November 19th 2020
I am enjoying shots seven and eight of espresso as I type away here. Some will be aghast, wonder how I ever sleep, some brave soles may even suggest decaf and some, including for a time my doctor, will worry about my blood pressure. Worry not, I sleep well, decaf is never the answer and my blood pressure is fine, in fact, my blood pressure is better than ever. A month after an appointment where the doc told me I needed to stop drinking coffee to lower my blood pressure I went back for the results. Blood pressure lowered, job done. In a self congratulatory way my doctor took full credit until I pointed out that I hadn’t stopped drinking coffee, I had stopped drinking tea. After a quick back and forth he said
“I told you to stop drinking coffee!”
“I know you did” I replied, “but every time I made a cup of tea I only got pissed off that it wasn’t coffee!”
The doc relented, I should have asked for a letter from him to show to all those who worry about me.
I like coffee. I love coffee, I may even be in love with coffee.
I had two coffees today, take away naturally, from a new place to me called Bricks Coffee House. Here they combine great coffee with wonderful service. Great coffee will always get me back to your establishment but I also value good service. I am quick to complain but I am quicker to compliment. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay somewhere is to decline their loyalty card. I upset the guy standing two meters behind me today. While ordering his coffee he asked for a loyalty card. After being given one I was asked if I would like one as well.
‘Nope, you’ve earned my custom, I’ll be back, I don’t need the lure of a free coffee…’
I heard the guy react, I didn’t mean to offend him, I just meant what I said. I will be back, I don’t want or need a freebie to ensure my return. And if the coffee was bad I am not coming back anyway so free or not, it’s unnecessary.
I do love coffee.
For a long time my local coffee shop was owned by my good friend Ray. Once, upon returning from a trip away the barista, Laura, creator of ‘The Laura’ – A four shot latte and I am still the only one to enjoy that coffee. Anyway, Laura told me Ray had sold the coffee shop. I was gutted. When Ray got to work that day I confronted him,
“Who did you sell too? I would have bought it!”
“You would have got out of business within a fortnight! Have you seen your face when someone comes in and orders a double skinny decaf mocha?”
Of course Ray is right, if I was a coffee shop owner I’d sell coffee, just coffee, not just coffee, I would sell only the best coffee. No sugars, no decaf, no syrups. You could come in and order whatever concoction you wanted, you would be served a Macchiato.
I used to tweet about coffee shops around the world, I haven’t for years but I am starting again today, if you’re on Twitter follow @MacchiatoToGo I have had that name for most of this year and already find myself followed by three people, there will be a prize for follower number 27!
When I tweeted consistently about where to enjoy coffee around the world I was careful not to slag off any specific coffee shop. I just wouldn’t mention them. I enjoyed this job I’d given myself, I liked the reputation I had with my friends and colleagues, if they needed a decent coffee somewhere I am their first call.
I would never say that @FlatWhiteToGo, my previous coffee Twitter account had a huge number of followers, it’s just not my style or, in fact, the truth but it was fun. I had a tweet once asking how I knew where to find the good coffee in a city I’d never previously visited. It’s true, I always found the best coffee, my success rate for finding it was 92% if it was food I was seeking my success rate would drop below fifty percent.
If you’re looking for the best coffee there are signs to be aware of. Firstly, and most importantly, the letters B S T R U K C S don’t appear anywhere in the shops’ name. There will be tamping, water will be offered freely, there will also be a line of locals. The point is a great coffee needs no added extras, free wifi? Don’t care, it’s great coffee. Comfy sofa? Don’t care, it’s great coffee. For a guaranteed great coffee, it won’t even be a shop, it’ll be a kiosk, a van, some guy with a sandpit in Abu Dhabi!
Here is an example and a funny story. I was in Brisbane for a few days waiting for my next ship gig. I was staying in an area downtown I am sure was called the Embankment, something I do know for sure is the number of trendy coffee shops along the street from the hotel. After breakfast the other entertainers set off looking for a comfy sofa, in a coffee shop with free wifi. I opted to line up at the little hut across the street. As I queued the customer in front asked the barista if he sold croissants. Confidently he told his patron
“We have the best Croissants in the world.” I must have made some kind of noise and when it was my turn at the counter he asked why such a sound would emit from my mouth. I explained he didn’t have the best croissants in the world, that would be some patisserie in France, possibly Quebec. The best he could boast was ‘in Australia’, or maybe just ‘Queensland’. We became friends as I had my first and last coffee at his kiosk every day I was at the hotel. The service was brilliant, the chat was light and the coffee was great.
A year later I was again docked in Brisbane and to get to my favourite coffee place in Brisbane I had to hop on a ferry, walk past a hundred other coffee shops, cross the river, again, and wait patiently at the back of the line to order. While I waited, out of sight from the owner, someone asked if he sold muffins to which he replied.
“I have the best muffins in Queensland.”
I was beaming and showed myself.
“Hello mate, I didn’t see you there!”
If all they have is coffee, it’s going to be great coffee.
Shots of Coffee: 8
Reading: The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza, The I and Cycling Weekly
Listened to: Radio X & Al Green
YouTube Tip: Letterman Kennedy Awards.