The Immaculate Bean

13 April 2006

We all have addictions, The Cheat's is coffee. So what is the state of everyone's (or many people's) favourite addiction in Spain?

We all have addictions, and that’s just fine.  A lot of people are making a big stink about how its unfair to force smokers out of bars and restaurants since the ban this January, and I understand that.  I don’t smoke.  In fact I hate it.  Nasty, dirty habit in my opinion.  But hey, in this country its considered weird if you don’t light up so whatever.  The point is many of us do enjoy a wee puff, and go out of our way to choose the brand of cigarette we like, and to smoke them in places and under circumstances that maximise our enjoyment.  It’s all about pleasure, buddy.

My addiction, aside from high-powered motorcycles, is coffee.  I think coffee may well be the ideal comfort food, giving you a rush and warm fuzzy feeling (indigestion) mere minutes after ingestion.  Who can argue with that kind of instant gratification?  OK, so it isn’t really good for you, particularly in this modern world full of stress and noise and dog shit on the sidewalk.  A relaxing concoction would be much better for you than a known, powerful chemical stimulant, but no one I ever met lusted for a seaweed-spinach smoothie like most of us yearn to down that first morning cup.

My personal love affair with coffee began in earnest at the tender age of 18, when I was swept off my feet by a mysterious and beautiful French Canadian girl who herself was addicted to the stuff.  I hated kissing her after she had been caffeinating, however much I loved kissing her at other times, because I found the bitter taste of roasted bean less than appetizing.  Problem was we lived in a frozen wasteland and had nowhere to hang out between classes other than the plethora of coffee shops that began sprouting up in the early 90’s.  Thus, in between the shocking and awesome discovery of new music like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, I also entered into the realm of coffee.

Since then, my love affair with coffee has blossomed into a mature relationship, one that rewards me each day despite the negative side effects.  I have since those heady days of yore moved around Europe and discovered the greatest coffee of the world, the bitter-sweet elixir developed over centuries in Italy, known to the world as espresso.  This highly concentrated drink is the Remy Martin of coffees, a connoisseurs delight to be appreciated quickly or in tiny sips on any occasion.  No one in the world has been able to distil such a tiny drop of perfection, despite the best efforts of the American Commercial-Industrial Complex (Starbucks), or those of fellow Europeans.  The brand logos of Segafredo, Lavazza and of course Illy are the lode-stars of our addictive universe, their quality and spectacle rendering all others into mere pretenders.

So here we live in Spain, a magnificent country and cultural by-product of the very same Italians who developed this great drink, yet their coffee is always somewhat lacking.  It’s not for want of beans, after all, Italy gets its raw materials from the same places.  No, it’s all in the preparation, buddy.  Why, oh why do the baristas here boil the milk to kingdom come?  Café con leche is indeed a poor cousin of the cappuccino, its lactic topping being flat, lifeless and seething hot. Cortados are better and can really hit the spot, but sadly they too are going the way of the Dodo, as ever more Starbucks appear in the plazas of our new home, and the swarming multitudes of great unwashed tourists demand frozen vanilla low-fat frappuccinos.  My gods, its my addiction!  I demand purity and honest simplicity!  Leave me to assault my nerves in peace!  In the end, there can be only one.

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