When I have breakfast and get ready for work, it would never occur to me to have coffee. As far as I know the only coffee in my house is a tin of stale 20-year-old Nescafé that my grandparents gave me when I moved, as part of what can only be described as the world’s most depressing care package. Staleness aside, I don’t drink the foul sludge that is instant coffee. I get my coffee on the outside: real barista-made, espresso-style coffee.
A proper coffee is something to savour. Something to cherish. It’s more than a quick fix to help me wake up. Getting that morning coffee is a sacred ritual, and almost as important as that first magnificent sip is the anticipation leading up to it. The slow burn that builds in my nerves from 7 to 8 o’clock. The tickle in the back of my brain, reminding me that I need my daily hit. And when the time is right at about 8:30 or 9, I set out for that cup like a man on a holy pilgrimage.
I place my order and the barista scribbles my name on a plastic cup. She offers an apologetic smile and says it will only be a few minutes. I don’t mind. Waiting is a fact of life when you want the best quality. I wait unmoving, unthinking, in a zen-like state. A preternatural patience that won’t abate until I hear the magic words:
“Skinny flat white for Matt?”
What is it about coffee that makes the world seem perfect, if only for a fleeting few minutes? Perhaps it’s the smell of the beans in the grinder conjuring pleasant associations of days gone by. Or the smooth, rich taste with all its layers and subtleties. It could be that I’m an addict, a junkie desperately craving the chemical hit that keeps me functional. Or maybe it’s simply the warmth radiating from cup to hand, through skin to soul. A warmth providing the closest thing to a comforting hug that you can get from an inanimate object.
I ponder these questions and more during the brief journey from the café back to my desk.
I don’t have the answers. I just know that with the cup in my hand, all is right with the world. For a few moments each morning I can escape to my own private universe. My island refuge among a sea of paperwork. I get to put everything else aside and enjoy something that’s just for me; a coffee with my name on it.