My Year in Coffee

coffee

Considering my interest in food (preoccupation, some might say), there will always arise the question of what I don’t like. And for a long time my answer would elicit surprise. COFFEE. I couldn’t stand it. It was the only thing I detested, the last hurdle of flavour that I’d yet to conquer; I’d sooner stuff my gullet with offal than take even a sip of a coffee. Not that I didn’t try it – I did, many times, hoping I’d find some hidden magic. I couldn’t. The taste was revolting. Of course, many people told me I would grow into it.
“Try a macchiato!” they said,
“It’s like a hot chocolate!” they said,
It doesn’t even taste like coffee!” they said.
ALL LIES. No sweetness could mask the vileness of the nasty bean. It’s why coffee ice cream or capuccino cake were firmly off-limits. Taking a chocolate from a selection box without a menu meant the risk of getting a coffee cream, like confectionary Russian roulette. (Getting it wrong was mouth death.) But believe me, this wasn’t how I wanted to live. I wanted to enjoy it all! In a world full of flavour sensations, to dislike something as vehemently as I did coffee, well… it felt like failure. Plus, there were the social elements. When people say, “let’s go for coffee”, of course this includes tea, but deep down it felt like being in a sub-class of hot beverage drinker. A pat on the head: “There, there, you get yerself a wee tea. Poor you with your unrefined palate.” Then there’s the variety. If you’re a tea drinker you get, at best, leaves in a pot. At worst, you get a bag in a cup. That’s more or less your lot, and although I explored the world of tea with as much love and loyalty as I could, celebrating independent loose leaf producers and wiling away hours in the Twinings shop, ordering tea out was limited. (The sign of a cafe that gives a damn is one that offers lemon with your earl grey. These are surprisingly rare.) Coffee, on the other hand is like a respected member’s club, with its own secret handshakes and special code. Decaf? Latte? Skinny? Roast? Drip? Espresso? Double shot? Americano? It was a fascinating world, but one that I was destined never to know.

Turns out I was wrong. Exactly one year ago, something changed. I was in Iceland, of all places, doing a food story, and the photographer was shooting early morning coffees at Reykjavik Roasters. My bleary eyes honed in on the frothy latte left there on the table. Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was because I was tired, maybe the eerie Icelandic atmosphere had an effect on me. But I had a sip. And I didn’t hate it. Panicked that this spell would wear off, I took another sip. Then another. And then another – and oh, wait, there we are. BLEEUUURGH! Yes, I still hated coffee, but for the next three months I couldn’t stop thinking about those first few illicit sips. So began my slow dalliance with coffee. Now, I love it. And a whole new world has opened up. I get to say things like “Arabica” and “ristretto” and “don’t even TALK to me until I’ve had my coffee”. Everything is a novelty and as such, I’ve continually taken pictures of my coffees, frustrating every Instagrammer who’s ever tired of seeing another arty latte shot with a Valencia filter. But it’s been fun. Here I’ve shared a few excerpts of my conversion to coffee. My caffeinated diary.

 

1_12FEB
2 Feb 2014: Reykjavik Roasters coffeehouse. The latte that changed everything.

2_29APR
29 Apr: Today, for the first time, ordered a coffee. Drank a quarter of it before my mouth cried.

3_1MAY
1 May: Colleague made me an iced coffee. Not convinced. Had to put a bucket of ice cream in it.

4_1JUNE
1 Jun: Proud kiwi moment – my first flat white. Even finished it. Getting easier.

5_3JUNE
3 Jun: Liking coffee but discovered am super sensitive to caffeine. Colleagues scared by my jitters.

6_5JUNE
5 Jun: Deadline week – offered to do the coffee run. Mine is the tiny one. Baby steps.

7_4JULY1 Jul: I LOVE ICED COFFEE. Esp this one with dark chocolate sorbet in it. (Cheating?)

8_22JULY22 Jul: Hot day. Have had two iced coffees in a row. Colleagues definitely worried.

9_25JULY
25 Jul: Easily swayed. Thinking I might have an iced coffee problem.

10_16AUG
16 Aug: Terrible cappuccino in Soho. Realised bad coffee is a new, and very real, life risk.

11_23AUG
23 Aug: Saturday latte at L’Eau a la Bouche. Look around at people and think, “I am one of you now”.

12_25AUG
25 Aug: I AM ON THE TRAIN. Grabbed my first Caffe Nero. Passionless.

13_28AUG
28 Aug: After years mooching in Borough Market, had my first Monmouth coffee. Was worth the wait.

14_29AUG
29 Aug: Coconut-oil-infused Bulletproof coffee could be my new favourite thing of all time…

21_1SEP
1 Sep: Can’t sleep at night. Someone suggested decaf. Not ready to admit defeat.

15_4SEP
4 Sep: Love Bulletproofs but the caffeine high lasts HOURS. (Plus side: getting lots done.)

16_6SEP
6 Sep: Try my first black Americano at the Finch Cafe. Had to add milk. Lots and lots of milk.

17_10SEP
10 Sep: Have my first espresso AFTER DINNER. Had to add sugar. Lots and lots of sugar.
Also: I am never sleeping again.

18_22SEP
22 Sep: First time in Italy as a coffee drinker. Belissimo latte in Tuscany. Heart the Italians.

 Coffee
25 Sep: In Florence. Iced coffee is different here. Wasn’t prepared. Sad face.

20_23Oct
23 Oct: Have given in and accepted decaf as my friend because I miss sleeping.

image9
1 Nov: Coffee at home now! Had to Google “How to make coffee in a stovetop percolator”.

image1
9 Nov: NYC bound. Paced airport looking for decent coffee place. Think have become snob.

image3
11 Nov: Tried Starbucks in NYC as I needed wifi. People drink this stuff? Had name spelled ‘Glen’.

image429 Nov: Love finding independent coffee places around London. Confess: am stuck on lattes.

image8
4 Jan 2015: Friend introduced me to filter coffee. Not just diner fodder! God. Still much to learn.

image5
28 Jan: One year on and I love coffee. Just a shame caffeine hates me.

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