I hate lukewarm coffee. If beverages are meant to be hot, I like them searing hot. I love that comforting first sip of a properly heated drink, one that I can put down and return to savour at still acceptable temperatures as I work.
Coffee shops are my satellite office, the places I turn to for productive daytime writing. Home can be too distracting, with undone chores accusingly staring me in the face. The library sounds ideal but the seating sucks, and the senior citizen computer classes aren’t exactly conducted with the hushed silence I expect of such a bookish place. So coffee shops it is. I’ve spent too many years in open plan offices to be bothered by the noise, it’s easily tuned out.
What is less easily forgiven is a shoddy atmosphere, and worse, aforementioned lukewarm drinks. I don’t even indulge in the dark stuff very often, but I adore the fresh strong smell of good coffee. And when I do succumb to the occasional caffeine treat, it has to be worth it.
So what makes a good coffee? I think my coffee-loving writer friend describes it best in her recollection of the delights of a Tuscan café:
‘It [the cappucchino] was perfection, one which is yet to be surpassed. Hot but drinkable, two thirds milk to one third foam and a great taste, not too sweet and not too bitter’
And never mind the much-mourned demise of the local coffee shop, for which apparently even caffeine-craving yummy mummies with buggies the size of compact cars can now be blamed. Fuggedaboutit, even the chain stores are on their way down, although whether they ever were ‘up’ can surely be debated.
My much-loved local S, tried and tested with many a corporate memo, university essay or blog post, recently declined on two counts: the removal of most of the comfy seats, and the utter unreliability of internet access. So much for ‘home away from home’. I was forgiving of such shortcomings, until one day a gang of local teenagers swarmed the place and, consuming their takeaways, made it smell like the fried chicken shack next door. Now I may have been guilty of clandestinely eating the occasional panini from the Italian deli inside these sacred halls, so my inane sense of fairness kept me from complaining. Begrudgingly, I defected to the newly opened C, switching from Chai Tea Latte to Hot Chocolate, and trying to make friends with the surly Eastern European mafia staff. But hot drinks aren’t part of their corporate credo either, as evidenced by the lukewarm, insipidly sweet ‘extra hot’ hot chocolate I found myself gagging on recently.
So what would my ideal writer’s café look like?
Small and intimate. Not like an episode of Friends, but personable. Plush carpet and comfy armchairs, the kind that you can lose yourself in. Clever but unobtrusive spaces for that little bit of privacy. Soft soothing background music. A good choice of coffees, expertly made. A small selection of fresh organic cakes, cupcakes and sandwiches. A bit of eye-candy, such as a handsome waiter to take my order. Internet access and wall sockets. Best of all, NO SCHOOLKIDS and NO YUMMY MUMMIES. As luck would have it, there’s a vacant retail space on the High Street just waiting to be turned into my personal writer’s haven. Investors, anyone?
In the absence of all that, I think Virginia Woolf just about had it right about a room of one’s own. And a thousand a year, plus inflation of course.
Image: ifood.tv, virtualtourist.com