acb: (coffee)
Fact: when given coffee, Britons (typically) do things to it which would almost be punishable by law in Australia or Italy. The result is nearly always undrinkably awful coffee, though the locals don't seem to notice.

Some abuses of coffee I've noticed include:

  • Leaving bags of the stuff unsealed. The supermarkets now sell ostensibly passable ground coffee, conveniently packed in bags with valves to keep it from oxidising. Not that this means much to the locals who rip the bag open, take a shot's worth, and leave the rest to oxidise. The result: the rest of the bag produces dull, flavourless coffee.

  • Bizarre coffee-making practices. I have, on more than one occasion, witnessed someone put a capsule into a Nespresso machine, run half a pint of water through it, pour some milk in and throw it in the microwave. Eventually, perhaps this practice will catch on in Italy, where they'll call it the "Angliano"*.

  • Generally running too much water through it until you get bitter watery mud like out of an urn at a suburban McDonalds in the 1980s. A certain hipster bar in Shoreditch is notorious for this; why do they even bother having an espresso machine?

  • And then there's actually drinking instant coffee, or considering Nespresso to be a proper espresso.

When, I wonder, will the inhabitants of this green and pleasant isle learn the proper handling of coffee?

* "Angliano" = an Italian slang word meaning crazy (literally "gone English").
acb: (coffee)
I spent much of this afternoon sitting in a cafe near Stoke Newington. Good atmosphere, good coffee, execrable music. Their entire music collection seems to consist of one CD on repeat; that CD appears to be a collection of covers of obvious Bob Marley songs done in corporate-jazz/R&B-ballad/bland-acoustic-ballad/smooth-black-music-for-rich-white-people style. It appears that there is a whole generation of musicians influenced by Kenny G, Luther Vandross and Boyz II Men Color Me Bad, churning out insipidly bland pabulum in fully-equipped ProTools studios somewhere (presumably) near LA.

If I ran a café, one of my key hiring criteria for staff would be that they have to be passionate about music. It doesn't matter what kind of music: whether it's hip hop, krautrock, country and western or whatever. As long as they care enough to bring in things that have inspired someone, rather than falling in the valley of the undead at the statistical average of public taste, and dig up the good things that don't end up getting played otherwise. Part of the job description would involve bringing in CDs to put on.

(Of course, they'd have to be able to make a decent cup of coffee, but that can be learned.)

September 2015

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