independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Show me a coffee-less world, and I'll show you a very cranky woman...

With the future of the Arabica bean under threat, Judith Woods waxes lyrical about the daily habit that's crucial to her sanity

My children are weepy and fearful. My husband is bracing himself for the backlash. Mummy is a velociraptor on the rampage at the prospect of the world running out of coffee.

I can get by without gas or coal or the Antarctic. I can survive, however spiritually diminished, the imminent extinction of the Jamaican iguana. I can even subsist without wine.

But I cannot live without coffee.

The Arabica bean – the best, the poshest one, as found in Illy and Lavazza Qualità Oro – is under threat due to rising global temperatures, which could render 99.7pc of growing areas unsuitable by 2080.

The other sort of bean, Robusta, which is bitterer and used as a filler in cheaper blends, is also affected, but that matters less to me, because I love the good stuff.

I love coffee so much that on Christmas morning the children know they must wait until I have a mug of it before they so much as open the sitting room door to see if Father Christmas has arrived.

I love it so much that when I broke my back in a riding accident and spent a week immobilised in a French hospital wondering if I would ever walk again, the highlight of my days was dripping café au lait into my mouth via a huge syringe. Oddly, perhaps, I don't drink very much of it – one or at most two cups a day.

But it is crucial to my sanity, my sense of self and, it must be said, my sense of humour. And it has to be perfect.

I was once dispatched by this newspaper to do a barista course, which was fascinating, but nearly ruined my life as too much information has proved a dangerous thing.

"Put your hand around that metal jug!" I now cry to bewildered eastern Europeans. "You need to gauge the temperature!"

"Tamp! For the love of God, tamp!"

Did you know that a stream of espresso, brimful of anti-ageing antioxidants trickling from the machine, is supposed to have approximately the same dimensions as a mouse's tail? I do, and I wish I didn't.

I can't imagine a world without coffee.

If I'm out and about, I'm a Flat White kinda girl, as it's strong and, made properly, its milk sugars are caramelised just so, obviating the need for sweetener.

At home, I keep it simple. I've tried the Nespresso machine with the gimmicky little "grand cru" coloured capsules, but the resulting drink is never hot enough. Lukewarm coffee makes me sad; scalding coffee makes me mad because it bespeaks ignorance, sloppiness and inattention to detail.

Instead, I variously use a cafetiere, a hand-operated Presso, a little Turkish pot with a handle and, far and away my favourite, a metal stove-top Italian Moka coffee maker, which involves just enough of a laid-back Inspector Montalbano ritual to add a sense of occasion.

And, for me, occasion is what it's about. Taking tea, I always feel, is a communal event, open to all and sundry. Coffee, on the other hand, is a dark, rich, sensuous drink, which is possibly why a whispered invitation to "come back for coffee" reeks of intimacy and seduction, whereas "popping in for a cup of tea" is more Vicar of Dibley than Fifty Shades.

To that end, I am quite fussy about my coffee compadres. I'll knock back pinot grigio with anyone at the sniff of a cork, but going for coffee is reserved for people who understand its totemic significance, which possibly explains why I usually consume it alone.

I love those precious moments in the morning, when the day ahead is brimful of possibility and my taste buds are jolted awake by the aroma and taste of Arabica.

My only consolation in this crisis is that I'll be dead by 2080. Unless, of course, by some ironic twist, those antioxidants really do make me live forever.

Irish Independent

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