MY MARRIAGE is almost perfect.
I must accept the reality, however, that one key ingredient is missing. It’s something I must face each morning of each day, week after week, year in and year out. While I envy the millions of other couples around our globe doing it, making it, trying it, sharing it, I try to stay positive, see the bright side, not compare, and to let it go.
I married a non-coffee drinker.
Despite multiple offerings over the years of mind-blowing roasts, innovating brewing techniques, elaborate presentations and a variety of sweeteners and toppers, the response from my significant other has always been, “No, thanks”. He will never be converted. He just doesn’t have the palette, the constitution or the makings of a coffee drinker.
This has left me barefoot and stranded most mornings, frothing milk, grinding beans, hovering over the the stove, making my brew, doing my thing – alone. He has diligently learned the basics of how to make a decent espresso and has even surprised me with coffee in bed a few delightful mornings a year. But it just isn’t enough.
Being a coffee drinker hasn’t always been a smooth and easy ride. Since the Sufi’s began brewing things up in monasteries in Yemen in the 15th century, the pros and cons of the controversial beverage have been hotly disputed. From health reports to media frenzies, coffee has had to deflect some very strong forces. There is no doubt that coffee is not for everybody. One needs only to feel one’s body before, during and after caffeine consumption to make ones own decision. If the internal green light flashes, then move forward with moderate consumption. If the stomach doesn’t feel right, the nerves are irritated or you dislike the taste, then please take a pass. Talk to my husband about it. He says coffee just doesn’t settle well in his body. No need to scold or judge others for drinking coffee because it ‘compromises their health’. Surely you have other things to bother with.
After moving to Bali in 2010 with my non-drinking coffee family of five, I was a little concerned about the lack of independent cafes here. I knew Indonesia was the world’s third producer of coffee but upon arrival my heart sank at the lack of options. Where were the community coffee houses with harvest tables and people chatting? Where was I to buy coffee roasted within the last three days? What about accessing organic or fairtrade beans? Where was I to converse with the zany baristas I had grown accustom to chatting with back in Toronto? Where were my people?
I am happy to report that in the last three years Bali has experienced a surge of cafés that have sprung up all over the island. My people have surfaced. We now have independent roasters, specially trained baristas, fair trade, almost raw, and even coffee tasting competitions. My people are pleased.
I’m not here to tell you where to go for coffee in Bali. I’m here to give you tips for refining your coffee drinking skills so that you can choose the best places to fill your own cup.
Tips for scouting:
1. If the person in the café or restaurant is doing anything other than just making your coffee, you can be pretty sure they are not a trained coffee barista. Stick to the food here, and go elsewhere for you cup of java.
2. Ideally, your coffee shop can offer information on the roasting date. It is recommended to use the beans roasted within one month of the roasting date.
3. Order up at the coffee bar if you can. The best coffee is the one you drink as you watch your barista make for you. Learn from our Italian brothers and sisters where you order your cup from a counter and take it back to your seat. This way you can connect with the creator and refine your order while simultaneously building a friendship.
4. If your cappuccino or latte spills on the walk back to your table its too watery. It should be thick and full-bodied and the milk (or soy) should hold things firmly in place.
5. If you need to add sugar, it’s generally because the beans are stale. Fresh coffee is the perfect balance of bittersweet.
6. One sign of a sophisticated coffee shop is that it serves water with their coffee. It’s the sign of detail, refinement, care, simplicity, and understanding, as coffee should always be followed by some fresh water at room temperature.
7. Unless your barista has extra sensitive hands, a thermometer in the milk while frothing must be used to avoid burning.
8. Hopefully your coffee is served in a clear glass mug, so you can see it!
Janet Nicol is a self-certified coffee snob. She dreams of opening up a wifi-free cafe one day where people talk to each other about coffee, life and love.