Friday, 7 November 2014

Bina and the coffee conundrum

Bina is in the middle, laughing, despite not having a cup of tea or coffee.
"It's such a faff." I said, answering Bina's question as to why I don't do tea or coffee after the meal. It seems such a simple request doesn't it? And my answer isn't sufficient. The whole cooking-a-meal thing could be described as a faff too. Why is tea and coffee so different? In fact, why on earth do we drink tea and coffee at the end of a meal?

And before you 'tsk' me for being awkward, bear in mind that it's not something I'm asked for often, certainly fewer than a dozen times since we began two years ago. There are many reasons why I'm reluctant to start with the cups and saucers. Let me list them.

Well firstly, I don't have cups and saucers. I have mugs. They're all old, a few are 30+ years, and so enjoy that tea tannin patina that comes with age. Some people dislike mugs; some demand china. Look, I don't have room for ten dainty demi-tasse and ten cups and saucers. Then there's milk jugs and sugar pots and trays and teaspoons. I don't want to stand there wringing out ten teabags into ten mugs for some 'builder's'. This means a teapot. Who has a teapot for ten? Not me.

Talking of kit... one of the more practical reasons is that we don't drink coffee at home so I don't have the paraphenalia, or even the coffee. Don't misunderstand me, I LOVE coffee but I don't keep coffee in the house. I'm more than happy to slurp down cappuccinos, macchiatos and flat-whites on the high street because that is where coffee belongs. It's one of those things that is best done by professionals with their huge steamy machines. Like wood turning, or dry cleaning, or road laying.

What about instant? Please don't. Call me particular, even peculiar, I've been called worse, but there is no good instant coffee. Much like instant mash, gravy and curry (Vesta anyone?) coffee must be freshly made. And do I really want my guests' last memories to be Mellow Birds? Coffee is the egomaniacal monoculture of the mouth. It washes away all the delicious imprints; replaced by this bitter, astringent brown-wash.

I am overblowing this just a teensy bit?

Isn't it a strange thing to do anyway? Drink coffee at midnight. We're not finishing the company's annual report here. This isn't shirt-sleeves and trouble with the photocopier. We're meant to be relaxing. After a heavy lunch that dragged all your cerebral blood to your belly making you sluggish and doltish, sure, have a bolt of the brown bean stuff (hey, there's only so many times I want to repeat the word 'coffee', even if it does mean me sounding like a GCSE metaphor essay.) But this is dinner with friends. Take it slow, relax and enjoy. Unbuckle your belt. Take off your girdle. 

Hey. Have some port, or grappa. A Brandy Alexander? A perfect Manhattan? There are so many delicious and intriguing post-prandial drinks for the uptake. Why waste the opportunity?

But, in truth, I think the real reason is that I've always seen coffee as a full stop to the fun. It's the adults coming back in. Time to sober up and be sensible. We're leaving the cereal fields of reveal, the hanging grape-vines of truth and scandal and the creative, capering bedlam of cocktail conversations... for the censure cloakroom of caffeine.


And the wine-tea-wine people. I think you're very strange. This includes my wife... and most of our friends.

So, no, I don't do tea and coffee. Unless you really want some. But finish that glass of wine first... and your story... then ask me again.

Perhaps it's time I bought a little cafetiere?

Anyway, this is Bina & John and friends enjoying the slow roast lamb shanks with port and rosemary gravy. Starter was the stuffed courgettes and dessert my vanilla cheesecake with blackberries.

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