was once upon a time
plain and simple, unadulterated; slurp up and move on. Your choice: “Black or white, Sir?” and that was the end of it.
is almost an art form. Heck, even pretentious—”An unassuming little aroma, with hints of foxiness and subtle undertones of dead rabbit.”
Yeah, right …
in New Zealand the average kiwi peon knew coffee only as either a brown powder you threw into boiling water or a treacley syrup from a heat-proof glass carafe festering for hours on a hot element.
a ‘coffee lounge culture’. The pubs and bars tossed all the drunks out onto the streets at six p.m. sharp (Monday to Saturday—Sunday was no sale of alcohol at all). Guys who finished work at five had only an hour to get legless, not for nothing was it called the “Six O’clock Swill”.
NEW ZEALAND COFFEE
was from ‘coffee lounges’—themed, many comfortable tables and chairs, dimly lit. On the counter one or several twin-element conas—if your timing was fortuitous you’d (not often) luck onto a reasonably fresh brew. Otherwise the ‘duty flask’ could be hours old and well stewed (waste not, want not).
I’D OFTEN TOLD
The Spouse about American coffee and how marvellous it is. So on our way to NY and making a leg-stretch stopover in LAX we ventured into the local Starbucks (‘This is a Starbucks? Oh, wow … I’ve read about these!’) where culture shock hit like a bomb. Completely impersonal industrial scale hustle and bustle complete with robotic counter attendants. And a vast list of offerings in a foreign language (American) which even as I cast a practised speed-reading eye over rang no bells. We were babes in the wood, straight out of Hicktown NZ without a clue and very conscious of swelling impatience in the crowds astern of us. But I couldn’t go wrong with American coffee so I took a punt “Two coffees of the day, please” …
It was a brief and painful lesson. One gulp from me and a sniff followed by a very tiny lick from she; two sets of eyes met and two hands worked in unison as our huge disposable cups where promptly disposed of in the nearest garbage receptacle. Complete with contents. Legendary Starbucks? Yuk.
to now. I’m sitting in Starbucks Invercargill with a bucket of gorgeous coffee pondering an e-mail sent by a former lady friend in which she totally disses Starbucks and the sludge they have the gall to mis-call ‘coffee’ while selling it to the undiscerning.
Are we on the same planet? Or is it perhaps something to do with location? Possibly a vintagey-type difference in the water? Or does our local franchise take liberties with the recipe—this stuff here is genuinely excellent. I shudder and put the American paint-stripper behind me, securely filed away in the memory banks under ‘nightmares’.
MY OLD DAD
had a percolator, probably one the very very few in the whole of New Zealand at the time. Only the gentry or pretentious took coffee, real people wallowed in tea. Dad’s percolator made excellent coffee, it filled the house with aroma and on occasion I was allowed a tiny cupful myself. Hooked.
MY OWN PERCOLATOR
(all electric, automatic, fire-and-forget) never makes and never made good coffee. So in the course of evolving a taste I tried conas, dribblers, filterers, drippers; nothing made coffee the way I wanted it. Almost due to give up I discovered French Press (FP).
THE FRENCH PRESS
made and still makes good (okay, acceptable) coffee. Possible the acceptablest of them all so far, short of Starbucks in town. Mind you, almost any coffee joint in town does a great brew these days but only SB sells it in buckets.
I HAVE A BIRTHDAY
coming up. Spouse has taken recently to hovering close by whenever I’m looking at things in shops (not that there’s any connection, mind). So I’ve taken to closely inspecting the Moka style of stove-top coffee makers, sighing lots, and making subtle little whimpering noises when I put them back on the shelf.
I DID CONSIDER
some of the modern monstrosities with more bells and whistles than a Twainian Mississippi steam boat; impressive but I just don’t want to have to get a boiler-operator’s ticket to make coffee any more than I want to invest a large portion of my reclining years in stripping and cleaning the brute every week or two. I don’t want machinery, I want coffee.
I looked the Moka maker up using Google. Oodles of googles came in and so far all look good—without touching one I am now an expert. Briefly I pondered the possible connection between aluminium, acids, liquids, and Alzheimer’s but even then Google anticipated and shot down any concerns. Apparently the Moka process coats everything with a coffee oil that takes care of that problem. Anyway I vaguely remember that you can’t solder aluminium and can only weld with special gases because of an all insulating oxide. Safe. As far as cleaning goes, a quick rinse after use and that’s that.
after scribbling this post and emptying my lovely bucket I’m off to do the rounds of the bazaars.
IF I FIND WHAT I WANT
I’ll then have to find some subtle way of transferring the information from my mind to that of The Spouse. It won’t be easy, Spouse is clever, as sharp as a pin and like most damsels doesn’t understand ‘subtle’. I imagine it will go—
“Birthday. Soon. Coffee pot. Moka. Harveys, Stevens, Pots-R-Us—”
“I know. Don’t fret, got you one weeks ago—”
“—before you started doing subtle.”
Watch this space …