Her warmth spreads through my fingers on a cold winter walk through the city. Her aromas grace my nostrils and lift me from my slumber, and the first kiss she plants upon my lips every morning inspires poetry and music, which lingers on my breath long after she departs. She dances with everybody, but I cannot object to her promiscuous ways, for I have fallen a long way from sanity, and I can’t help but forgive her every time we are together.
She is Colombian, or Ecuadorian, possibly even Ethiopian or Indonesian. She is dark and bitter – exotic but never elusive. I had my way with her on the kitchen table less than an hour ago, and yes, it was deeply intimate. She is, obviously, not a human, but actually coffee.
Unlike most coffee enthusiasts I know, I am not addicted to coffee, although, that said, I do not want to live in a world without it. I am very comfortable and happy to go for a week without it, but why would I? Coffee is the second most consumed liquid on the planet, straight after seme-… water, and it is an ever developing market that evolves differently in every single country. I am absolutely fascinated by her in all shapes and forms, and so here’s a quick international breakdown of my thoughts on coffee in a few different countries around the world.
New Zealand – coffee to Kiwis is like potatoes to the Irish, like Bier to the Germans, or like cocaine to the people of Miami (maybe ignore that last comment). New Zealand is a country where any weird personality is accepted (check out the Steampunk movement in Oamaru) and so we are up to our eyeballs in hipster culture, and we all know that hipsters like to wash their goatees with craft beer, avocado and coffee. New Zealand invented both instant coffee and the flat white, and planet earth, you are welcome. There are tiny independent cafes on every street corner serving every single kind of coffee in every kind of format imaginable, and if the baristas can’t make the perfect flat white the common belief is that they belong with rapists and murderers, rotting in the fires of hell. I’m pretty sure the only things that Kiwis love more than coffee are avocado and them damn fine sheep, so it goes without saying that New Zealand is a good place to consume your daily fix.
Germany – the Germans are actually one of the largest consumers of coffee in the world, ranking amazingly above the Italians but below the Americans, which, in my opinion, would be a weird international interracial multi-lingual orgy, but who am I to judge? That said, there aren’t that many Germans I would trust to make a good cup of coffee. Most espresso machines are used simply by loading the shot and turning on the water until the cup is full, which to any aspiring barista, at least from my background, is blaspheme. To the really “local” Germans, coffee is either white, black, or comes from a machine where a button is simply pushed and a “cappuccino” comes out. I will go as far to say that the Germans have really nailed black coffee, and that filter coffee and Aeropress coffee over here is really special, but anything with milk is a little soulless, and if you order a cappuccino from a German barista it will come foamed much like their tap beer – really frothy and will give you a white moustache. Kann ich bitte ein sehr stark cappuccino habe?
Italy – the Italians are often considered connoisseurs of the coffee industry, and in certain respects, that is no exaggeration. Most espresso machines come with a “made in Italy” label somewhere on them, and every moka I have ever owned also has Italian origins. They are the proud owners of the espresso shot, and also the names of most of our coffee products, from “Latte” to “Americano”. The Italians don’t really believe in takeaway coffee, and so if you are in a rush, the way to drink it is as a shot at the bar, which will either come as an “espresso” or a “macchiato” (there are others like “cortado” as well for those real coffee geeks) and you will see lines of people in the coffee shops queuing up for espresso shots which are made as if on a production belt by the poor baristas who are just consistently grinding, pushing, and squeezing out liquid all day.
America – Americans are the largest consumers of coffee in the world. They are also the inventors of Starbucks, so we should all hate them for imposing that skidmark on the underpants of coffee culture. Some Americans, like with everything else, insist their coffee is the best in the world, actually the best in the world (you’re gonna love it) but those people are the sort of people who voted for that orange abomination who shalt not be named. “Americano” is what the Italians called their weakest and most flavourless coffee because it is what the Americans wanted to drink. However, if you are willing to ignore the recommendations of all of the locals and to dig a little deeper, it is possible to find good coffee in America. Seattle, the birthplace of FUCKING Starbucks, actually homes a lot of tiny cafes which can make a latte resemblant of what you will find in New Zealand. If you’re in San Francisco, a truly fantastic city, you must absolutely visit a Philz Coffee somewhere – they have possibly 50 or 60 different roasts of coffee all ground on demand and turned into perfectly made filter coffee. If you’re in LA, you should be questioning what the fuck you’re doing there.
England – the UK seems to be on the precipice of embracing coffee culture, but the economy is holding it back. There are lots of tiny independent, locally owned cafes, but the majority of them are struggling financially to compete with all of the big chains like Cafe Nero and Starbucks which still take almost all of the potential customers. I was very lucky during my last stint in the UK to work for one of these small cafes where, not only did I have unlimited access to locally roasted, fair trade coffee, but was also encouraged to take the time to make the best coffee possible with it. Unfortunately, that coffee shop has had to close, like many others across the country, which is really quite sad. When a larger proportion of Brits start being able to tell the difference from a mass-produced Starbucks latte to a barista crafted flat white from Mettricks, the coffee culture in the UK will boom, but until that day, the corporations will win.
Ecuador – a large amount of coffee consumed all over the world is sourced from South America, and Ecuador has some of the finest coffee beans I have ever had the pleasure of gracing my pie hole with. That said, it is often difficult to find people who can make a truly good cup of coffee, or who even appreciate it. Most Ecuadorians tend to drink instant coffee with mountains of sugar, but if you’re willing to pay a little more, you can find something truly local, unique and beautiful. Like Germany, it is best to consume black coffee in Ecuador as they have possibly the best black coffee in the world, but often the baristas can’t get the milk right. If you, however, find yourself in a coffee shop called Isveglio in Quito, it will be hard to convince yourself you’re not in heaven. Pair that with some Ecuadorian chocolate, and you’ll be having worryingly sexual dreams of your experience for years to come.
Australia – the Australians can make a very good cup of coffee, they just need to stop spreading lies like, I don’t know, “we invented the flat white”. I mean yeah, just like you invented pavlova, and Russell Crowe is an Aussie (actually, you can keep him) you thieving criminal scum. YOU ARE THE REAL “POMs” and you just don’t want to admit it. Mic drop and exit, pursued by a bear.
Hong Kong – unexpectedly to me, Hong Kong has some amazing coffee, although some of the coffee shops are not built for people of my calibre and/or height. You have to be willing to venture away from the main streets, down the alleys and into the veins of the city to find something which isn’t Starbucks, but when you do, it will be worth it. A truly horrible but talented barista once told me that a coffee shop in Hong Kong invented a coffee with condensed milk and other ingredients called “The Big 5” and when she made it, it tasted amazing, but I can’t find any record of it online….
The Netherlands – I never went to a coffee shop in Amsterdam, but I suspect that most tourists don’t really go for the coffee…
Turkey – I know of at least one Turk who will read this, and I’m slightly terrified of what she might do if I offend her country, even though she isn’t much of a coffee drinker. The Turks mostly drink tea, and they do a bloody good job of it. I would even go so far to say that Turkish tea is actually better than English tea. Now Turkish coffee, as in the actual product, is horrible in my opinion, although amazingly it’s better than Greek coffee (let the food wars continue!). This is strange for westernised tongues as one also has to consume the coffee shot – yeah, that’s right, all the ground up coffee beans too. What I didn’t expect was that because Istanbul is such an international city, they are hiding a few rather beautiful angels who can texture the fuck (technical term) out of a flat white. If you find yourself craving a fix in Istanbul, check out Brew Coffeeworks or Coffeetopia, and I promise you will not be disappointed.
Obviously I haven’t been to every coffee shop in every country, but I really do promise I am working on it. My taste for coffee is just as promiscuous as coffee herself, I mean really it’s just a big slutty orgy which results in me spending too much of my spare time in the bathroom every day. Love is all about sacrifice, and if I have to spend some time locked in the toilet while she slips between another lustrous pair of lips, so be it. So be it.
– Tom @ indieroad