COFFEE

was once upon a time

exactly that,

COFFEE

.

plain and simple, unadulterated; slurp up and move on. Your choice: “Black or white, Sir?” and that was the end of it.

NOWADAYS COFFEE

is almost an art form. Heck, even pretentious—”An unassuming little aroma, with hints of foxiness and subtle undertones of dead rabbit.”

Yeah, right …

DECADES BACK

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.

IT WAS

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” …

plonk       plonk

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.

FLASH FORWARD

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.

WHOA~!

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.

A 'moka'. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
A ‘moka’. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

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.

SO TODAY

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—

“Hey, you!”

“Eek! What—?”

“Birthday. Soon. Coffee pot. Moka. Harveys, Stevens, Pots-R-Us—”

“I know. Don’t fret, got you one weeks ago—”

“Oink?”

“—before you started doing subtle.”

Watch this space …

.

CARPE DIEM

.

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6 thoughts on “COFFEE

  1. Happy upcoming birthday to you my coffee loving friend. Don’t knock the good old fashioned stove-top coffee pots, they are worth their weight in gold (which is still a fair bit). I have several of varying sizes, and one that I use religiously. Does a big mug of coffee very nicely. Watch that Sage of yours though, maybe you can get him to tell the Spouse to get you the Moka…?

    1. Thank you for that. (I’ve often wondered, we celebrate advancing antiquity? Or is it celebrating that we got as far as we did …)

      Hah! The old opportunistic old sod would tell her I wanted two, and the biggest on the market, and a whole sackful of freshly roasted beans …

      1. You’re welcome.
        Getting as far as I have, still twitching, is something to celebrate I can tell you! Birthdays are an excuse to treat yourself, because god knows the older you get people around you seem to develop amnesia when it comes to celebrating your existence. I had a birthday recently too, though I didn’t get a coffee pot, or a sackful of roasted beans. There is something truly wonderful about grinding coffee beans in a little whizzy gizmo, not to mention the aroma… it would have your Sage salivating all over his pipe!
        I hope you get your coffee pot and your beans, and that you celebrate well… I shall be doing so for myself Venice, perhaps rather belatedly, but it’s the thought that counts right?

      2. I picked up a grinder a fair while back in a garage sale. Cost all of two bucks (about a quid) and it’s absolutely brilliant. There’s something special about a handraulic grinder (no motor, just a wee handle) that makes the whole thing a sort of zen experience.

        Venice … wow~! Enjoy!!

      3. I have manual grinders too, but they get used for crushing spices… just takes too long to grind a decent amount of coffee with one of those, takes the magic out of wanting a coffee [grinning]. Whizzy machine is good. I’m guessing you are a lot more patient than me.

        Yes I love Venice, I think it’s the close proximity to water and boats that makes me feel right at home. It’s a beautiful place, and I am deeply in love with it. I can’t wait to return, this time a little longer than the last, and definitely much better health wise this time around. Another opportunity to take lots of photos too. I shall enjoy most definitely.

  2. Hey guys, i’m a bit of a coffee drinks enthusiast. So, I personally had been looking over this short article and truly cherished it. It has got a handful of really excellent tips that I can process. I have got to bring up, I have ended up lonesome lately as my brother no longer is with me. Surfing the net provides me with a little bit of piece of mind . I would choose to say thanks to you just for this outstanding www posting which will helps to circulate the message regarding coffee drinks even more! I actually was wondering if you currently have an e-mail subscriber list so I could always keep up-dated here.

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