I was recently immersed in the art of making coffee at home by the excellent Cornish coffee company: Origin (who brew and source their own beans). The course was called Home Brewing and I naively thought that this would sort out my home coffee making which ranges from dark and undrinkable, to weak and undrinkable.
Instead I was taught to make coffee in three different ways, using three different types of coffee maker that I had never heard of before: the syphon (a bunsen burner with extras) an aeropress (a massive syringe that creates a vacuum) and the V60 (a cup and saucer-shaped apparatus with a hole in it) for decanting or ‘dripping’ coffee.
All three make delicious coffee – from strong espresso to a light, almost tea-like, fruity version. The knowledge and skills imparted were consummate. My only complaint? It is massively unlikely that I will ever have the time or the will to make such a coffee at home.
Why? Firstly, I’m not a man and I don’t have a beard; 2) because it’s complicated, really complicated; 3) because Cornish cafés are making some bleddy excellent coffees these days on machines that are the price of a small car. And it would be foolish to try and compete.
So what on earth happened in the space between those carefree Nescafé days and the angst-ridden, pseudo-science of today’s coffee drinking? How did we move so quickly from doily-clad tables, plastic flowers and one type of filter coffee strong enough to blow your eyebrows off to hand-chalked menus and more artisanal coffees than France or Italy have ever needed? And yes, you will be shot if you ask for a decaf tea.
Now it’s all flat white or, for the super cool and beardy, a filtered coffee that is closer to a tea and DEFINITELY not drunk with milk. Terroir is all – where the bean comes from – and to complicate a menu that is already challenging to older members of the public (my dad now begs for ‘just a coffee’ when I take him to such places), there is often a hand-chalked list of countries from where the beans have been sourced.
I enjoy a good cup of coffee but my fantasy coffee? A shot of espresso in a large cup of hot milk into which I can happily dunk a croissant and after that, many other croissants. Because of the large quantity of milk, the quality of the actual coffee is negligible – it doesn’t matter to me that it has a good crema (the golden thin layer of foam on top of a good espresso) whether it’s from Robusta or Arabica beans or even if it has been pooped out of a monkey’s bottom.
I am in awe of a good barista because I have tried it and it is very very difficult to get right. But (shh) I don’t even like coffee that much! And what about tea? When are we about to get all geeky and scientific over a cuppa? I am still waiting for the tea revolution… .