Confessions of a coffee lover
I love coffee.
We all do - so what?
Okay, I have a confession to make. My love for coffee transcends the occasional urge for latte and cappuccino and goes into the dimension called obsession. I am a coffee-fanatic and a writer (yes, in that order), whose life's purpose is to find deliverance in a cuppa.
I have spent hours in coffee shops simply enjoying a cuppa. Or watching a coffee waltz, a distasteful yet common occurrence. Not for me this fashion of coffee-togetherness that leads to naught. I believe speaking to my coffee and to hear it respond is far more fruitful. Coffee understands. Which explains why I have successfully written four books while speaking to it in a café.
And that is only the second reason I say so.
The first reason is bizarre. Few years ago, I put my life's savings into a coffee plantation in the south of India and named it Coffee Slopes, because growing, harvesting and subsequently brewing my own coffee and drinking myself into a caffeine heaven every day for the rest of my penniless life was my end goal. I live in the hope that one day, it will be achieved. In the meantime, I continue to find comfort in coffee shops around the world whenever I have the occasion to travel, while also learning the art of roasting and brewing coffee, a task that gets harder with every attempt. But hope dies hard. That's the best thing about hope.
And a civet cat changed my perception
One thing is for certain - and I quote Clark Gable here: "I never laugh until I've had my coffee."
So, let's talk coffee. It is but a fact that without it, many of us would have trouble getting out of bed or simply being happy. But closer home, it was not a figure from history that changed my perception of fine coffee, it was a civet cat in Bali in the year 2008. And 12 years later, as I was soaking in the views of Dubai from At.Mosphere atop Burj Khalifa with a cup of Kopi Luwak steaming at my elbow, I thanked the civet cat and took tiny sips from a cup which held what the coffee-haters called cat-poop.
It was cat-poop that set the high standards of coffee for me - at least as high as the At.Mosphere and that is quite something.
Cold coffee? How disgusting!
I am in a serious relationship with The Black. In my dictionary, coffee can only have varying shades of black. That is the only exception I can make. Everything else is a mockery. But I am tolerant towards blends - although single origins are favoured. I lean towards single origins from Guatemala and Colombia. And Rwanda. And Congo.
That is my coffee.
I shudder at the word decaf and have a strong dislike for the plunger - it has to do with the temperature. I like a steam in my cup and a plunger doesn't give me that. It is the same with Drip Coffee - it is painful to watch the slow drip and knowing well the horror of sipping lukewarm coffee from the collector.
It takes away my will to live.
On a hot summer day in Dubai, you'd think I'd seek comfort in cold-coffee - but truth is far from it. Even when the outside temperature touches 50 degrees, I am the only person I know who finds solace in a steaming hot coffee to match a steaming hot day. I have made enemies of ordinary folks of coffee shops demanding "extra hot" coffee ever so often.
Do I like I my coffee with views of mountains, grappling with gorillas in Congo, or in a hammock by the sea? Do I care that the cafe isn't decorated with Persian carpets or fancy leather sofas? Not in the least.
I like my coffee with only one view - of the cup spewing steam. But I said that already. As a traveller, I have had the chance to enjoy the brew in different parts of the coffee- growing world - meaning, I've literally enjoyed coffee at source - including Papua New Guinea and I can assure you no café in Port Moresby had any view to speak. You get my point.
Blistered fingers tell the tale of good coffee
The Arabs got to the coffee first about 1,200 years ahead of the Westerners. But the first wave of coffee hit the western world only in the early 1900s when brands like Nescafe put coffee on our tables; the "second wave" came when Starbucks and such like made it fashionable.
But today, with the Third Wave, we have finally realised that coffee isn't just coffee. Coffee is the result of patient planters and thousands of coffee pickers with blistered fingers. I have some experience with this - remember Coffee Slopes? Yes, that one. The handpicking process is not to be laughed at. I refuse to bring automation into the picture because a machine cannot tell the difference between green beans, unripe beans or overripe beans. But a human being can, and the blistered fingers of coffee pickers is the evidence.
And that is why and how the best of coffee makes its way to your cup, thousands of miles away. Sadly, nothing can rescue even the finest coffee on earth if the roast is dreadful, if it has been stored thoughtlessly or if the barista simply dumps boiling water over the grounds, which is roughly what my coffee-making experience is about.
Coffee is a sensitive crop - like an artist. But when I am conversing with my coffee, I am, in reality, kissing every hand that was instrumental in filling my cup.
Well, at least three hundred hands.