is a symbol of adulthood with its attendant responsibilities and anxieties, but also a warm, wonderful, reliable comfort in the morning.

I love coffee, and I need coffee, but I hate what’s become of it. Every time I go to buy coffee beans I’m confronted with dozens of over-designed brands that insist upon themselves and leave me feeling nothing at all. I’ve long searched for “my” coffee — the least pretentious, least Kinfolk–esque brand out there. I just want to drink something delicious and feel awake enough to speak to my children.

So while browsing for coffee last year in a supermarket, a coffee bag popped out at me. The animals were unmistakable, what The New Yorker once described as ‘the usual Boyntonian menagerie.’ Hippos in old-fashioned bathing suits, elephants on seesaws, terriers in pajamas, pigs with huge snouts and tiny eyes.

Sandra Boynton, the legendary children’s book author, is known to kids and parents of the last four decades — her books have sold over 60 million copies worldwide. Moo, Baa, La La La, The Going to Bed Book, But Not the Hippopotamus — these are staples of the bedtime routines of little ones nationwide. Everyone with a kid knows that bunnies bounce, ducks strut, and donkeys slide thanks to Boynton’s Barnyard Dance!

Some of the Boynton-themed coffee bags were named after classic books (1977’s Hippos Go Berserk!) but the rest had silly names like “Woodland Dance” and “Cows and Holly.” I bought a bag of “Not a Morning Person” breakfast blend. It tasted like I’d gone to heaven and heaven turned out to be a diner. It was a normal cup of coffee in the best sense. It was perfect.

Photo: Audrey Gelman

I came for the Boynton art, and I stayed for the coffee. But I needed to understand how Sandra Boynton’s chickens got on the bags. I drove to the Winchell Mountain Roastery in Pine Plains and met Will Rivkin, whose father had taken a coffee brand from 1903 and relocated upstate in the 1970s.

He showed me how they roast every bean by hand using a Probat drum roaster built in 1957 that must have weighed a billion pounds. It takes about 17 minutes to roast a barrel full of green (scentless!) beans into the pungent brown coffee as we know it. The difference between a light and dark roast (and a ruined batch) is a matter of 10 to 20 seconds.

Will grew up family friends with Sandra Boynton’s kids. They had the idea of collaborating on a line of coffee, and Boynton Blends was born.

And now, with the Country Morning Breakfast Blend, my days start (and end) with Boynton.

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Sandra Boynton, of All People, Makes My Favorite Coffee