My husband has a renewed interest in coffee after buying a Breville espresso machine for our ever-decreasing bench-top space — the space which has, until now, been routinely covered in piles of junk mail, rubber-bands off the broccolini (which never do come in handy, even though you’re sure they will) and important-looking parts off things — springs, molded plastic knobs, detached switches — which will never again find their mates (even though I hope deep down they will). Those things have now found their way into a kitchen drawer.
If you’re in the habit of subscribing to RSS feeds you may have noticed the disproportionate number of news items about coffee that come through, in this age of lazy journalism. One week coffee will prevent Alzheimers. The next week it’s killing us all. The only constant is that coffee growers are not being paid properly.
Why so many news items about coffee? When I say ‘news items’ I include all those poorly lit photos of frothy coffees that come through my Facebook feed. For reasons unknown to me, some people in this world love to take a picture of their coffees before drinking them, uploading them to social media before ruining the beautifully composed silhouette of a bunny rabbit which has formed magically amidst the powdery bits of floating chocolate powder.
That’s the kinder view. My more pessimistic view is that a picture of coffee uploaded to Facebook tells the world that you do, in fact, get out of the house occasionally, and that you do, in fact, have friends to meet at coffee houses, and because those friends do not appreciate their pursed, coffee-drinking lips captured photographically, to later be uploaded and tagged for all eternity on Facebook, we take pictures of our coffees instead of our friends, out of courtesy.
A more surprising news item about coffee emerged this week from The Daily Beast: America’s 20 Most Caffeinated Cities. Before opening the slideshow we guessed the most caffeinated city correctly (can you? Hint: This place is famous for tech nerds… and tech nerds are famous for coffee consumption).
That wasn’t the surprising bit. The surprise: even in America’s most caffeinated city, average spending on coffee is $36 per month. My husband works in an office where $36 per week would be the norm. My husband’s office may be making up for some other offices around the country though, because I took the national coffee spending figures (from here) and divided that figure by Australia’s total population (here) to came up with an average national coffee expenditure of $33.94 per month for Australians. When we consider that children don’t drink coffee and nor do various other subgroups of the population, I suspect that $34-$36 per month is about what a coffee-drinking, cafe-going person would spend per week.
This is why I get sick of that marketing maxim ‘For the cost of a latte per week you could…’, assuming that all of us are buying at least one latte per week. We’re not. See Traditional Budgeting Advice: I don’t buy lattes, you condescending jerk, from Persephone Magazine.
My coffee-connoisseur-tech-nerd-husband tells me that Australia is the espresso capital of the world. This frothy excuse for a drink doesn’t exactly match our rugby loving macho international image.
I didn’t know other countries weren’t drinking espressos to the same degree. But this might explain why every cheap cafe I visited in England seemed to spell it ‘expresso’, thinking it might come out fast or something, I guess. I know nothing about coffee, but I still know not to spell espresso with an ‘x’.
I don’t actually know what an espresso is. I couldn’t define it for you, and if you gave me three coffees and asked me to point out the espresso, the flat white and the short black I would still have trouble. For all I know, some are subcategories of the others.
Speaking of total ignorance, I have no idea why I’ve never picked up certain bits of knowledge that other people seem to glean so effortlessly from the ether. Perhaps other people frequent coffee shops more frequently than I do. On the rare occasion I find myself in a coffee shop (noisy places that they always are WHEEEEEE! FFFFFFFOOOOOOOHHH! WHOSH! – my new wake up call) I tend to succumb to decision paralysis when faced with not only the choice between coffee, tea and hot chocolate but an entire PAGE of coffee variations. At that point I stab blindly at something that looks like it would have milk in it, and then when it comes, coffee is coffee, so I scull it down just like any hot beverage. (I never get my money’s worth.)
Nor do I know the first thing about wine, beer, or mixed drinks. I don’t know my gin from my whiskey. Everybody else seems to know these things, even other people who don’t drink much.
I wonder if everybody has their own area in which a category of cultural information escaped them entirely — something other people of the same breed seem to just know.
In the meantime, I’ve no intention of learning the first thing about that new coffee machine of ours. The sooner I learn, the sooner I’ll be obliged to make good coffee. I have friends coming over tomorrow and I’ve already checked that one of them knows how to make espressos. I believe she’s bringing her own flaky pastries, too*. Glory days.
* Please note that I do have friends.