Food for Thought Far from the madding crowd, cof­fee san­ity

In­stant cof­fee is cheap, quick and re­ally doesn’t taste that bad, writes

The Scotsman - - SCOTTISH PERSPECTIV­E - Stephen Jar­dine

Eigh­teen months ago some­thing odd hap­pened in my neigh­bour­hood. A long­stand­ing lo­cal busi­ness shut its doors and was trans­formed into a cof­fee shop. I’m not talk­ing about your stan­dard lo­cal café. This was stylish and fash­ion­able with a roast­ing ma­chine, beards and tat­toos.

I knew it was cut­tingedge be­cause on the one oc­ca­sion I ven­tured in­side, I missed my bus be­cause it took them so long to make a cup of cof­fee. Even then it was luke­warm. I wrote about it at the time and won­dered what on Earth such a trendy cof­fee shop was do­ing in a quiet sub­urb of Ed­in­burgh. The an­swer, it turns out, was slowly clos­ing down.

One morn­ing a few weeks ago the shut­ters weren’t raised and the soya milk LPG elec­tric de­liv­ery van didn’t turn up. It was all over. That was the mo­ment I re­alised we’d fi­nally reached peak cof­fee.

Up to this point the march of cof­fee had been su­per caf­feinated. UK cof­fee sales soared from £ 2.4 bil­lion in 2011 to an in­cred­i­ble £ 3.4 bil­lion in 2016. Re­mem­ber, we’re not talk­ing about di­a­monds, just ground cof­fee beans and hot water. Ev­ery day we drink about 55 mil­lion cups of that stuff and con­sump­tion had been ris­ing year on year.

When the High Street cof­fee brands reached sat­u­ra­tion point, new ar­ti­san places sprung up in dis­tressed base­ments of­fer­ing ever more ex­pen­sive and ob­scure op­tions to help keep sales ris­ing and mil­len­ni­als away from the hous­ing lad­der.

Down in Lon­don last month I ended up in some­where that only

served cold- brew cof­fee. The hip­ster serv­ing ex­plained what that was to me in the same way you would de­scribe Tin­der to your grand­fa­ther.

I put up with that but then I tried to pay with a fiver. I wasn’t nai­ive enough to ex­pect any change but nei­ther did I an­tic­i­pate him telling me, with a sigh, that they are a cash­less busi­ness and only ac­cept card pay­ments.

It was the kind of place that would op­er­ate smoothly, hap­pily and ef­fi­ciently as long as they didn’t ever have to ac­tu­ally open their doors to the pub­lic.

That didn’t seem to bother my fel­low cus­tomers who stood about wait­ing for their name to be mis­pro­nounced for the priv­i­lege of pay­ing half their wages for a cold cup of cof­fee. We re­ally have been hooked.

Last week­end hun­dreds of peo­ple gath­ered for the fifth Glas­gow Cof­fee Fes­ti­val. With over 50 ex­hibitors, it was an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to ... drink more cof­fee. No doubt you could also learn lots about cof­fee but what do you re­ally need to know?

Here’s what I know. Any­one who can ac­tu­ally tell their Flavia Al­terra Su­ma­tra from their Rwan­dan In­zovu re­ally needs to make some friends and get a hobby.

While the cafenistas were gath­er­ing in Glas­gow, I was in the Bor­ders far from the madding crowd. In a lo­cal tea room I asked for a cof­fee. A large cater­ing jar of in­stant cof­fee was pro­duced, the pro­pri­etor put a spoon­ful in a mug and added hot water and then charged me a pound. It was by far the fastest cof­fee I have been served this year and an­other thing. Whis­per it, but it didn’t taste that bad.

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