The coffee industry is huge these days. Gone are the times when ordering a coffee meant a polystyrene cup full of vaguely coffee-flavoured brown gloop. These days you have to look hard to find that gloop. No, in the western world’s big cities in the 21st century, there is a world of choice, there are cappucino machines and all the rest of the coffee-related equipment in every cafe, and any purveyor who dared to serve instant would be lynched by an angry over-caffeinated mob from the nearest street corner.
I don’t drink coffee. I never have, except for the week I stayed in Rome in 1999, when it seemed appropriate to do as the Romans do. But it was very, very weak coffee with lots of milk, and I only drank it because it came on the pension’s breakfast tray and they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Italian so the effort of asking for some fruit juice or a cup of tea seemed like too much trouble.
No, when it comes to caffeinated hot beverages served in cups or mugs, I drink tea. Thanks to various influences over the years I have grown to appreciate some of the finer points of tea… the widely varying flavours, the art of infusion (a science I am probably some way from perfecting), tea bags (including those spiffy Tetley’s no-drip ones) versus the rather nicer leaf tea and associated paraphenalia… so now at home I can fire up my new kettle (I got it for Christmas — it’s a quantum leap over my horrible old one), get out the leaf tea and the filters and make myself a very nice hot cup of tea.
But it seems in restaurants and cafes they have some catching up to do in the tea department. Some will simply dump a tea bag and hot water, sugar and milk in front of you – arguably the equivalent of the old gloop that once passed for coffee. Sure, you can get the nice stuff by finding somewhere that serves High Tea, but that’s way over the top if all you want is a nice cuppa.
Gradually things are improving, but it seems we have a way to go before the mainstream serving of tea gains the chic, elegance and sophistication of coffee.
(By the way, war may be forthcoming if the office coffee drinkers continue to drop coffee in the sugar jar. Grrr.)