Flicking through my WordPress reader I saw a recent daily prompt, ‘aromatic’, and immediately thought of coffee. That tells you where my heart (and my tastebuds) lies.
Latte, cappuccino, espresso, ristretto, machiatto, flat white, affogato, short black, long black… these are only the most commonly known forms. Can’t say I like all of them. Capuccinos have too much foam for my liking, and although I respect black coffee I usually need some milk in mine.
Have to hang my head in shame and admit that I drink a lot of instant coffee. Although instant coffee is wwaaayyy less enjoyable than barista made coffee, it does have a lot less caffeine in it, and the best brands aren’t terrible (I hear some of you spluttering with indignation). Seeing that I drink quite a few cups a day, I’d be bouncing off the walls if they were all proper coffees. I even go Decaf late in the afternoon (half of you have just stopped reading right there) so that I don’t suffer from too much stimulant racing through my already somewhat energised body (I can be restless all on my own without the aid of extra caffeine thank you very much!)
Then there’s the different beans and blends. The two main contenders are Arabica and Robusta, Arabica being by far the more popular of the two. There’s a bucket-load of different blends. Experts tell us it’s better for coffee to have a blend of beans from different locations because one variety might bring more “mouthfeel”, another more flavour, and another might bring more aroma. The more variety, the greater the complexity of the coffee (within reason). Makes sense, but some purists disagree. I don’t know enough to have an opinion.
And of course there’s weasel poo coffee. Coffee that’s been ingested by weasels, and you guessed it, pooped out the other end. It’s supposed to be the best tasting coffee in the world, something to do with how their digestive enzymes have altered the chemical structure of the bean. It also has to do with the fact that the particular weasels in question only pick the best coffee beans to eat. Very discerning weasels.
If you’re like me, the burning question would be “How the hell did they first find out that weasel poo coffee tasted so good?” According to one site I read, in Vietnam (the source of weasel coffee), during the 1800’s farmers who grew coffee beans were not allowed to enjoy their own crop, but had give all it all to the French colonists. The only way they could imbibe was to pick up the weasel poop, which was apparently a block of coffee beans stuck together . That’s desperation for you, and testimony to the irresistible pull of coffee. See http://www.huongmaicafe.com/blogs/vietnam-weasel-coffee/ if you’re suitably tantalised by the story to know more.
Although there are countless blends of coffee available, to me the smell always seems much the same. True, some can be more bitter, some more pungent, but that unmistakeable smell of coffee speaks comfort and warmth to me.
Coffee smells intimate. I picture my hand enfolding a mug loosely, or a finger casually looped through its handle. I see myself sitting at a table in a cafe, usually a wooden one (the table not the café!), leaning over my mug, chatting with (hopefully) disarming intensity to a friend, colleague, relative, wife, while the sounds of the cafe create a background conducive to cosy intimacy.
I see myself on the couch at home reading a book, reaching over to have a sip from the mug that’s sitting on the aptly named coffee table, and once I’ve grabbed it I’ll place the mug between my legs (if it’s not too hot) rather than have to lean over to pick it up again less than a minute later. Minimum effort.
I see myself late at night sometimes sitting at our kitchen table alone, reflecting on the day, my cup of Joe keeping me company as my mind sifts through whatever’s on my mind, comes up with nothing (usually!) and then I finally head off to bed.
I think of busy streets, cafes stacked on top of one another, the aromas taking turns to assail my nostrils as I trudge past, part of me wanting to turn aside and order a take away flat white. But I usually resist, because, well, you can have too much of a good thing you know.
See, although I do drink a lot of coffee, I don’t drink barista made coffee every day, and not just because of the caffeine. I have this curious notion that if I made lattes and flat whites at home and at work, they would cease to be special, they would become mundane. I would rather savour the moment every time I buy one and treat myself to its milky foamy flavoursome richness.
I also believe the same about eating – that you can have too much of a good thing. If I snack all the time, (I have been known to do this) food tends to lose its taste, and becomes merely a product that most of the time I don’t need or really enjoy. But if I regulate my intake (and occasionally fast, for health rather than religious reasons) then taste gets more subtly enhanced, and food becomes so delightful it’s right up there again with the other sins of the flesh.
Have you noticed that coffee doesn’t always taste as good as it smells? A bit like hot chips – don’t they always smell great? Of course, it depends on how well the coffee’s been made, but also on what state my taste buds are in at the time (I think). Sometimes it will taste like liquid heaven, other times it tastes like coloured water, and of course it’s sometimes somewhere in between.
I’m blessed to be in a city that’s right up there in terms of its coffee – Melbourne. Great café’s and some truly gorgeous lanes and districts full of them (fantastic atmosphere). I’ve had great coffee in other countries, and I’ve had terrible coffee overseas as well. I’m sure there are some places in the world where the coffee is even better than Melbourne, but I haven’t found it yet.
What a wonderful thing to look forward to…