I used to drink instant coffee. In those days, I thought it tasted good. It was cheap and convenient, and I drank it black and piping hot the way they did it in manly movies.
Then I acquired sophistication. I became upwardly mobile, and began to sit around in Starbucks and Costa. Later, after I transformed into the cultured hunk of an intellect that I am today, I began to appreciate real coffee, frequenting hidden-away cafes with a reputation for exceptional brews. Once I even went to Colombia with a friend to spend a whole morning sampling 18 different varieties of cold and hot coffee, brewed in ways too complicated to describe here (okay, we were in Colombia for another purpose, but the rest is all true).
All this is to impress upon you the pain I face when I am forced to return to instant coffee. It usually happens when I am on the road and it is not a happy experience. Can a Mac-user go back to Windows? Can a Ferrari run on kerosene?
This morning, out of respect for my hosts who had stocked up on Nescafé, I found myself pouring kerosene into the Ferrari. The problem with instant is not that it is mass-produced, made of inferior beans, and is of unknown lineage. All of that is true. But it is also instant. You pour water and it is ‘done’. Anyone can do it. Lost is the art, the aroma, the anticipation. At home, when I wait by the French press in the early mornings, there is excitement. My kitchen becomes cosy and warm. Much before the first sip, the coffee seeps into me.
There was nothing of that this morning. I poked my nose into the cup to get a whiff and took a sip. It tasted burnt and metallic. I took it out into the garden, hoping the Scottish morning air would make it potable, and it occurred to me that instantism has seeped into every aspect of our lives. We have become a bunch of short-cutters. At work we call it working smart, not long. We speak of investing our time ‘wisely’, not acknowledging the opportunism inherent in every such decision. I am not knocking the idea of being efficient, no. But somewhere along the line we have lost all sense of proportion and balance. We began drinking too much Nescafé.
I finished the coffee, said bye to my hosts, and spluttered to my car. I had a ferry to catch.