27 February, 2013
Why do I like coffee?
The sad truth is likely because I once thought it was cool. I suspect this is why many smokers started smoking. Someone they liked or respected or just plain aspired to smoked, so they adopted that as a thing to define them. Because yes, I like the fact that I like coffee. I like the fact that I’m a little bit fussy about coffee almost as much as I like drinking coffee.
Oddly, perhaps, I’m not actually that nerdy about coffee. I feel like I should be. I feel like I should own a decent grinder (I’ve got a shitty Krups thing which serves, and which I don’t actually feel any ire towards, but I know that anyone who does know their coffee would look down on it, so I call it “shitty”), I should care about weighing out the beans and the water, I should have a thermometer and a timer, I should frankly give a shit about the brew and all that stuff.
But I don’t. I’ve got the aforementioned grinder, an AeroPress, and some nice coffee I get from Project Coffee in Bruntsfield. It’s called Red Brick, and the main reason I like it is that even my slap-dash, shotgun approach to brewing can’t disguise the fact that it’s pretty tasty. Even once I’ve mauled the beans into some form of powder before drowning too many of the poor things in too much scalding water for too long, I still end up with a decent cup.
If I really want a decent coffee, I go out. I’ve outsourced my weaknesses. I trundle myself along to Loudons, say, order myself a macchiato (the king of coffees. No, you’re wrong, fuck you) and thoroughly enjoy drinking it. As I’m doing right now, in fact.
So creamy, a little bit of charcoal at the back of the palate, which some might sneer at, but the whisky drinker in me appreciates as a nice bit of character. The milk helps take the edge off the rich roasted espresso (I’ve tried the espressos from these places, and can enjoy them intellectually while being unable to finish them), and the whole package slips down like a toboggan on a fresh piste.
But then I start to feel sad. Someone crafted this for me, and knowing the various baristas who work here, I know that it’s not just the tools that lead to this fine drink. Each barista has his or her own unique result. All are excellent, all are slightly different. The slightly smoked variation I have now comes from one guy here, and one alone. One of the girls produces slightly more treacly espresso, with no charcoal, but a definite rich syrup at the back of the mouthful. There’s another guy whose espressos are simply faultless: technically perfect, like listening to Yngwe Malmsteen or Joe Satriani play. But unlike listening to those technicians, this guy adds character with the milk. Just enough of the espresso seeps into it to keep things interesting, while leaving the palate clean and hungry after each sip.
And that’s why I feel sad. These people care about this coffee, they care about the making of it, the process, the underlying reasons why a coffee can be great.
Me? I’m just a tourist, or if I’m feeling good about myself, perhaps a tour guide. I don’t have the dedication and determination to go native.