Kaldi (a goatherder), the story goes, noticed his herd dancing from one coffee shrub to another, grazing on the cherry-red berries containing the beans. He copped a few himself and was soon frolicking with his flock. Witnessing Kaldi’s goatly gambol, a monk plucked berries for his brothers. That night they were uncannily alert to divine inspiration – A Coffee Legend (read more…)
When I was young, I was allowed a cup of milky tea after meals. My English heritage insisted upon tea being a huge part in my life, as were the simple pleasures in general which the English are famous for celebrating. I like tea. But, coffee is my dark mistress.
My grandmother on my mum’s side was my first coffee accomplice. I think there was a bit of a stigma surrounding coffee, particularly its intake by the young, which tea seems to have escaped. There is a lot of talk about the dangers of caffeine and how it interferes with the healthy development of a child, with coffee being one of the greatest menaces associated with it. Everyone forgets about cola, and chocolate, and tea in fact. But that’s our culture for you. In any case, my grandmother must have felt that if I was allowed milky tea, than why not some (very) milky instant coffee too? I had been fascinated by coffee for some time. They drank it on TV! So, my grandmother and I sought to satisfy my curiosity surrounding this black, rich, ‘mountain-grown’ drink that seemed to be an international sensation.
Most people feel that coffee is an acquired taste, and I suppose it is. Thanks to a lot of milk and sugar, I acquired the taste pretty fast. Granted, this was instant coffee, so I was sort of taking baby steps with its wonderful bittersweetness. But, I was smitten. And you never really stopping loving, once love has been born, right? My grandmother and I kept it a secret though. We knew that coffee had a bad rep. It had to be (another) love that dared not speak its name.
Since those days, coffee has been a constant and welcome companion. I’ve had good coffee. I’ve certainly had bad coffee. I like it best when it’s strong and sweet, with just a dash of cream to turn it that lovely caramel-brown colour. And perhaps it has more medicinal uses than it did when I first started drinking it. But, getting back to the idea of simple pleasures, I think coffee is one of those things which centres me, gives me a glimpse at the wonders of life on the small scale. Its flavour is one of those sensory stabalizers, one which tells me that whatever happens to me during the course of the day, I can still rest in a taste of the familiar, the comforting. The rush helps too. Who am I kidding?
There is a cafe chain in Vancouver called Caffe Artigiano where a few of us at the office go to get a taste of heaven. I’ve come a long way since my illicit cups of very milky instant coffee made by my Grandma. Now, my milky coffee (café mocha, to be precise) is made by a professional barista. Some of the details have changed, perhaps. Caffe Artigiano sells a $15 cup of coffee – a specialty item, of course. Not all of their coffee is that expensive. But, that is a snapshot of how important coffee can be to some people – mostly those who can afford it. But for me, drinking coffee is mostly about comfort.
Of course with everything in life, there must be moderation. I know that. I should probably drink more water, for instance. But, one of my central beliefs is that we work and we remain healthy in order to appreciate the simple things. Ah, the simple things once again. And coffee, for all of its impact on health, and all of the politics which surround its production, is pleasure. Simple.