Sunday, January 17, 2010
Having grown up in a coffee-growing part of India, when I first left home to take up residence in this nation of tea-drinkers, I thought Nilgiris coffee would be the single most utterly irreplaceable aspect of my diet that I was leaving behind. This prospect filled me with so much dread that I would regularly transport several kilogrammes of coffee powder halfway across the world, taking up much of my precious 23 kg luggage allowance (sometimes exceeded it, so that I once had to pay for its weight in gold). I also brought with me a stainless steel coffee filter so that I could brew the coffee in exactly the same way that I would have at home. But it never quite tasted the same. The water and milk were different, but the biggest problem was that in the 20 or so minutes that it took the coffee to percolate from the upper to the lower chamber of the filter, the decoction turned stone cold at my new Arctic latitude. Reheating decoction is a bad idea because it changes the taste, so I was forced to discover the virtues of a french press. I once saw Mysore coffee selling at £7 (then Rs. 560) for 500g in the Oxford Covered Market, but the idea of buying it at that price just seemed wrong. I'm most acutely aware that I live in an imperial metropolis when I survey the coffee sections of a local Tesco or Sainsbury, featuring coffee from Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania. You really feel like you live in the centre of the world. Over last weekend and this, I discovered two delightful independent coffee shops in East London: first, Climpson & Sons at the uber-cool Broadway Market and, yesterday, Tina, We Salute You tucked away in the no-man's land between Newington Green and Dalston Kingsland (you really have to look for it in the vertex formed by Mildmay Road and King Henry's Walk; there isn't even a sign hanging outside but LOTS of people seem to know about this place; verily a marketing mystery; don't miss the egg whisk lights which are also the frontispiece for their website). Independent coffee shops in London seem to employ a disproportionate number of Australians. They also don't really care about seating. Just truly exceptional coffee. There's also something called a disloyalty card explained here, which entitles you to a free coffee from one of the world's best baristas, after you've sampled the wares of 8 of East London's best coffee houses. I haven't picked it up yet, which means I have to go back to these two in addition to visiting the other six.