How I learned that it’s never really just about the coffee.
I am excited and I am adventurous and I have replaced my reliable Lavazzo with a more exotic local-ish blend.
I heat water and I stir and I take a sip and then I pour it down the sink. J looks on, bemused. “It’s rank.” I say, by way of explanation.
J takes a gulp of his and declares it ‘not that bad.’ I remind him of the time he substituted meat with a tangerine for inclusion in a tomato-based pasta sauce and declared it just the same.
I contemplate why I am so disappointed with the insipid brew I have managed to produce. I realise how, peculiarly, a lot of my hopes and dreams for this period in our life are pinned on finding the perfect coffee.
If I close my eyes, I see I’ve absent-mindedly created a most vivid mental image of me looking intelligent and slightly bohemian in local, off-the-beaten-track coffee shops; me taking sips of rich, cardamom-infused delights while having life-affirming conversations with wizened locals; me having a little mid-morning ritual that, once our adventure here is finished, I have the wherewithal to recreate at home.
I realise how, perhaps a tad unrealistically, I envisaged I would be making coffee out of nigh-on magical beans, that a mere whiff of a mug full will inspire me to write and to read and to exercise, that will have an aroma so uplifting that it will align mind with matter, moon with stars, cup with saucer.
“I don’t think it’s the coffee”, I declare. “I think I’ve got the wrong kit.”.
I set off to the mall. I admire the ornate jugs, the golden flasks, the teeny, tiny beautiful cups. I wonder which items are for tea, which for coffee, which are for serving hot drinks and which are best for cold. Perplexed, I find myself absentmindedly seated in an international coffee chain with a latte that is bigger than my head.
This. Is. Not. The. Dream.
A few days later, I venture beyond the mall. I take my writing and my reading and my body and my soul and I stroll with purpose to an independent caffeine serving establishment. I peruse the beverage menu and admire the fine, middle eastern coffee-making paraphernalia that adorns the shelves. “What would you have?” I ask the waiter. “Americano?” he responds.
I turn my back on the pursuit of the perfect coffee for a while and join a yoga group, which I am confident will be a foolproof way to secure body/soul alignment. A week in and the instructor contacts us to let us know that she has to cancel the class due to injury. “Anyone for coffee?”, she asks. I sigh inwardly — idling away mindless hours over Nescafé and inconsequential natterings is also Not The Dream.
We meet in the home of one of the yoga class attendees. The welcome is warm. We share stories and help each other with the niggling logistical challenges you face when living far away from where you once were.
The coffee is not central to proceedings, but it is comforting and familiar. I hold the cup in both hands as I navigate forming new relationships.
We natter and it is nice.
I’m told how to solve admin issues, how to choose schools, where the best spots are to observe wildlife, for day trips, to watch camel racing: “You get there really early in the morning”, they tell me, “and you stay maybe until nine, and then afterwards, nearby, there’s a great place you can head to for a local breakfast. You wait and while you wait they will make you the most amazing coffee.”