"I need a coffee!" - how often have you said that? How often have you emailed or called a friend and finished off by saying "we really must catch up, let's get together for a coffee"? Or as a very famous movie star once said "come up and see me sometime" - I'm sure she was talking about coffee.
How did it all start? Legend has it that in the year 850 a goatherd (a lonely goatherd?) in the hills of Ethiopia noticed that his herd became a bit friskier after eating the berries of a certain shrub. After trying the berries himself and experiencing their wonderful effect he then shared his find with the local monks who declared it the work of the devil and threw the beans into the fire. But after retrieving the beans, putting them into water and drinking the brew the monks then proclaimed that it was a miracle and continued to drink it to help keep them awake during their evening prayers.
The first coffee houses were opened in Mecca in the 13th century and soon became places of social interaction - chess and backgammon were played there, gossip was exchanged, singing, dancing and music were enjoyed - and all for the price of a cup of coffee.
Coffee shops are still centres of social interaction. You can visit any coffee shop on any given day and see groups of friends catching up, business people with their laptops, job interviews in progress, students relaxing after an exam or study, couples ..... and lots of first dates.
What makes a place your favourite coffee shop? For me it's a combination of things - when I walk in I want to smell that rich, warm inviting aroma of coffee brewing. I want the staff to welcome me, to be friendly but not intrusive. I like the lighting to be a bit dim, the furniture comfortable - couches are a bonus, they give the place a cosy feel. I like to see a selection of food on offer and it must look fresh, inviting. A decent selection of current magazines and the morning paper is a must.
I can sit in my favourite coffee shop, or any coffee shop for that matter, on my own, and feel very comfortable. I blend in - I don't have to have a companion. I can sit and read a book or simply watch the world go by.
My favourite coffee, a cappuccino, in my favourite coffee shop is a work of art. The perfect cappuccino - which takes its name from the cappucin monks, the layers in the cup representing the different layers of the monk's habit - is made up of 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 froth. The barista is the artisan.
Let's begin: the coffee takes about 20 to 30 seconds to flow from the machine into the cup and it is rich, dark and syrupy, not bitter or burnt. It has a reddish-brown crema that sits gently on top. The milk for my cappuccino is steamed to the right temperature and has a creamy, velvety texture. The barista pours this hot foamed milk over the shot of coffee resulting in a thick creamy foam forming on top ....... and I am treated to a sprinkle of chocolate. When I finish drinking it, it leaves a coating of crema on the inside of the cup. And the taste in my mouth is exquisite.
So - what do you say? Let's get together - let's have a coffee.
Life is good.