I gave up coffee for two years. I had become addicted. Four cups before noon! And needed more. I didn’t want to be dependent. I wanted to be in control. I had become nasty in the morning. Inspired to hit slow waitresses. I managed to wean myself of it, rationalizing that the majority of American coffee was crap anyway: cat piss consistency and lattes with no head. Most of the city hung out in drones to receive liquid candy in a paper cup from chain store conglomerates whose “baristas” couldn’t make a real coffee to save their life. I wanted good coffee only, not pseudo espresso – Pumpkin-Chai-Mocha-Carrot-Cake Frappuccino? In whose mind is this considered a cultivated and distinguished beverage?
Give me creamy head. Thick espresso. Velvet macchiato. Aside from a couple of cafes in Brooklyn and no more than a handful in Manhattan, I figured I wouldn’t be missing out anyway. But, Oh how wrong I was! New York coffee culture was spreading faster than bedbugs in the Lower East Side. What bizarre twist of fate had me believing that I didn’t deserve morning coffee? The torture! The misguided health advice! I related to one type of person only: the type that sat for hours in cafes writing and sipping espresso. I was alone without coffee, trying to spark conversation with the world’s boring tea-drinkers and neurotic vegetable juicers. Meanwhile, java shops flourished, bustling with riveting coffee connoisseurs, reading interesting books with the help of even more interesting glasses. It was no use trying to be something I wasn’t. I was a third generation coffee enthusiast. It runs in my blood. Coffee runs in the family.
I am dominated by childhood memories of my mother and grandfather in search of cappuccino. It was our Saturday ritual. Cafes were their church and coffee their prayer. We would cruise Auckland City, on the look out for yuppies and gays reading the arts section of the paper and nursing caffè macchiato in miniature mugs. “There it is!” My sister and I would scream from the back seat of the car, having spotted the cool furniture and cool signage emblazoned with an original name, people wearing intelligent black clothes and designer sunglasses.
I was given my first cup at an Allpress Coffee opening when I was eleven years old. I remember it quite clearly. It arrived in a bowl. Aroma hanging heavy, almost visible. The milk on top thick like whipped cream, while equally as light as clouds. Froth that billowed inches deep, eventually reaching the silky elixir. A soft opening: mocha-latte. The bitterness of coffee combined with the decadence of chocolate. The first sip was like that first drag of a cigarette. Head spin. Heaven. Hooked. There was no turning back.
So I’m back on the bean. French-pressing organic Columbian brews at home. Reinvigorating my x-ray vision from childhood – scanning the streets for clusters of interesting facial hair and avant garde attire sipping demitasse. I silently rate New York’s unsuspecting baristas while evaluating their work. I’m grumpy on waking, groggy before that first hit and a slave to the joe … But at least, among other benefits, I’m back to mixing with the cultured echelon of society.