Saturday, January 17, 2009

another coffee rant

It was Katrina at “Kale for Sale” who got me thinking, or rather ranting, today about something that is a favourite bug-bear.

The Cult of Take-Away* Coffee.

Even before I was fully schooled in the evils of polystyrene I’d do anything I could to avoid drinking out of such a receptacle. No matter how well made the coffee was, it just didn’t taste right. Something about the sensation of the polystyrene against my lips spoilt the whole experience. Paper cups were marginally better. But over all the taste never seemed the same as drinking out of china or glass.

More than that, with the landfill problem that is created from disposing of the take-away container, lid and even an extra paper wrapper (to make the hot, thin receptacle easier to hold), why even bother to drink on the run?

When we see the archetypal drunk swigging some noxious alcoholic drink out of a brown paper bag, we don’t tend to think of him simply choosing the convenience of grabbing the beverage on the run. No, alcohol is to be drunk out of a particular type of glass, usually sitting down and frequently in company. But coffee is a whole different kettle of fluid. Swigging a take-away coffee, the larger the better, while sprinting to work is an acceptable accessory along with running shoes, brief case and mobile phone.

Coffee is something that takes little time to drink. All the joy of the flavour is trapped in the heat. A tepid coffee is not filled with pleasure, so why grab one to go rather than take a minute or two to consume it in a local café, from a proper cup?

And what is with the grandé café culture? Veritable buckets leave the chain stores filled with brown swill. Perfect extraction is around 30 mls per shot of coffee. The large containers can only produce a dilute and over extracted, unpleasant liquid. I mean, why drink coffee at all you might as well stick to tea when it is that watery?

Coffee houses used to be hot spot of political discontent. To quote Charles II on the coffee houses of 17th century London, they were "places where the disaffected met, and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of His Majesty and his Ministers". (source) Later they spawned folk music, seduction and insomnia. But primarily, the purpose of drinking coffee was to gather to talk, share ideas, gossip, spark a revolution, begin or end a relationship.

For me if I am drinking coffee solo, it’s takes but moments to make with the trusty espresso machine and is consumed within moments in the morning sun or snuggled in bed. But out in the world, I find it best with friends and the realm of ideas, idle chatter or romance.

None of which can be found in a take-away cup, sculled on the street or in the privacy of a lonely office cubicle.

PS: I've shared my thoughts about Starbucks before and have to admit am happy to witness the fall of their empire. Even more so since they were sprung last year wasting water in the face of drought battered Australians. But what is 23.4 million litres of potable water down the drain each day to them?

* Take-out, carry-out or to go, if you live elsewhere

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Blogger docwitch said...

Yes! Yes! I love your rant!

This is a bugbear of mine also, and I get just a little grumpy seeing all the Paris Hilton clones (tiny, fake-looking girls who base their entire persona on whoever is appearing in Who Weekly at the moment) with out-sized (nay, super-size) cups of takeaway coffee. As accessory. But it's not just them. Ok, let's call it an epidemic. Ha!

It's just wank and environmentally anxiety-making. But apparently we are now all so self-important that we 'don't have the time to sit down and drink a cup of coffee'. Since we've all become A&E surgeons and whatnot.

Um. Yes.

5:18 pm  
Blogger a vegan about town said...

I completely agree! Surely it must take all the joy out of it - I can never bring myself to get a takeaway chocolate (I don't drink coffee, I'll be honest), because part of the fun of it is stirring it around, chatting, slowly drinking it, stirring it some more.

Plus, all that waste. A coworker brought me a take-away hot chocolate last week, and I felt so guilty with that cardboard cup, plus lid, in my bin.

AND, can you really be sure that coffee is from a fair-trade/good source if it's from a random chain takeaway?

7:51 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Polystyrene against the front teeth is the worst bit.

Shivers down my arms merely thinking about it.

Couldn't agree more.

What's wrong with stopping for a 'mo?

9:30 pm  
Anonymous kitchen hand said...

I can't stand coffee - or tea - in polystyrene, or its upmarket cousin corrugated paper. It's like drinking wine out of plastic. You lose the pleasure. And it changes the taste.

3:36 pm  
Blogger Zoe said...

Oh, me too.

But look what's happening to that disposable aesthetic ...

6:11 pm  
Blogger Johanna said...

Good rant! I don't drink coffee but the disposable coffee cup is not one of our society's finest moments! But if I meet a friend for a drink, I often say I am going for a 'coffee' which to me means good company, somewhere to relax and something nice to drink and nibble on!

1:09 pm  
Blogger swag said...

Polystyrene or even paper... when did it become acceptable for adults to drink out of receptacles designed for the birthday parties of four-year-olds? The foam or paper taste and texture? Please?

And then serving buckets of the stuff the size of SUV gas tanks? No wonder people have to buy it "to go", because they're obviously running a canteen service for the French Foreign Legion.

Is it really so hard to enjoy a beverage like an adult, using a ceramic cup for adults that's perfectly designed for its role, and drinking a beverage correctly sized enough where it is measured more in sips than by the hour??

7:27 am  
Anonymous glutenfreeforgood said...

Great post. I brew up my own coffee, never drink "take away" versions. I love my fresh ground beans, my organic coconut milk, and my all-time favorite mug. It's just not the same in a plastic cup anyway. Yuck!

11:56 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one with a dash of eco-madness going on about the subject.

Yesterday someone said to me "The place I buy my coffee from had a new sign up saying 'our take-away containers are not recyclable' and it kind of put me off". Maybe more places need to make that kind of statement (perhaps followed by, so sit down and have a drink while you are here).

Melissa, coconut milk in your coffee - I've got to try that :)

3:11 pm  

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