Of course I love coffee!
The love started out in my teens, when I relied on it (more than loved it) for keeping myself awake because my day usually started at 5am and ended at 12am. My family was poor then, so we drank 3-in-1 coffee mix, which, my father always brewed using piping hot water (“Because coffee needs to be cooked,” he said) and more often than not, double of the water than needed.
I moved to black coffee (“kopi-o-kosong” or Americano, or Long Black), during my NUS days, when I started on the Atkins’ diet to manage my weight. Since the essence of the diet is to remove sugar from our foods, black coffee was the way.
At that point of time, I was still not well-versed in latte or cappucino, as that was also the early days of Starbucks and Coffee Bean in Singapore. I didn’t know that I could still have the option of having milk and coffee (which will still taste nice), so I opted straight for the black coffee, in its purest form.
The process to appreciating coffee was tough, as there was the issue of overcoming the bitterness of the drink. That was the reason many people tell me when I suggested they move to black coffee, and while I empathised with them, I always told them that it was a phase.
Most of them, like me, started out from the coffee at coffee stalls, either in kopitiams, or in canteens of the university. Most of them served Robusta, which was supposed to have stronger taste, and hence, tasted more bitter.
However, as one gets more accustomed to the taste of coffee, they would realise that the coffee stalls serve mostly crap.
Most of them either chose a cheap blend (which contains more of the additives like corn) or simply added too much water to cut cost. And since most people have their coffee with milk and/or sugar (and many wanted their cuppa extra-sweet), those people didn’t realise they were over-paying for a cup of coffee-flavoured sugar water. And since the additives are mostly corn, which is basically more starch, many people are loading on to hidden calories.
When one starts drinking coffee black, his eyes will be opened to the world of deceit in the coffeeshops.
Those who wants to start appreciating coffee should go to Starbucks/Coffee Bean. Though counter-intuitive, since I mentioned how many people was over-paying for their coffee, at the very least, these coffee chains have a standard way of making coffee and a reputation to defend.
Moreover, these coffee chains serve mainly Arabica, which are lighter and hence, less bitter to beginners.
That being said, I am not an avid Starbucks drinker. My coffee initiation started the tough way in the canteens of NUS. Everybody swore by the coffee in Engineering (but perhaps because “everybody” in my social circle is from Engineering), but my personal favourite was that from YIH. Believe it or not, these stalls were serving Robusta (how else to keep the students awake, then?) that were strong in coffee taste (i.e. less additives and water) to awaken one from the tongue to the feet.
After entering the workforce, despite earning a decent income, I still did not turn to the coffee chains. One of the reasons was that these chains do not open early, especially around the area I lived in. I needed a quick fix before I head to work (Prisons, if one may be advised, is a place where we can’t bring anything in without undergoing a thorough security check and clearance). To that, I turned to instant coffee powder in the likes of Nescafe.
I tried 3 blends (actually, I tried other blends too); the Gold was too expensive and the Classic was too acidic. The other blends from other brands were either too bland or too expensive (considering I need at least 3 servings of coffee every morning, I could not afford to indulge in expensive, exclusive blends). I settled for the Nescafe Deluxe for the morning quickie, and left the tasting of the more exclusive blends to the weekends.
Another way for a beginner to start appreciating coffee, is of course, through theory. My horizon for coffee widened after I attended 2 coffee appreciation workshops. However, the couch potato can actually refer to the internet for some inspiration.
My current favourite is “I Love Coffee“, for its interesting and easy-to-understand infograms. It’s not a coffee-education website (more like one for the writer to express his love for coffee), but it does have some nuggets of information to start the ball rolling. A fine example is in the infogram attached below.
I’m still looking for coffee lovers to enter my social circle. Be it Robusta or Arabica lovers, please contact me if you would like to share your experience with me. If you are in Singapore, of course I am open to joining some coffee appreciation sessions 🙂