I love my coffee, particularly at the weekends. There’s a mug right here in front of me now, steaming away. I make it pretty roughly, without much trace of finesse. Although I do have my little routine which I think I picked up during my years in a lovely architectural practice in North London.
Here’s what I do.
I have a cafetiere, one of those big ones. I heat it up with a good splash of boiling water and then I put the plunger/lid part back on and swish the boiling water around, just to get everything nicely warmed up. Then I get the lid off again, throw out the water, and shovel in maybe three dessertspoons of ground coffee. I bring the kettle back up to boiling and then I pour the boiling water into the warm cafetiere until it’s between half and three quarters full. I stir the coffee with the dessert spoon, getting up quite a swirl, and then I ‘backwater’ with the spoon until the coffee is nice and still again. Then I put the lid back on and set the plunger down to the surface of the coffee and I leave it a while and then I plunge it at some random moment, about five minutes later.
That’s how I do it. (Takes a sip) It’s grand.
The coffee itself is nothing overly special. It’s a bag from Tesco. I tend to favour Colombian, more out of habit than anything else, and I keep it in a sealed thing in the fridge because, like I said, I only tend to make coffee on the weekend so one bag lasts me for quite a while.
My eldest son was home for Christmas. We all had a great time together. John is in his final year at University. If I say which one and he happens to read this then he will accuse me of bragging so I won’t... but I am.
He brought with him his own coffee routine which he inherited from his American housemate. It is quite different to mine. That is mostly the point. Up until Christmas, he was using his housemate’s kit to make his coffee but co-ordinated gifts from a number of different sources combined cleverly to the effect that he now has a kit all of his own.
Here’s how he goes about his coffee making.
He has his Chemex, which is a very elegant and scientific-looking beaker, his little silver hot water pot with the tiny spout, his special (very expensive) filter papers, his coffee grinder, his weighing scales and his fairly specialised coffee beans.
Wait, you don’t want to know really, do you? You can look it up if you want. It’s a brilliant routine of grinding, weighing, blooming and measuring. It fills the house with the most amazing coffee smell and I’ve been granted a taste or two over the holiday and it’s fabulous. Almost worth the effort.
I take such pleasure in John’s coffee making routine. It’s so much better than mine. So careful, so considered, so refined and with a far superior outcome.
You can see where my mind is going with this. It’s just such a neat example of what I wish for my sons and what I reckon so many of us wish for our kids. To know more than we do, to do things better than we ever did, to make better things for themselves than we ever did.
That’s all really.
Except for one fairly obvious glance backwards.
To my own Dad.
If my Dad had been around to read about my own simple coffee routine, he would have grinned and scratched his head in gentle disbelief. For him, the hot drink of choice was a mug of tea. A teabag in a cup or, on a good day, a couple of teabags in a pot. The extent of my own dicking around with Cafetieres and Colombian grounds would have been a source of mystery to him and probably some gentle ribbing from him too.
But I bet he would also have felt a bit like I do.
I was the first who was able to go to third level education, although my older brother has since gone far further than I ever did. He would have noted how things were coming better for me than they had been for him. How he had managed to provide a sort of a ladder, to let the one coming after go up that step higher, if they wanted to.
I bet he would have felt a little like I felt at Christmas, whenever that refined coffee smell came creeping down the hall.
Mission, if only partly, accomplished.