Friday, September 12, 2008

Coffee

There was a lot of coffee drunk in the prefects' room in my final year of high school. That was the year we studied T S Eliot. There is a line from "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" -
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons
that is forever linked in my memory with that year.

I had been a slow starter when it came to coffee. It was only as a teenager, when I started going to "socials" that I realised that most of my contemporaries were drinking beverages other than milk and cordial. I was at a Presbyterian Bible Class social, and was asked whether I would like tea? - No thanks. - Coffee then? - No thanks - leading my friend Fiona to ask me "What are you, a Mormon or something?"

I figured that for the sake of my social life, I would need to learn to drink something. I settled on coffee. Our Bible Class ran a baysitting service, and I was going out on evening babysitting jobs from the age of about twelve or thirteen (difficult to imagine now, despite the Babysitters Club books that my daughters used to read). There was always a tray of supper left out for the babysitter - the makings of tea and coffee, along with biscuits or cakes. It was a perfect time to practice my coffee drinking skills, with no one to see if I tipped half of it down the sink. Gradually I learned to tolerate the bitter taste, always with plenty of milk and sugar. (Years later when dieting, I managed to abandon the sugar habit).

In post war Wellington, European migrants were bringing new tastes and culture. It was the era of the coffee bar. Not that I dated much. But the standard date was to go to the movies, and afterwards to go to a coffee bar, usually the "Chez Paree". Entrance was through a cave-like passage. I remember a dimly-lit, smoke-filled room. Red gingham checked tablecloths. Candles in Chianti bottles. A folk singer on acoustic guitar. The coffee was strong Cona coffee, bubbling away in glass jugs. It was too strong for my taste. I can't remember what I drank there instead, but I think it may have been a "spider" - rather like an ice cream soda, made with a tall glass of Fanta (bright orange soft drink) or Coca Cola, with a scoop of ice cream, cream and chocolate sprinkles.

I went to university, got married, raised a tribe of children. Some time when I wasn't looking, the coffee bars faded away. And then sometime when I wasn't looking, cafes arrived with their new coffee culture. I still drink my coffee as I have always done - instant coffee, lots of milk, no sugar. I'm confused by all the cappucinos, moccachinos, macchiatos, espressos. As far as I can tell, the nearest thing to "coffee with milk and no sugar" is a flat white, so that's what I usually order. Unless I have hot chocolate.

So I was rather surprised to see on Mark Sarvas's blog that he hadn't encountered a flat white before coming to Australia and New Zealand. And that he seems to think it is something quite special.

More musings on coffee over at Sunday Scribblings.

For more on the post war coffee bar scene in Wellington, click here.

17 comments:

Rinkly Rimes said...

I meant to write something about your Coffee offering, but I was so taken with your description of yourself not being able to catch a ball that I was mesmerised! Were you like me and always chosen last for the team?

Steve said...

Come now?
You city doesnt have a cafe' layout

Try a latte can be good... double strength .......blow ya mind with the right grains of coffee!

Preethi said...

Ooh.. Sunday Scribblings has given us such a tantalizing topic this week.. I love my coffee with loads of milk and sugar too.. Coffee Bar sounds very interesting.. now the Cafes at every corner have me stopping a dozen times every road trip!!

Coffee

Lela B. said...

I did not know the brand was Cona thanks. I like all the foams and creams myself makes a great cup a jo into a Rolls Royce ride. The little things in life. Precious you are. :)

Kay said...

I can identify with so much of this - it's a geberational thing, dare I say? Oh dear ... but I am right into the cafe culture now - altho' I do pull back when I feel myself becoming a little too pluty!!! (Or is that plooty?)

susan said...

Really like the quote. And I like your writing style. Enjoyed your post.

linda may said...

G'Day Neighbor,
I don't remember seeing you in here before. I too got wrapped up in your profile description of yourself. I liked that. Could it be we are standing on our heads because we are in the southern hemisphere? Or is that just what the people in the northern hemisphere would like us to believe.He he.
All trans Tasman rivalry aside - Keep up the good work.

B. Roan said...

I'm with you on all the names. If it isnt a latte, I'm not sure what it is. Very enjoyable post. BJ

Marty E. said...

nice reflection...

Playitsam said...

Enjoyed your post except....
Instant coffee?
That is just not coffee. Sorry. :)

tumblewords said...

I enjoyed your post! I, too, have a problem figuring out what to order when faced with the options but I'll have to say instant coffee only works when all else has failed. Grin. Nice post!

linda may said...

G'Day again,
Thanks for visiting me. You wrote your grandma used to make floral cups and sauces. As a hobby potter my mind went, OOH! Tell me more.

GreenishLady said...

Flat white... never heard the term before, but think it might be what I needed to know! Thanks. I enjoyed this visit a lot!

neilina said...

I am also confused when it comes to choose among cappucions, moccachinos, espressos. I love to drink coffee with milk. And once I ordered espresso not knowing it would come without milk. It was hell to drink that bitter one!

I enjoyed coming here. It was nice to go through your writing.

Patois said...

Oh, good, I've learned my one new thing today: flat white.

susan said...

Have you posted a poem, short shorty, essay or some visual art that just didn't get the love you'd hoped? We share our work and hope others enjoy it. Online, comments let us know our work has been read and appreciated.

To celebrate older posts that got zero or few comments, leave a link at Little Lovin’ Mondays, hosted by Susan at Black-eyed Susan’s. And to show even greater appreciation for your fellow bloggers, how about commenting to a new piece while you there.

TD said...

I am so confused when it comes to coffee. All those terms. And then the endless combinations and permutations. Drives me bonkers. And I'm in Seattle to boot where Starbucks reigns supreme. Oy!

I liked the post.