From Lattes to Long Blacks

Yuki with Pokka coffee

I’m not a coffee person. But perhaps I could have been, had circumstances been different. I’m not a tea person either, in fact I’m not really a liquid person in general at all, although I am partial to milk tea (although milk makes me sick) and ice cubes.

Reading Georgie’s post on her coffee experiences yesterday made me want to reflect a bit on my own.

Growing up as a kid, we politely declined those that came up to us asking for some spare change to buy coffee. My parents always scoffed, asking why they would spend $4 for a cup of coffee when they could buy an entire jar from the supermarket for less, and have it last so much longer. I nodded, educated.

Coffee always was an ‘adult’ drink to me. Like wine and other spirits, I didn’t touch it. When I bought coffees for my Physics teacher before class, I made sure that I carefully memorised what he told me before I went, because I had never bought coffee in my life, and had no idea what ‘latte’ meant. Just that I couldn’t get it wrong.

昭和初期・カフェ少女 by 小祝井, on pixiv

My first coffee

I drank coffee for the first time late in 2010 in my first year of university. I had started my work placement a couple of months ago, and to say the least the 4 hours of sleep a night were not particularly helpful in contributing to my wakefulness during the day. Deciding coffee may help my case, I gathered my courage to visit a coffee shop for the first time.

Why did I step out to a coffee shop instead of simply making myself a mug of coffee from instant or freeze-dried coffee? Mainly because I hadn’t the foggiest idea how to do it, never having seen anyone make coffee before other than baristas with all their fancy nobs and steam. Coffee seemed to be a complex, scary world.

The first coffee shop I ever went to was Valeries at the Galeries just at the joining of Town Hall station to Queen Victoria Building, and The Galeries [sic] Victoria. I only went after consulting with a good friend (whose parents ran a coffee shop in my suburb) about which coffee to get, because I was determined that my first experience with coffee not be a bad one. She suggested the Caramel Latte.

It was bitter, but I found that I kind of liked it. Though strangely I liked it even more when it was cold than when it was hot. Either as a result of the placebo effect or the coffee actually doing the job it was advertised to, the weak latte managed to keep me awake throughout the remaining months of my internship. Although at times my mind wasn’t physically present, at least I was awake and looked like I was working!

On some occasions when I was at home, for example on weekends or when I took some leave to study for university exams, I would find myself lethargic all day. I wondered if perhaps I was addicted to coffee (even just drinking one cup a day), and made myself a cup of the freeze-dried coffee we had in our cupboard. It was interesting that it was almost tasteless — nothing like the coffee I had bought and drunk from day 1.

You can never have too much coffee

During my second internship, I tried the same trick and discovered it had absolutely no effect on me at all. While ascending into larger cups with similar effect, it was at this point that I realised that coffee really doesn’t do anything for me. I stopped drinking it to save on the costs I then used to try a breakfast method.

I mentioned it to my managers when they questioned why I didn’t take up their offer of coffee one day, and they commented ‘If it’s not working, you’re not drinking enough of it!’. Thanks, but no thanks since I’d rather not accidentally die of a heart attack.

Just in case.

At that point in my life I’d only ever tried the caramel latte, a plain latte (with much sugar) and a cappucino (also with much sugar), and never anything else because I hadn’t any idea what they were. Thanks to the power of the internet, as well as the influence of my coffee-addicted boyfriend however, I’ve learnt more about coffee in a year and a half than I have in the rest of my life.

Although I still don’t drink much coffee as it has hardly any effect on my sleep or wakefulness, a part of me still wants to emulate Ruben in his many-year-journey of cutting down on sugar and milk in his coffee until he now likes his coffee black. Just to see if I can do it.

Regardless of whether I drink it though, I think coffee-making is a mysterious and interesting skill and I’m honestly intrigued by it. Baristas all over the world have created beautiful coffee art, and one day perhaps I’ll enroll into a barista program and see if I can do the same.

Coffeehouse illust by 小祝井, on Pixiv. Not mine.