I fell in love with Black Coffee when I was fourteen years old.
Up until then, my forays into the taste of coffee had always been accompanied by milk and sugar. Trust me, this is a mistake.
I have never been overly fond of the taste of cow, when I was a child it came as something of a shocky horror that French Milk tasted completely, and weirdly, different from English Milk. I did not want to pour that over my cereal. This was an ongoing battle that lasted through my youth, teens and into my twenties when I guess my tastebuds finally kicked over the bucket of surrender and I started using Foreign Milk when I went abroad.
But, this story is about coffee. The black nectar that has fuelled me personally for almost three and a half decades. I have had my ups and downs, but as far as the demon tastebuds are concerned, Coffee is my one true love.
I drink gallons of the stuff. And pretty much always the same. Black without sugar.
Back in the days when I drank it with added cow, I used to add sugar to mask the taste of cow. No wonder I was not overly fond of coffee, with added cow and added sugar you couldn’t actually taste the coffee.
What can I say? I love the stuff. So many things have come to me whilst consuming coffee. The solution to a variety of plot problems, the answer to various questions concerning how I was going to manage to get away on holiday and come back to this highly idiosyncratic household without there being a meltdown or three on the way, the garden question. Incomplete garden issues haunt me so.
It has to be a good roast, preferably not instant, and certainly never the hoover dust collected from the factory floor and packaged as dirty, dirty, cheap, cheap.
The precise nature of the roast matters less than the quality of the filter you put it through. Bad filter equals bad coffee experience. And it should smell GOOOOOOD. Mmmmmmmmm coffee….! There should be a burnished aroma. Roasted beans. The flavour should be smooth with no aftertaste. Aftertaste, especially a synthetic aftertaste, now that some cheap, nasty coffee you got there, maestro.
If I’m drinking it, it should be black, smooth, strong and have the consistency of good gravy. Watery coffee is like watery gravy… disgusting.
A mug, not a cup. Cups are insufficient to capture the flavour and the experience. Flash, bang, wallop… it’s all gone.
No, forget the cup. A good size mug.
There is no need to go raving mad. A Starbucks tall is plenty. Grande if you really must, but Venti. That’s kidneys you have there, not the Aswan Dam.
Coffee when first poured should always give off steam. No steam, and the cup is not hot enough to make you let go if you clutch it too tightly… your coffee has been served cold and should be returned.
Having got your perfect, steaming, mug of black nectar, clasp it in both hands (careful not to clutch too tight and burn yourself), lean forward and have a thoroughly good sniff. Allow the aromas time and space to dance across your senses before you take a careful slurp.
Test the waters thoroughly. If you trounce your tastebuds in the first pass, you will not experience coffee. You will be experiencing burning hot liquid that tastes of nothing very much. Shame to waste it. Please do not assault the black nectar with either moo juice or sugar, neither actually do much for the taste other than mask it.
Coffee in a mug, if consumed correctly, goes through several stages. A bit like Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man. There are many subtle levels as it cools. And coffee that has reached the stage of cold all by itself takes on its own unique stage and change in flavour. I love all of them with equal fervour. Do not be tempted to throw the cooled coffee away, it has its own unique thirst quenching value, every bit as much as the first hot slurps.
I should also like to state that my habit of consuming coffee at bedtime has nothing to do with my inability to get my beauty sleep. That comes from long experience, and I am perfectly capable of falling asleep absolutely anywhere.