I love coffee, proper ground coffee. I’ve always loved all things coffee; instant when I was a teenager, coffee cake, even those coffee sweets in the tins of chocolates at Christmas that no one else will eat. Love them all. I still love coffee cake and coffee chocolates however my days of drinking instant are behind me, which means I would be lost without my coffee machine. It brews the espresso and froths the milk with a steamer and I worship at it’s altar at least twice a day.
Like most people, I started drinking the instant coffee that we had when I was still living with my parents. Later, the global coffee shop chains started to appear in the UK and quickly became popular. I gradually discovered that I liked coffee better the way it was made by these large corporations. Trying to emulate them at home, I bought a cafetiere but the effect was never the same. At the time I lived further away than a walk from my nearest coffee house, so I decided to try making my own lattes, mochas and cappuccinos.
And so it was that during a Christmas shopping expedition to France, I bought my first coffee machine. It was a tiny little thing with the wrong shaped plug on it for the UK, but once that had been replaced it brewed espressos and had a spout for frothing the milk. I used that little machine every day until eventually it cracked under the pressure and a couple of the knobs fell off the front. Disaster! But which new machine should I use to replace it? Luckily it was Christmas again and someone bought me an excellent machine, a little bigger and a little sturdier, that lasted for longer than the first. But eventually that one couldn’t stand the pace either and it, too, sadly broke. I made a mistake with my third coffee machine. Instead of a steamer for heating the milk it had a hotplate and a paddle which frothed the milk with air, a bit like an Aerolatte whisk. I was horrified at the standard of coffee it was producing, so I quickly replaced that with the current model.
I have at least two coffees a day and try to make them a real occasion, a coffee ceremony, a bit like a Chinese tea ceremony which, unlike the Japanese tea ceremony, emphasizes the tea, rather than the ceremony: what the tea tastes like, smells like. Not for me popping the kettle on and absent-mindedly sloshing some hot brown liquid down my throat. To achieve the perfect tasting coffee I choose my cup carefully according to my mood and savour my drink. I brew the espresso in cute little cups someone bought for me as a present. They have pictures of little black dresses on them and their style adds to the sense of occasion. Milk is carefully heated and then frothed so that I have a pleasing topping to my cappuccino. Obsessive? Me? Probably.
I love the whole coffee shop culture too. I can think of few more comforting activities than taking a book or newspaper to the local independent coffee shop and spending a morning in its cosy, warming, enveloping environment, losing myself in the latest printed word. Or if the weather is fine and the shop has the facility, to sit outside and engage in a little people-watching.
When I win the lottery I would like to buy a large Gaggia machine, one that grinds the beans too, so I could have really fresh coffee every day. For me, coffee could never be about just having a hot drink; it’s a ritual, a ceremony, something I look forward to, which makes my day complete.