We’re traditionally a nation of tea drinkers. There’s no doubt about that. Tea is friendly, comforting, familiar and innately British. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that we have succumbed to the allure of its sexier and cooler cousin: coffee. London as a city is quite frankly obsessed with the java juice… and so am I.
I am guessing the trend probably started way back in the early ’90s, when we were charmed by the drinking habits of Central Perk frequenters, a certain Seattle psychiatrist (of the same city which spawned the now notorious coffee chain giant) and other TV stars of that era, who sipped out of giant coffee mugs on the assumption that people no longer hanged out at bars or pubs.
Fast forward 20 years and it is nigh on impossible not to be within 10 paces of a coffee shop in London. We are definitely spoilt for choice in terms of where we can buy our daily bean, let alone what we can order. I’ve never been the fussy type who struggles to list my morning coffee requirements in one single breath. Though I must admit that London’s adoption of the flat white, especially after having become addicted to them on a trip to Oz, has been an absolute Godsend… that was until only this week I discovered that Costa have introduced my all time favourite coffee, Spanish style cortados (a creamier, slightly bigger macchiato). I literally could not contain my excitement.
There are numerous sites online dedicated to telling you what your coffee says about you; the latest one I received was a type of chart, but one quick glance and it was clearly complete nonsense. The flat white was excluded (gasp) while there was place for the mocha (i.e. coffee for frauds), which apparently, if it’s your coffee of choice, means you’re ‘fun loving and creative’. What utter tripe.
There. I have become a coffee snob. But haven’t we all?
We’ve all given into that sense of ritual and pacing down the busy street on your way to work, takeaway cup with cardboard thingy in tow; it says, ‘I am busy, I am successful and I am cool.’ That is why you’ll rarely catch a Londoner walking around with a PG Tips to go. Well, unless it’s a sugar-loaded hangover brew. Coffee is more of a luxury item alluding to a sense of status and oozing continental flair.
But for me, it’s about survival. My 10am coffee break is my daily ritual, without which I cannot exist. Even before the joe hits my lips, I am instantly more alert as the mere aroma of the beans sets my sensors off. That sudden rush of caffeine makes me feel so alive and awake that I simply cannot function without it. I did try, and I failed spectacularly… even venturing into the depths of despair, the mocha. Yes, that was a low point.
On starting my training for the marathon this year, most literature will tell you to stay clear of caffeine and, most importantly, coffee. On desperately asking an expert runner what he thought, he answered: ‘Fuck that shit. Coffee is amazing. And if your body craves it there’s no point in stopping’. I rest my case.
Image by Moyan_Brenn courtesy of Flickr