09 February 2010

Caffeine Addict

Coffee around the World


They call coffee “Finnish plasma,” therefore, it must be in my blood. I remember being a little girl and staring in fascination at my dad’s morning mug, wondering when I’d be old enough to drink it. When my parents let me have my own cup of coffee, I was stubborn enough to forego milk and sugar and drink it black, just like my dad.

I became a barista just after turning 17, and I spent the next three years of life honing my coffee snobbery to a fine point. It helped having been raised in the Pacific Northwest, birthplace to Starbucks and all its caffeine competitors. My parents owned an independent coffee shop for awhile, and they sold beans from a micro-roaster in Boise, ID, whose personal mission was to make sure the quality of their coffee matched their quality of service. Dawson Taylor has the best coffee I’ve ever tasted in this country. The end.

One thing I’ve discovered while exploring is that no matter the prevalence of coffee in a nation’s culture, it will probably never reach the to-go paper cup status it is in America. Everywhere else I’ve been, even if they don’t drink that much of it, it’s usually a sit-down affair.


Haven’t spent that much time in Italy (yet), but espresso bars make my heart go pitter-pat. In the train station in Milan, men in pin-striped business suits stood around the espresso bar counters, ignoring their morning newspapers and the pigeons flapping overhead under the lofty ceiling, gesticulating and chattering and sipping delicately out of tiny white cups full of rich, dark deliciousness.

On the train, a man in an apron pushed a cappuccino cart up and down the narrow aisle, I tested my barista (pronounced bah-ree-sta, none of that short I business) lingo on him because I was desperate for a caffeine fix. It worked! However, should you find yourself attempting rail travel in Italy, go to the train station espresso bars. The coffee is much better.


I love Holland. I spent a few days in Amsterdam and then wandered up north to visit a friend and spend several rather glorious days with her. In my experience, Dutch hospitality is “would you like something to drink?” upon moments of meeting. If it’s after 11am, this means beer. If it’s still morning, it means cappuccino. Cappuccino is a rather loose term here, unlike Italian beverages of mostly espresso and milk foam, Dutch cappuccinos are more like an American latte. Served in a huge cup with plenty of raw sugar to stir in, they are one of the best reasons to go out in grey, drizzly mornings. Sometimes you even get a koekje.

Note: Dutch purveyors of delightful caffeinated beverages should not be confused with the more distinctive "coffee shops", distinguishable in passing by the delicate aroma of marijuana lingering oppressively in the air.


I just drank tea. And beer and cider. : )


While I drank quite a lot of coffee in France, I suspect my hosts took pity on me and mostly just made it for me. The French have all the fancy liqueurs to put it, though. My favorite was served at the wedding I attended. At first, the waiters came around with their fancy little pots and tiny paper tubes of sugar. They caught on quickly though, and soon brought out the big one. I was seated at a table full of young adults, furthest from the kitchen, and we were seeking a solution to the wine we’d already consumed and we were getting ready to dance the night away. It was bitter, hot and pungent. It was perfect.


I don’t remember how much coffee the Kiwis consume, or what’s special about theirs, apart from my first morning in New Zealand. We were taken to a McDonalds CafĂ© for breakfast (who said anything about trying new things??) where there was plenty of American-style breakfast pastries and latte. Later on the trip, my friend Mel and I found a tiny walk-up coffee cart in a small town on the North Island called Bulls. It was just like an average American drive-thru coffee shop, but much tinier, and they sold apricot fudge. I think the coffee was pretty good. Honestly, I think by that point my caffeine withdrawals were just happy to be soothed (my professor kept trying to feed me instant coffee *le sigh*).

I’ve also tried the tiny cupfuls of Colombian coffee that are so rich and dark it’s like drinking syrup. I can’t wait to go to Finland to check out the coffee and sauna culture there… my dad, grandfather and uncle went to visit family there a couple of years ago.

And my dirty little secret… Dunkin’ Donuts French vanilla coffee with milk and sugar got me through my year of college in Boston. What can I say? It was only a dollar and change, and the store was open all night. I think happy though when I get to the baggage claim at Logan airport and I can smell it. Don't judge.

Cheers all, and have a cuppa. Of the good stuff.

Also, if you miss me, check out my other corner of the web in which I rant about being a nursing student. ;)

*First two images courtesy of Google.