In search of perfection

espresso cup

Last week my routine mid-morning espresso break was disrupted. The café’s coffee machine was out of commission for three days. Undaunted, I visited several of the alternative cafés in the neighbourhood. The results ranged from disgusting to disappointing with nothing approaching the high standard of my regular haunt.

This poor standard in catering is pervasive. Do the people who run these places no longer care about quality, or do they assume all is well because no-one complains? I admit I didn’t complain about my poor espressos, but then I knew normal service would resume shortly at my local.

How could you serve a coffee that tasted like it had been made with Camp Coffee, the stuff that came in a bottle and you should only use for cake flavouring? It’s the bitterness without the flavour that I object to. That can be masked if you drown your coffee with milk, but I am a purist and like my coffee unadulterated.

The curious thing is that there is plenty of competition. Loads of new cafés have opened in Belfast. Starbucks, Nero and Clements are all over the place, but there are plenty of independent establishments.

My joy at finding somewhere that really cares about the essential ingredient in all their lattes, cappuccinos and all the fancy frothy concoctions that mask the true flavour of coffee is not to be exaggerated, but does turn me from a curmudgeon into something more avuncular.

Delayed gratification works for me. I start the day with some subtle tea as a prelude to the real kick. Earl Grey or Jasmine perk up the taste buds and cleanse the palate. Then after a blissful wait of an hour or so, I am ready for the aesthetic awakening of rich, dark coffee poured into my little black cup, with a ceramic whiteness on the inside that cleans surprisingly easily. A mysterious blend of dark, roast coffee gives off a sublime aroma. With olfactory senses aroused I sip that first taste of morning delight.

Normal service or coffee perfection has resumed. I’m off for a double.


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