Posted by: J M | August 29, 2010

C is for coffee

Some people take coffee very seriously. ‘I need my coffee fix’ is a phrase I often hear, along with the terms ‘caffeine injection’ and ‘espresso boost’. I have always been slightly suspicious of people who can’t function without throwing a hot beverage down their throat. If you need to obtain your get up and go from a steaming hot Americano, what does that really say about you? Caffeine addiction is almost the slightly less strung-out and fucked-up cousin of crack addiction, isn’t it? And only just easier to manage.

I gave up caffeine about 9 years ago. I had bad skin at the time and was told ditching caffeine would help. It didn’t work miracles, but there’s a lot to be said for removing stimulants from your life. Around a year or so after, nicotine got the boot as well and I have to say that for a few years, I certainly slept better.

Living in London, I am exposed daily to a huge amount of coffee-based snobbery. Where you get your coffee says as much about you in London as your postcode, or car, or the label in the back of your jacket. I am told by coffee enthusiasts that by dropping into Starbucks every now and again, I am missing out on a true coffee experience. ‘How can you drink that stuff?’ is the incredulous cry from these coffee aficionados. ‘It tastes like shit; it’s not proper coffee.’ My view has always been that if someone has to grind some beans to make my latte (another coffee variation that gets a snort of derision) then it’s ‘proper’. But no, the coffee mafia would have me believe differently.

Proper coffee dens are on the increase in London. From Flat White to Monmouth to — oh I can’t even remember, there are hundreds — everybody is striving to be the next ultimate coffee champion. If you don’t drink coffee from one of these hallowed places, you’re not doing it right. There are whole books devoted to finding the perfect cup of coffee in London. Anyone who’s ever gripped an espresso cup seems to have an opinion on what coffee we should be drinking and how we should be drinking it.

But here’s the thing. A long time ago, I gave up doing things simply because a style magazine or a crashing bore of a know-it-all told me it’s what I should be doing. What if that’s not what I *like* doing? Until relatively recently, I didn’t even like the taste of coffee that much. The whole cappuccino fad completely passed me by, and I didn’t like the semi-crazed feeling I used to have after drinking one. All the so-called real coffees I’ve sampled taste like the burning embers of an orphanage or old ashtrays. A decaf latte from Starbucks every now and again tastes nice. I like it. I’d rather boil my own head in the bladder of a horse with a severe yeast infection than spend any more than five minutes actually drinking in a Starbucks, yet I see nothing wrong with going there if I like it.

There is, of course, another side to this. That the globalisation of our high streets is pushing out independent businesses and traditional retailers is very sad, but times do change and businesses can’t be expected to last for ever. Evolve or die is the old adage, and even Starbucks can’t rest on its laurels; they’re having to introduce new styles of store after customers moaned that a) the decor of suicide brown and chipped tables wasn’t particularly salubrious and b) every store looking the same is kind of depressing.

So my simple message to anyone who slates my choice of coffee or the way I drink it: go buy your own then, before you wear mine.



  1. I’m sipping coffee as I read this, and after a long radio silence, I’m announcing my return after reading your comment on my blog 🙂

  2. and here i thought the Brits were all about their tea!!

    i drink tea myself so coffee has never been a huge thing for me!

    we have a local chain here called JJ Bean. They sell coffee by the pound so if you want to really show off, let me know and I’ll send you a package!

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