Ah coffee, that aromatic hallowed bean originating centuries ago in Ethiopia. Traders carried their offering throughout the Arab Nations before European colonisers scooped in and sailed the desirable crop on to Martinique and Saint-Domingue in the Caribbean. Historically and abhorrently cultivated in the sweat of slaves and indentured servants, it now proudly enjoys great popularity spruiking labels such as organic and fair trade. An acquired taste it may be, but to drink it is to stake a claim to deep cultural and social belonging in so many countries all over the world.
With these thoughts in mind I finally decided to take the plunge just last week, determinedly ordering a mochaccino from a well-known franchise and sitting down with my wary husband to try and drink it. This particular beverage is the gateway into an addiction I desperately want and have thus far being unable to accommodate.
There is something so isolating in confessing that no, I don’t want to meet up for coffee because it tastes disgusting. For goodness sake, one of my workmates has the periodic element for caffeine tattooed on her foot, while another has a coffee pot emblazoned on her wrist, such is their shared dedication to the sacred shrub. They credit their reliance as being the most single most important factor for surviving their first years of high school teaching. A love for the liquid is discussed daily in ecstatic tones around our staff lunchroom. And damn it all, I want in.
Back in my catering days while studying at university, the smell of coffee used to create a visceral negative response in me, but as I’ve gotten older I have actually developed a deep appreciation for the aroma and willingly fill my lungs every time I enter a café. But unfortunately that is as far as I have been able to progress. Perhaps this is unsurprising for a woman who only began drinking tea at the ripe age of twenty four, after the birth of my daughter. Due to the frustration of visiting other mothers’ homes and being offered the usual two choices, but feeling sheepish asking for milo, I made a concerted effort to tolerate tea. After all, made weak its barely coloured water. Now I love the stuff and drink a couple of fairly strong brews a day. This success was a coming of age moment and I am now relieved to be able to respond like an adult in social contexts (never mind the baby making which led to this conundrum in the first place). But still, the fact that all options are still not available is a source of frustration.
So now at 38 I thought now was finally the time to face café au lait. Sadly the attempt has proven futile. Each sip of that moccachino, heavily laced with sugar, was taken under duress. The familiar, loving overtones of chocolate were cancelled out by the bitterness of the bean. I thought if I kept trying it might get better, an exposure therapy, but the aftertaste lingered longer each time with an unpleasant accumulating effect. After the fourth try I gave up entirely, having at least suctioned off the pretty froth, and handed it over to my husband to finish, purposely ignoring the smug expression on his face. Don’t get me wrong, he’s usually very supportive of my many endeavours, but every man does have a limit, and after twenty odd years in the workforce fulltime he has procured a healthy dose of scepticism and annoyingly, a raging coffee addiction.
Where is the fairness? Surely what’s good for the gander should be fine for the goose? Upon consuming the dregs of my drink he said he could hardly taste the coffee for the chocolate. I refuted, saying I really couldn’t taste the chocolate for the coffee. Such is the dilemma of the mochaccino right there. Perhaps I should have boldly gone straight for a flat white instead. I would like to say go cold turkey, but there are already far too many bird analogies in this paragraph as it is and the choice seemed too extreme.
Maybe I am going about this induction the wrong way, or is it time to find some acceptance on the matter? On the plus side I’m not adding to the enormous pile of take away cups cluttering up landfill. Nor am I adding any more jitteriness to my already flighty nervous system. There will always be a satisfying friend in chocolate and tea. And of course there are many worse things in life than being left out of the Arabica clique. But still, at least allow me a moment to acknowledge that it’s not easy being an island among the swirl of enthusiastic coffee consumers in this society.