The dregs of coffee culture


It has long been my belief that people who drink instant coffee don’t actually like coffee. Either that or it’s a mild form of self-harm. It’s an entirely different beast from the genuine drink, and one sniff of the instant freeze-dried granules will cement that fact if you’re unconvinced. Consider this: have you ever found anyone who is content to drink a cup of the instant stuff who would opt for a double espresso when given the chance? Precisely. These are people who don’t actually like coffee but who are conforming to the ‘normal adult life’. They probably have a coffee table and worry about what they could call it if they stopped pretending to like coffee. Perhaps they even partake in coffee catch-ups, and are anxious about the reaction of their contemporaries if they sit down with a cup of rooibos.  Instead, they feel compelled to order coffee with instructions like: ‘make it a weak one please… just a half shot, and top it up with more water … and a little more milk if you would..?’ If this sounds like you, I urge you to question your motives.

Now for coffee etiquette: don’t offer someone a coffee and then give them the cheap imitation. This is an offence of the highest order. During one Helpx stay (like Wwoof but less farm orientated), a lady known as ‘the bad Pam’ offered me a coffee whilst she was filling her little stove-top pot with locally grown freshly ground beans. When I accepted the offer, I was given a cup of rehydrated instant stuff, whilst she poured herself a sweet little cup with a perfect crème.  It told me all I needed to know about her.


I actually began my coffee research at an early age before coffee culture really took off. Mum was an occasional instant coffee drinker, and as an experimental foray into the adult world, I asked to join in. It was more micro-waved milk than coffee, but it was an introduction. Gradually, different coffee-creating gadgets appeared in the kitchen. Mr Bodum arrived in his insulating waistcoat, then the noisy percolator. I tasted the brown stuff that they produced and retreated back to the instant stuff and the microwave: I wasn’t ready- I didn’t actually like coffee.

I was 11 or 12 when I first appreciated what real coffee was about. It was the smell from a grinder in a cafe; a world away from the whiff of the open instant jar. I had a cappuccino and realised that I never wanted to go near the instant granules again. A few years later I got a job in a cafe and Dad bought us a factory reconditioned Baby Gaggia. I have since made coffee from scratch, picking the beans, soaking, drying, peeling, roasting and grinding to make the freshest cup of coffee my happy palette has ever tasted. I know what genuine tastes like.

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Therefore, as self-acclaimed spokesperson for the coffee world, I decree that it’s time for us all to wake up and smell the coffee, and then stop pretending and make a pot of tea if that’s your preference (just make sure it’s loose leaf because if it’s from a bag… well! Don’t get me started).


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