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A voyage of discovery (Nov 14 2011)

This is an original blog post which I wrote towards the beginning of my coffee journey. I have left it unedited and republished it here for your reading pleasure.

I’ve always enjoyed coffee. I cannot remember the first time I tasted the drink but it has always been my preference. “Coffee or Tea?” would be the question at social gatherings or family occasions and my answer would most often be “Coffee, thanks. Milk and two sugars.”

My fondest memory of drinking coffee while growing up was when my mother used to bring me a cup of coffee in bed usually accompanied by two rusks and good conversation. Or as children we used to serve my parents coffee in bed on a Saturday or Sunday morning. It was our way of spoiling them (and an excuse to get another rusk or two out of the deal). It was a time spent discussing life, ideas and bonding as a family.

It was only later, probably at one of the social gatherings or family occasions that I was served filter coffee. I still had no appreciation for the drink as such but my preference remained. My introduction to the espresso based cappuccino came when I started dating girls and going off to one of the local coffee shops. It was not so much the coffee that drew me to the coffee shop but rather the chance to spend some alone time with the girl I was dating (or hoping to date) at the time. Cappuccino was the regular order and soon became my drink of choice. This is the first time that I actively decided on what type of coffee drink I would like to consume. A decision and preference that remains when I visit a coffee shop today.

It was, however, only after I finished studying and lived in London for two years that my interest in coffee grew. It’s probably was not the coffee as much as the coffee shop that attracted me. It was my initiation into café culture – granted it was a Starbucks but it served as a good introduction to better things. I spent much time in the Starbucks close to the Tottenham Court Road Underground station (there were fewer Starbucks in London then) writing letters and post cards or reading a Terry Pratchett novel, occasionally looking up and watching the world go by.

In this time I travelled to Europe occasionally and here I was introduced to some of the European café culture. I loved the idea of sitting down, having a cup of coffee, reading a news paper, writing a letter or just watching the people go about their daily business.

On my return to South Africa, this culture of relaxing with a good cup of coffee and watching people continued and Johannesburg offered a number of places to do this in the company of good friends.

More recently, through a series of events, my interest has mushroomed. I had a desire to know more about the drink that so many people around the world consume daily. I have started on a coffee adventure – a voyage of discovery into the fascinating world of growing, roasting, grinding, brewing and enjoying a very complex drink. I now have a greater appreciation for the cup of coffee I was introduced to years ago.

Coffee has played a big part in my life. Not because of the number of cups I have consumed over the years but because of the memories that are attached to each one of them. I realise that the enjoyment is not only about the varied origins, tastes and aromas that each cup offers but more importantly the memories formed while enjoying another cup.

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