Monday, December 22, 2008

Coffee Craving

I never liked coffee growing up. My family are big tea drinkers and even now, I'd still have a mug of special mum made chai in the morning over a cup of coffee, easy. I only started drinking coffee right before I turned 18 when the first Starbucks opened up and I was still young enough to drink Mochachinos - I was all about being hip and that's what branded cups of coffee were to me at the time. Back then, I didn't know things would change; it was a much simpler time.

I started drinking coffee more regularly when I went to university. We had an artsy café on campus where I would sip on lattes in between lectures and meet with my cool art history friends. We would talk about Titian and Klimt and Proust and Nitin Sawhney and Hideous Kinky while cute bearded barristas would bring us our coffees in chipped mugs - oh the character, oh the charm! We would meet after long lectures on cold days and watched the film students float in and out, carrying cameras and tripods. We would get our coffees and crowd over books with nothing in them but different coloured blocks and gasp over the pages. I felt cooler than your regular law student, I was in with the art crowd, I drank their brew and I loved their beautiful, quirky nonsense.

After discovering that our beloved artsy café had jacked up their prices (£1.80 for a coffee? Well I might as well go have a paper cup of crappy capitalist crap! they spat), the art kids disappeared for stranger places to drink their coffee and talk randoms and I went back to my law graduate friends where I discovered The Wonderful Nescafe Machine. This machine was a godsend during my post graduate days and we all loved the Wonderful Nascafe Machine with it's tacky picture of a chocolate dusted heart on a cappacino (cute and fitting at the time). It would be late at night and writers block would leave me wandering down to the basement of my college, drawn to the glow of the Wonderful Nescafe Machine. With my hands running against the grainy walls, I'd make my way in a trance to this beautiful piece of metal that would bless me with a cup of coffee for a mere 60 pence. At 60p a café au lait I could have three little plastic cups for the price of one dirty cup of artsy café sludge served by pimply faced history majors (charm my ass!), and at any time of day - it just made so much sense. All those late nights with that machine, I have so many fond memories… For 6 months, that Wonderful Nescafe Machine helped me through my thesis and afterwards I acknowledged that cheap coffee, even if not good coffee, can be good for you at certain stages of your life.

It started getting really bad when I landed my first real job at an American law firm: here, everyone drank coffee all the time and I did too. I wrote about it and I cringe looking back at it - how did I let myself get so bad? I was drinking 6 or 7 cups a day, mastering how to sweet talk the receptionist who would buy my favourite coffee blend and then how to sweet talk the temperamental coffee machine that broke down less as our relationship grew stronger (as did my coffees). That year, I would always wake up far too early on Saturday mornings with piercing headaches and would only start feeling better when I would smell the aroma from the coffee machine in the flat - advantages of having a flatmate who always woke up earlier than you. I had to have it every morning, every afternoon and every late night I was working. It was a bitter sweet addiction that I don't think I ever broke.

There are so many places that stay close to my heart that I associate with coffee and friends and good times. There was the Café Nero on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Tottenham Street, next to the little square with the giant mural (our Café Nero) where we spent most afternoons during law school in its smokey basement (pre-smoking ban days) moaning over our assignments and how we were never going to get jobs. There was the sweet Fitzrovia Café where a cup of coffee and a croissant was one quid in the mornings before 9 a.m.: the beauty of it was that it wasn't just a cheap coffee, the beauty of it was that I was lucky enough to catch the early morning brew before it turned into its usual Charlotte Street £3 a cup, which made it taste so much better (and the croissants weren't so bad either).

When I started my current job, I remember walking through the large glass building and trying not to squeal at the coffee shop in the entrance - subsidized corporate coffee, that's when you know you've made it. I would walk through the security gates and get my usual morning latte (extra shot, skinny, extra hot, wet - I'd sprinkle the vanilla powder on top myself), getting my little courtesy card stamped (your 10th coffee was free) and nodding to the regulars at the counter. Getting into the lift you'd see at least three other people holding the same coffee cups and you would feel like a part of a team - a tough corporate busting team. I would curse when the shutters of the little caffeine cubicle would come down at 6 p.m. because I know I would then have to resort to the vending machines in the kitchenettes, making sure not to confuse the caffeinated with the decaffeinated machines at 2 a.m. and other such possible disasters. When times were tough coffee was my friend, it kept me warm on those long, cold, lonely nights.

My friends laugh when we meet up for a coffee and I start reciting my anal orders - hey, I'm paying for all these choices they're offering, just let me be. I am marrying a man who is the exact opposite, who doesn't drink any hot drinks (unless you count soup as a drink - or do you slurp soup?) but tries to understand my need for caffeine speed. He humours me when I start flagging in the afternoon and start whimpering "I just need it..." I like my coffee extra hot, if it gets warm then I have to stop drinking it, which means that long meetings at work would leave me with a corner of my desk taken over by half filled cold coffee mugs. I like milky coffee but I hate foam, I like flavoured coffees but only if it's a hint and not too sweet. I only put sugar if I need it but I prefer without. I fold in my cappuccinos and don't touch my Turkish. I have a certain way of having coffee and I love the way I have it.

A very special mention goes to New York Coffee on Government Avenue, not only brews the nicest coffee around, but will also deliver all the way to your desk if you work nearby. They also put a piece of sticky tape on the mouth hole of the plastic cover, so no germs contaminate your coffee and no heat escapes while they walk over to bring it to you… Good fellas, you guys are good fellas…


Baroque said...

i feel like i just read a whole "love story" dedicated to coffee, i loved it!

i feel like i was with u sipping those cups throughout those years.

latte lover extraordinaire talking xx

bint battuta said...

Great post! And you're right, New York Coffee is the best around.(And it looks like they're opening a branch in Adliya.)

Seroo said...

Baroque - tip of the iceberg, it's the tip of the iceberg.... if I could only explain how much I love chai 7aleeb then you'd realise how much I love my caffeine...

BB - NY Coffee is popping up everywhere, I saw the Adliya site, as well as another one somewhere completely random... have you seen it? For the life of me now I can't remember where it is and it's driving me nuts! Perhaps Hamala?

Astrid said...

My mom loves coffee too... I have gifted a nice coffee maker to her from AJ Madison.

Mo said...

This post is making me jealous of coffee. If you carry on at this rate, you might have to choose between the two of us.

Something tells me I might not win that particular tussle.

Seroo said...

Mo - I'd pick you over coffee anyday, but you'll have to tussle it out with homemade cake to win my real affection... ooooooh...

Evil Odd said...

My rules are (not that anyone asked!):

- 1 coffee per day
- must be taken between 10:30 and 11:00
- time to complete consumption is usually 30 minutes. The last sip is quite cold.
- Must be soy. I recently found out I'm lactose intolerant.

By the way, where on earth have you been?!

Seroo said...

Evil, I'm at home in the village. See you in April?

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