A mixture of smoky and nutty aroma fills the kitchen atmosphere and lingers in your nose, while you are still at your hypnopompic state of consciousness. As you attempt to make a perfect cup of coffee, you’ve realised you would be an exceptional professional coffee cupper or, a barista-  to say the least. This first sip will make you or break you.

Sweet, pleasantly bitter and a hint of acidity. A perfect balance.

The second sip and you thought to yourself “I am going to have the best day ever”

Hmm….coffee….

Coffee is a universal beverage and it’s one, other than eccentric local cuisines, that makes people from different background talk to each other and connect. What’s better than a good conversation over a good cup of coffee?

It’s no longer a mystery that caffeine plays a part in the release of dopamine which gives us a pleasant sensation after our first cup in the morning. What used to be just an energy-boosting beverage then, has now become an art, a pride to a culture and one of the most crucial commodities in the world.

If you think coffee originated from Europe, I dare say, you are misinformed because the earliest drinkers were from Ethiopia and Yemen. According to Lost Islamic History, the first few nations that specialised in coffee houses were actually from the Muslim world such as Istanbul and Cairo. So, it goes without saying that coffee is one of the primary innovations in the Islamic history and changed the world.

Since the existence of coffee dated back to the 1400s, it’s no wonder coffee has become a cross-cultural drink. With different methods of preparation and roast types, it’s hard to not fall into this coffee culture and travel, because of it. Thus, one of the most essential things in my souvenir-shopping list whenever I travel, is the local ground coffee. It doesn’t feel complete going home without bags of ground coffee. The downside to it is that stocking up my favourite ground coffee is not a regular task and I have to switch coffee brands quite frequently, but that only means I have more reason to explore.

With that in mind, I came up with the idea to share you a love story between me and coffee.

  1. Once upon a time, I drank for the sake of culture…

My first cup of coffee was a disaster. It happened way back when I was just a teen, and I didn’t know how a good coffee is supposed to taste like.

That is until…

I had a ‘coffee rampage’ in Italy because it was just that good, especially at local independent coffee shops. I drank even if I didn’t need to. Adding sugar was unnecessary because the balance between the sweetness and bitterness was always on point.  If you are not a coffee drinker, I swear Italy will convert you. At least, that’s how my intense love for coffee had started.

I commemorated my love for coffee by buying a 2-cup cafeteria at a small antique shop which costed me 13 euros. I don’t think I’ve encountered any bad-tasting coffee while I was there. At all.

Other than coffee, Italy really prides itself for their Nutella.

While waiting for your coffee to brew and milk to get warm, coat the inner cup with Nutella as much and as thick as you’d like. Since Nutella will give the sweet taste to your coffee, no need to add sugar. All those Nutella chunks will bring the inner child in you.

I’ve never had a day in Italy without coffee and it remains one country top in my list for authentic coffee.

  1. I jumped onto the bandwagon and tried to be a coffee-geek

The tradition is to drink this after a full meal, with a dessert. Strong and effective. Perfect for people who need that caffeine-kick, without going to the bathroom. The dessert in the background is rice pudding, which has a dominant milky, bitter taste with soufflé-like texture.

If you have the opportunity to visit Turkey, I can’t emphasize enough that Turkish coffee is a must!

However, I urge you not to have too high of expectation if it is your first ever cup of coffee because the bitterness can be too strong and overwhelming for your palate. That’s what turned one of my travel mates off from drinking coffee! It’s an acquired taste.

For coffee addicts, take your time to enjoy this because every sip counts. The only thing that I didn’t like so much was the unfiltered ground coffee that settled at the bottom of the cup. As much as I love coffee, I preferred the local fruity tea, especially when drank on a cold spring night.

Just like everything else, I’ve realised I don’t need to love every coffee in the world.

  1. Coffee became a part of my ‘change’

One day, I had an ‘epiphany’ that I wanted to be a morning person after experiencing daily morning grogginess – even after 8 hours of sleep, or more. With that goal in mind, I thought that treating myself with a good cup of coffee accompanied with a fulfilling breakfast was a good idea. It’s easier to sustain your body clock when you don’t have to go through major shift in fajr time that happens every season in non-tropical countries. During those cold winter mornings, I remember the will it took to crawl out of bed for fajr prayer and the struggle to stay awake after fajr. That warm cosy bed kept calling me to stay in… even just for a few minutes. Those few minutes usually turned out hours for me and I ended up with regret.

I stayed in after I had consecutive productive days because it was impossible to consistently be a morning person. Of course, some people prefer to be night owls – I tried to be one, trust me – but a full night’s sleep was a need for me to be productive and sane. Im sure i’m not the only one!

To all those who struggle this holiday to stay awake to get your revision done: I feel you! Coffee is your best friend.

Danish cappuccino is served in a glass. Taste like a typical cappuccino you can find anywhere. The effect of caffeine was mild; although the bitter taste is more dominant than it is sweet. I also had whole grain Danish bread with chilli tuna mousse filing. Perfect for a snowy day, below zero degrees C. An open space café, known as Big Apple (Copenhagen, Denmark) is more appropriate for summer times. Plenty of greens – making the atmosphere airy and somewhat chills – with a rustic theme.

However, if you are travelling instead of hibernating during this holiday season to an extremely cold country; waking up early to make the best out of your day can be difficult. Make sure you have enough food and warm beverages to keep yourselves warm!

  1. In the end, I was awoken by a cruel reality…

In January 2016, while I was enjoying a cup of coffee amidst browsing through my morning news, I was appalled by the fact that by 2080 – about 60 years from now – we would run out of coffee, that is if the world won’t already end by then. Basically, the supply is not sustainable due to climate change and increasing competition between brands. Consumerism is inevitable and one that leads to forced or underpaid labour.

Curiousity drove me to research further and caused me to land on the dark side of internet.

Ever heard of Luwak Coffee? This is not a plant-based coffee but collected from droppings of a protected small cat-like species, known as civet, found in Asian countries like Indonesia and Vietnam. Ever since its debut into the coffee world, coffee lovers lose their mind over the unique taste that has a distinctive sweet flavour, unlike your typical Arabica or Ethiopian roast coffee. Due to its rarity, the price would typically be expensive and treated as high-end beverage just as one would treat caviar as a high-end delicacy. People see this as a lucrative business and turned what used to be an innocent trade to a daunting image of civet being abused and force-fed in cages by poachers just so the coffee can be sold to commoners who can’t afford fair trade luwak coffee.

There is a lot of controversies associated with this coffee, so make sure you check the source before you buy them! [1]

As a coffee lover and an amateur activist, I support ‘rainforest alliance certified’ and ‘fair trade’ coffee brands. They tend to be more expensive than retail store coffee brands but it comes with a good quality ground coffee. So it is a win-win situation.

After all, as a Muslim, we are supposed to be all-rounded and this includes the food and beverages that we consume.

  1. I have newfound appreciation for coffee in spite of the grim reality…

Since it was night time during holiday season, I was more attracted to the hot chocolate than the coffee. I had my coffee elsewhere for breakfast. This is one of the many cafe famous for its opulent, theatre-like ambience. We were only eyeing for the hot drinks and desserts and fortunately, there were not as expensive as we thought. It was cosy and perfect for a night chat, but could be stuffy sometimes.

One of the mistakes that I made in Vienna is to overthink as to where to have my first coffee because there were too many cafes to try. I was too attached to the idea of having the show-stopping Viennese coffee as a first cup.

Will the acclaimed café hub be overrated? Should I have one from an obscure, underrated café? So, lesson learnt: don’t overthink; if one disappoints, don’t generalise. In order to compensate our lack of café-hops in Vienna, we bought as many ground coffee as our bags could handle that they ended up smelling like one (another plus for coffee-lovers).

Sometimes, I wonder if I need an intervention – a caffeintervention, perhaps? Unless I consume 50 cups or more all at once every day, I think I’m good.

Reference

[1] Wild, Tony. “Civet Coffee: Why It’s Time to Cut the Crap.” Word of Mouth Blog. Guardian News and Media, 13 Sept. 2013.

 

Syaza is a freelance writer whose life revolves around coffee, cats and heartwarming stories.

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