If you happen upon a cup of coffee perched, pretty much anywhere, unloved and slowly cooling there’s a reasonable chance it’s one of mine. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve bought a cappuccino from a coffee shop – chain or otherwise – and walked on about my business only to find that the first sip is so scorching and vile that I want nothing more than to go back and dump it on the head of the idiot that made it. Instead I leave it on a convenient flat surface. Sorry.
The last was at a motorway services on the M40 where I paid the princely sum of £2.70 for a lovingly made cappuccino. They had clearly taken the trouble of drawing the water fresh from a puddle in the car park, using coffee that had been weed on by cats and then drowning it in milk carefully heated to 250 degrees centigrade in a special pressure-sealed unit to guarantee the most scorched and rank taste imaginable.
And before you say “well, it was a motorway services, what do you expect?” can you please just go for a drive on the motorway in Europe. Anywhere in Europe. Any-bloody-where. And stop at a motorway services for a coffee. It will NOT taste like a tramp tried to drink it first and then spat it back in the cup. I guarantee.
And before you call me a coffee snob, I’m not. I know scarcely anything about coffee, I wouldn’t know a “god shot” if it danced before me in a neon tutu. I’m happy at home with my cafetiere and my bag of Cafe Direct. Heck, I’m perfectly happy with the cappuccino made down the road by the lad at Costa.
Of course, when I happen to be in London and stop for a blissful coffee at Fernandez & Wells my eyes do go a funny colour and I get a smile on my face that doesn’t go away for an hour. But my point is: I don’t need that every day. If I need a coffee on my way to a meeting, I just want it to taste okay, thanks. Primarily I want to be able to taste some f*cking coffee in it and not have to worry about second-degree burns to my tongue.
Is that really too much to ask? Apparently so.
Why is it that wherever I go in Europe I can be served decent coffee by spotty kids, wobbly grannies and cheeful immigrants from strange corners of the globe? Do they have special coffee academies across Europe and a rigorous licensing scheme to ensure that nobody can sell you a cup without proper qualifications? Or do the majority of Brits actually like the taste of boiled milk with a hint of old dishwater and I’m in a quirky minority who prefer the stuff that the rest of Europe (and Australasia) gets?
Or is it, more likely, that the very British phrase of “well, at least it’s warm and wet” is being used all over the country, thousands of times every day by people who really ought to go back to the coffee vendor in question and say “this coffee is horrible, give me my money back”? Acceptance of the unacceptable disguised as British stoicism. Bah.
I must get in the habit of taking a few minutes out of my day to tell people when their coffee is unacceptable. Heck, if I sat down in a restaurant and was served the culinary equivalent of these crappuccinos – perhaps a sirloin steak that has been boiled for twenty minutes before being served with yesterday’s carrots and uncooked potatoes – it would be back to the kitchen before you could blink. If they want to (a) take another stab at making it, (b) give me my money back or (c) just say “sorry” and watch me go on my way, that’s entirely up to them. But if we all start doing the same, who knows, we might just end up with a cafe culture in this country, as opposed to a handful of great cafes floating in an ocean of scorched milk stained off-white by a mouse’s piss of dirty dishwater.