Saturday, August 23, 2008


If you know me, you know I am serious about coffee. Only the best beans, only the finest grinds, preferably whole beans to grind at home moments before brewing, extreme pickiness and snobbery about ubiquitous coffee chains, and very specific rules about when to drink what. Just as fashionistas proclaim calendar rules for colors and shoe types, I religiously follow a doctrine of hot filtered coffee with cream and sugar from September/October through mid May, and iced lattes made with skim milk (preferably acquired at a farmer's market from the dairy farmer) during the warm spring and summer months.

However these rules, it seems, only apply to the eastern seaboard of the United States, where weather follows predictable hot-cold trajectories. Here in London, where the weather patterns are much more subtle and one 24-hour period can bring an meteorological smorgasbord, I've found myself breaking my own rules and craving sweet hot coffee more often than not. I tried to restrain myself, citing the coffee rules, but to no avail. And even worse, I've turned to the Americano.

Anyone who studied abroad as a student in a country known for coffee (ie, the rest of the world) was warned that you just won't find regular American coffee where you're going, and their alternative was stronger, more bitter, and hard to swallow. Filter coffeemakers are a rarity on this side of the pond, where everything from stove top Italian espresso pots to the French press to however the Dutch brew Douwe Egbert coffee rules. Europeans believe that the idea of running hot water over ground beans and drinking the filtered result is barbaric. So to appease American tourists, someone invented the Americano - espresso watered down with hot water. After witnessing the look of disdain that a follow countryman received when requesting an Americano at a bar in Italy, I quickly resolved to stick with what the locals drank (when in Rome and all that) and swore off the Americano without even trying it.

Until now.

In England, known not for coffee but tea, you can't get a filter coffeemaker either unless you mortgage your home and shell out upwards of £40. The Brits are excellent at importing and adopting what they don't themselves have, and went straight for the moda d'Italia of coffee selections. They also serve hapless American tourists Americanos - with less derision over the menu choice and more of a general air of superiority. So what was this American to do, craving hot filtered coffee, but with no place to get it?! (Starbucks being out of the question as, really, one can only break one rule at a time). So I tried it. And I LIKED IT! The Americano has the rich, full taste of espresso, with the drinkability of filtered coffee. And it takes skim milk much better than American filtered coffee, so I don't have to moan about the lack of Land o'Lakes Fat Free Half+Half. And it's fun to make!

So although I recently acquired a filter coffee maker from a friend who left London to return to the States, I think it might lie dormant for a while yet as I revel in the joys of the watered-down coffee created for weak American tourists like me.

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