Monday, August 29, 2011

Coffee makes me happy

On a whole, the move to the Netherlands has given us access to non-stop tastiness: great cheese, fantastic local beers, and interesting new (affordable!) wines. We go to a farmer's market at least once a week, eat fresh fish all the time, and when we cook meat it's just a short visit to the butcher shop two doors down from our apartment.

The one area of our epicurean life that has taken a dramatic step backwards? Coffee.

Years ago, when I took my first post-college steps towards good coffee, my dad thought there was no way I'd keep up with the hassle of blade-grinding my coffee and running it through the drip machine each morning. He was half right - I soon graduated to a heavy-duty burr grinder that only a coffee geek would think was "relatively inexpensive," and started French pressing my coffee each morning after brewing times I tried to figure out *precisely.* 4 minutes 12 seconds worked out well if the coffee was neither super fresh nor relatively old. More recently, I've added cold-brewed coffee in the summer and a handheld Mypressi espresso when I want a quick, flavorful shot.

Right before we left Richmond, I even found an awesome new coffee from local (meaning I get it in coffee's magic 3-10 day post-roast peak period) Lamplighter. This "monsooned" coffee from Malabar, India is prepared by maturing the beans in semi-open wooden warehouses during the rainy season, to replicate the flavor-inducing weather exposure coffee beans used to acquire naturally on a sea voyage from the subcontinent to England.

Before I totally lose you, let's cut to the chase - I'm a total geek about coffee. As you probably know. [Nisha adds: as his labmates proclaimed within 1 week of getting to know him!]

Yet Europe has been a coffee disaster! Even the best espressos I had in Paris deserved no better praise than "pretty smooth."

The lion's share of the blame falls on this guy (pictured above). Not to be rude, but this machine is an abomination against joy. This engineering marvel was created by the Dutch electronics giant Philips in evil collaboration with the country's largest purveyors of bland caffeine, Douwe Egberts. I can't tell if the goal was to make instant coffee even easier or to make it more visually appealing, but I'll grant that they achieved both. You push a button to boil water (max. 30 seconds or so), drop a sad little disc of coffee powder on the filter pad, then press another button. 

Presto! Soon you have a pretty little cup of something that looks like it might be delicious. Except that the "patented foaming mechanism" is producing something artificial that has absolutely nothing to do with the beautiful crema it hopes to evoke. If you know coffee, you'll quickly see that this fizzy stuff is blonded like a poorly extracted shot of espresso, and regardless of your experience or enthusiasm you hopefully will NOT recognize the taste of the strange brown water atop which the fauxcrema sits.

I hope to remedy my situation in a few weeks, but I'm happy to report I've had a temporary fix in the form of a shockingly good espresso right in the touristy center of Brussels! While we wandered around, eating indecent quantities of freshly caramelized waffles, marveling at the arresting grandeur of the 15th century Town Hall, we happened past an open storefront with coffee. A lot of coffee.

No, I mean it, a lot of beautiful, delicious coffee. At Corica you can have ANY of these coffees (roasted within a week!) made into the espresso drink of your choice. Both of us opted for a single shot, nothing complicated. 

Nisha's Indian Karnataka coffee was intriguing and fragrant, but the flavor was somehow a bit mellow. My Ethiopian Sidamo was vibrant, brightly flavored but with the natural sweetness I hope for in Ethiopian coffees. I'm thoroughly annoyed at myself for feeling compelled to note that the coffees were not freshly ground, but I assure you they were absolutely delicious. That's the only point worth making.

I smiled with the deepest contentment.

(At least until I saw the insanity atop my head in this picture. Oh well.)

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe that you have developed such fine taste for coffee. No wonder we are carrying all the equipment for a nice home-made coffee!