Toay I awoke in my usual way, wondering where the hell I was and what time it was and whether I could get out from under my heated blanket without freezing; looking forward to my first cup of coffee. I checked the phone. 7:00. Two hours until Doyle comes to work on the nav station/galley remodel. I check Facebook. Behold!! Paul Bryan over at Lat43 has posted one of his famous ‘Morning Tea’ posts! Excellent! Those are my favorite posts of his. He rambles on a bit with all the stream of consciousness thoughts that kind of move in and out of his head organically. Those posts make me laugh out loud and want to meet him and Deb in a nice anchorage sometime. This morning’s post was great.
I was having some good chuckles over my eggs until he started dissing on my coffee. And now I am compelled to respond. Some people are religious about religion, some people will argue about anchors or whether to solder or not to solder electrical contacts on a boat. I can take a lot of crap, but when people start putting my coffee down, well I have to draw the line somewhere. I can no longer be politically correct about coffee choices. Here’s what he said, and I quote verbatim:
“Yes, I said I was drinking instant coffee. How low I can go?”
I almost snorted my Nescafe right there.
You’ll need a bit of history to understand what has led me to my position on this topic today, as I sit here with my steaming cup.
My history with coffee is a straight line trajectory to full blown addiction. I started drinking it for the same reasons many start smoking: To fit in. I was the new therapist on the block. I was young. I was not yet hip to the jive of the clinic where I worked. Everyone else looked jaded and world-weary. They all knew the secret handshake. I was the young, fresh, hungry outsider. All the other therapists stood around drinking coffee during the weekly stafff meetings. What else could I do?
My choice made, I went over to the coffee urn and filled a cup with the dark, acrid, smokey liquid, added some non-food creamer and a packet of chemicals. I took my first sip. The watchful room went silent. There was a brief but profound intake of breath; a meeting of eyes. I smiled, acted natural-ish, and said, ‘AH! Deliciousl Nothing like a little mid-morning pick-me-up!”. Smiles, nods and exhales later, I was one of them. My career was off to a great start.
Surreptitiously, I poured the rest of the nasty stuff down the drain in the bathroom during a sneaky break. I return, empty cup in hand. “Can I refill that cup for you, Melissa?”. “Oh, no thanks, Bill. You know, I have to limit myself to one cup. Otherwise I can get those ADHD symptoms!”. Smiles and nods and understanding chuckling all around. This was going to be so easy.
That afternoon, I noticed I was a little more on top of my game than usual, considering I had already seen 5 people that day. Hmm. Maybe there was something to this coffee thing.
Time moved on, as time is apt to do. I was a fair weather coffee drinker at work. Then came the second child in our lives. Mornings got to be more complex. Kids started school at two different times. They both needed to be driven to schools in way different parts of town. I look back on those days and wonder how I ever found the energy to do that five days a week. Oh, right. Mother’s little helper. Those were the days of the programmable coffee pot; ready when I stumbled out of bed to rouse the troops.
As time went on I discovered Starbucks. We live in the Pacific Northwest. Is there anyone who hasn’t discovered Starbucks? I think Starbucks is the equivalent to the old Coca Cola that had real coca to give you that special little lift. Their coffee has real caffeine. The real deal. I began to look forward to my trips to the coffee shop more than is natural. I learned how to go into Starbucks and order coffee, which, if you haven’t ever been in a Starbucks (REALLY? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?) is not as easy as it sounds. There are lots of words you have to know. Like the difference between a latte and a cappucino. And whether you want ‘skinny or full’, ‘whip or nowhip’. And there is the grammar of ordering as well. You need to describe your desired beverage qualities in a certain order. If you say ‘skinny nowhip mocha with one pump’ you are going to look like the rube from out of town that you probably are. It’s ‘one pump nowhip skinny mocha’, you fool. Get it right.
Then I made my first trip to Scotland to visit Claire. We were stuck in the lovely little Uig Hotel in Uig on the west coast, waiting for weather to abate to catch a ferry to the Isle of Lewis. (Note: weather on the west coast of Scotland in mid March never actually ABATES, as it were.) Claire slept in and I wandered to the hotel dining room for a cup of coffee and breakfast. When I saw the size of what the Scots consider a ‘cup’ of coffee, I upgraded to an entire pot. I mean, why should I make the delightful waitress serve my table over and over, even though she offers a bottomless cup? When I can already see the bottom of the cup before drinking, it’s too small. Everything is bigger in America. Even the coffee. The waitress checked herself before she could question me about needing a full pot when I was clearly dining alone, although she did seem confused. Flinging sidelong glances my way, she brought me my full pot and I began what was destined to be a life long love affair.
After the second cup I gestured to the waitress. “What kind of coffee is this? It’s really delicious. I’d like to purchase some to take home.”. She made that dismissive sound Scots make when you’ve asked a question that has an obvious answer. “Ach, it’s just Nescafe.”. “Nescafe?”, I said, still not really understanding, and it wasn’t her heavy accent that had me confused. “Did you say Nescafe? Isn’t that instant coffee?”. “Oh, aye.” (Or something on that order.) She was too polite to add, ‘Ye daft American. What else would it be?”
Stunned. That’s what I was. Just stunned. I poured a third cup, added a splash of cream from the sweet little cream pitcher, and a naughty pinch of real sugar. I sipped it slowly, savoring the flavor, rolling it around my tongue; feeling the ground under me give way. My world was rocking. Instant. Not brewed. I’ll never forget the revelation.
I reflected back on the time Andrew traveled to Turkey with a friend who had family there. She was instructed to bring a suitcase full of Nescafe because it was so much cheaper here. At the time, I laughed at this. Silly woman. Now who is stockpiling Nescafe? Now who has a special cabinet on the boat just for those big things of Nescafe, which, by the way, are carried by COSTCO! I mean, if Costco sells it, then many, many people buy it. So there, Mr. Lat43 with your instant coffee dissing. Take that!
I’ve been drinking Nescafe ever since. I’ll still drink whatever coffee is offered (Except Farmers. It’s awful.) I mean, I’m not a TOTAL coffee snob. (Yes, I am.) But at home, I’m a Nescafe convert and let me tell you my other little secret: it makes a damn fine latte-ish beverage when combined with my fabulous little milk frother, which I will use with an inverter when at anchor even if I have to turn every single other thing off to do it. Just buy this model. Don’t even bother trying to look at others. I’ve already done that and wasted money for you. And compared to the cost of a real espresso machine, or buying lattes at Starbucks, $40.00 is dirt cheap.
Be ready my Lat43 friend. Should we meet at a lovely anchorage somewhere in the future, I’ll be serving you Nescafe. Or beer.