Here is one truism that is accepted the world over : you can’t get a decent cup of coffee in the United States, and my experience is that this isn’t hyperbole, it’s a fact. I can’t even get fit drink from my own kitchen. For over 3 years I have been on a focused mission to find what has eluded me as if it were the Holy Grail. A single-minded search for a drink that was fit to be embraced by the tongue, a drink to be savored. To be quite honest I have been in search of a decent cup of coffee since my last visit to France. I remember climbing off that plane after an eight hour ordeal of bad food and worse coffee, walking up the ramp from customs, quickly greeting my friend, making a hard turn to the right and almost running to the small, semi hidden little nook, with windows that looked out onto nothing, where I could purchase one or two cups of liquid ecstasy, a cup of real coffee ! After experiencing the brackish looking fluid that was masqueraded as coffee on the plane, I think I was looking forward to that cup of coffee more than seeing my friend or our future excursions together. Maybe I was spoiled in France but I have been in search of a decent cup of coffee ever since.
I don’t think you can get a bad cup of coffee in France and it doesn’t make a bit of difference where you acquire it. Whether it’s served at a private residence, a charming little bistro or the motorway gas stop… the coffee is incredible. I remember sipping my coffee one morning and asking my companion why the coffee was so superior there. At first he said it was of course his mere presence which made the coffee taste so much better, then he smiled a bit sheepishly and said : “It’s the water.” I don’t mess around when it comes to great coffee and I wanted to know the answer, and while I agreed that his company was most amiable, I was happy to discover that there really was a physical explanation for the wonderful coffee. Maybe the water was blessed in some way, maybe it was running upstream from Lourdes and since I had noticed a few empty bottles on the kitchen counter that had contained water I thought “cool, there’s my answer ». This fantastic coffee had something to do with the water. So I asked him what sort of water it was, just knowing that he was about to give me a long-held French secret about underground springs or pure clean rivers. He paused for a second then he broke into a grin and said. “It’s there in the tap.”
Well so much for that great revelation, and it was then I understood another truth : You can never trust a Frenchman for a straight answer if he can have a good laugh at your expense.
Coffee is more to me than a cup of caramel colored liquid or a hot jolt in the morning that propels me into the world of the living. It is more than a libation to be served with or after meals. Coffee is an entity. It is a dark aromatic oil of the Gods to take pleasure in, a magical potion that flows over your tongue like smooth dark silk, and a drink that satiates but leaves you desiring more. In the most dismal times of your life, the strength of a good cup of coffee can soothe. Coffee can enhance the mood of a conversation or be warmth and comfort in your solitude. Coffee is a life force unto itself. So why then does really good coffee seem to be just beyond my reach ? Why is it so hard for me to uncover a coffee fit for my discerning palate ? Am I being fickle and only desiring what I cannot have ? Do I associate my love for coffee with my love for travel and imagine that I can only fulfill this yearning on foreign soils ? Hell no ! It’s simply a truth that here in these United States, you cannot get a decent cup of coffee. Who knows, maybe having to accept lousy coffee stems from some antiquated law, decided by men in powdered wigs, short pants and high heels, men who penned on crumbled parchment a ban on good coffee because they preferred tea. And while it may not be a national treasure, I really think that in this land of plenty I should be able to find a good cup of coffee. Don’t you ?
Source : Off the cuff.
NB Glossary coming soon.