Lucy Reynolds bloody loves coffee. Can’t get enough of the stuff – and not just because it gets her through the working day. She tells Standard Issue why.
Aside from the smell of napalm in the morning, there’s nothing quite like the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. It has become an essential part of my daily routine: wake, shower, coffee, practice twerking in the mirror, get dressed and out to work. Ever since the Gold Blend adverts of the 1980s, with Anthony Head (yes, him from Buffy) trying to seduce a glamorous Sharon Maughan using his suave charms and freeze dried granules, coffee has had a strange sort of appeal for me. It was unashamedly adult and seemed uber sophisticated. I know that the British sweetheart is the comforting cup of tea, but for me, coffee is the Queen.
This is not to say my love of fine coffee has come easily: I’ve been through the wilderness years. As a trainee teacher, I spent many break times drinking what can only be described as caffeinated gravy just to get that ‘buzz’ before standing in front of a room full of vacant-faced teens. I’d fill it so full of sugar that it was a surprise I didn’t slip into a diabetic coma. It became a necessity and not a pleasure. I’d also find myself surrounded by coffee bores, who eyed up my instant grounds with disdain and flaunted their cafetière in front of me like they were casting pearls before swine. Apart from wanting to tell them where to stick their plungers, it made me feel that the world of fine coffee was elitist, pretentious and not for me. I’d hug my jar of Nescafe and weep silently. That was until I began to search for a ‘proper’ cup of coffee and found myself on a magical mystery tour of beans, hipster beards and all things barista.
My epiphany came in San Francisco where, on holiday with my friend Diane, a die-hard foodie, we toured the city looking for the best coffee. We searched around, visiting independent cafes and micro-roasters, tasting some of the finest and fanciest Java around. I felt like a rookie, surrounded by Frisco’s fast-talking hipsters, ordering cups of things I’d never heard of before. Ever had a piccolo? No, it’s not just a small flute – it’s a tiny milky coffee. A cold brew? Not beer but a delicious, sweet and fruity cold-filtered coffee. A ristretto or lungo? Not a daring sexual position but variations on espressos.
From watching the baristas moving around, tamping, frothing and foaming little cups of joy, and tasting the equivalent of the Rolls Royce of coffee, I realised that there was a world of caffeinated happiness just within my grasp. The dusty, stuffy world of cafetières had been replaced with friendly, passionate coffee-fanatics who were more than willing to wax lyrical about every aspect of their roasting process and suggest the exact blend to suit your tastes. And the best coffee I drank? Blue Bottle Coffee – a San Francisco staple. If you ever get the chance, drink it in copious amounts.
That’s not to say that we’re lagging behind in the UK by any means. If anything, the UK has one of the most exciting and rapidly growing coffee cultures, with coffee festivals and independent micro-roasters popping up all over. A recent visit to Cup North, a coffee festival in Manchester displayed just how vibrant the UK scene is. It’s billed as a ‘two day coffee party’, and I spent most of my time going from stall to stall, chatting to small business owners who were obsessed with coffee and keen for me to try their blend. By the end of it I was so hyped up on caffeine, I was vibrating.
What was great to see (apart from the amazing range of facial hair that barista boys tend to pride themselves on) was that, unlike the ubiquitous tax-dodging high-street coffee chain, these small micro-roasters were getting involved in ethical practices, using Trade Direct to get their beans. There were also some of the UK’s top male and female baristas present, showing off their artistic skills and making coffee nerds a little weak at the knees. I mean, there’s nothing like being able to draw a heart in a foamy latte to get the pulse racing (or maybe that’s the double shot of caffeine).
Now a proud self-confessed coffee fan, I crave a split shot at the weekend (I promise that’s not a euphemism) and eye up the Chemex glass coffeemaker as a thing of beauty. I still drink instant grounds at work and I’m not ashamed, but at the weekend I’m all about sitting in a little independent coffee shop, eyeing up the Grizzly Adam style beards and enjoying a smooth cup of something that sounds slightly rude but tastes amazing. Seriously, who needs drugs when you have great coffee?
Lucy is a teacher whose dream as a child was to be WWE Wrestling Champion. That dream is still alive.