I love coffee, I love tea; I love the java jive and it loves me. The coffee, the tea, the java and me! A cup-a cup-a cup-a cup-a, coffee….”
This is a song my mom used to sing sometimes; apparently it was popular in the fifties. But it doesn’t specify what kind of coffee inspired the song, and surely this is important!
Because if I miss anything about the USA while I am traveling around – first Spain, then South America – it is the coffee. Not just the ubiquitous expensive drive-through latte stands on every corner, but the actual ability to make a decent pot of coffee for myself when I get up in the morning!
In Spain they have good coffee: strong and dark and cheap (like my last few boyfriends!) You can sit in a café and have a cortado, strong espresso with a bit of milk on top. And home coffee is normally made in one of those old-fashioned silver jobs that boils the water in the bottom chamber until it penetrates through the grounds to the top, resulting in a thick rich dark brew. But you only make a cup at a time that way. Some of my Spanish friends had the French press, which I always get wrong, I suppose, because I end up with a layer of grounds floating on top of my cup – not appealing. Yet another friend has one of those machines that brews a cup from a small tin of “starter” the size of an individual creamer. The coffee tasted okay, but I couldn’t help feel guilty about the utter waste of using one of those little tins for every cup.
My new coffee maker at home is an expensive one that grinds the beans for every pot. But as much as I fill the hopper with beans, it never makes it strong enough and I end up putting cheater ground coffee in the other part to round out the flavor. And that machine is packed up with all my stuff while I travel, anyway, a distant memory, or a sweet wish for the future. A home, a kitchen, a coffee pot.
Not that I am an addict. At Eco Yoga Park near Buenos Aires I went almost a week without coffee. On the fifth day I went into the nearby town to get some money. I stopped at a gas station café, looked around furtively, and ordered a cappuccino. It was so good that I also got an espresso shot. Afterwards, I was buzzing for hours! I started thinking about how the body gets used to the caffeine and consuming daily coffee is merely maintenance, but to go without a few days a week and then get this high….. it’s worth considering. It could be worthwhile to have the drug work when I need it to.
I could probably be fine not drinking coffee here in South America, as the coffee is dismal – it’s Nescafe instant. Powdered coffee. Yuck. I’ve reluctantly gotten used to it. There are other options, of course: you can still go into a café or restaurant and order a cortado or café con leche and it’s the real kind that comes from beans. But it’s expensive! They run at least four dollars in most places, at least in Chile or Argentina. And home coffee is almost always the dreaded Nescafe. But I just arrived in Cuzco, Peru, and I hear there is a Starbucks. Peru is much cheaper than her sisters to the south; let’s see what they charge for my caramel macchiato. (If they have it.)
At my last hostel I met some folks from Seattle, home of the first Starbucks and the city with more coffee shops per capita than anywhere else in the USA. Other cities in Washington are similar-minded when it comes to coffee. I guess the rational is, when it rains every freaking day, you have to have a pleasant diversion.
One of the Seattle men was talking about having had his rental car broken into and his bag stolen. I related the story of my wallet getting stolen in Santiago.
“He got all my money, my bank card, a credit card and my driver’s license, “ I told them. My friends looked at me, sympathetic.
But my final revelation was what made the look of horror cross their faces: “He even got ….
MY STARBUCKS GOLD CARD!”