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Opinion: A cup of java

What makes a good cup of coffee? Our humour columnist weighs in.
coffee
We might all have differing definitions of a great cup of coffee. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Are you a coffee drinker? If so, what constitutes a perfect cup for you? For some folks, like my dad, a few freeze-dried crystals of instant stirred into boiling water was enough, for others, there can be quite a science to brewing the ideal mug.

Here are a few tips in order to brew the best possible cup at home. First, use fresh, whole beans since the pre-ground product may have sat on the grocery store shelf for months. Coffee is finest only days after roasting.

Store the beans in an airtight container, and grind them just before brewing. Ground coffee loses flavour within thirty minutes. Hurry!

Also, it’s important to use quality water. My water is high in minerals and apparently won’t “bond” well with the coffee particulates. This leads to weak taste, and who the heck wants that!

I was converted to the charms of good coffee while visiting Italy. Every day I’d indulge in a cappuccino—or two. Sure the cups were tiny, but they were deliciously packed with rich aroma. There was nothing better than to sit on a cobblestone lane amid the hustle and bustle of a busy weekday morning and sip the frothy beverage.

This pleasant memory is not shared by my husband. In vain he searched for a “decent” cup of java. By that he meant a 14-ounce, disposable container of drip coffee, stuffed into a cardboard tray and thrust into his outstretched hand through a small hole cut into the side of a building.

“Bah!” he’d say with disgust, watching as I sipped my caffè latte near the Roman Colosseum. “I want a real cup of coffee.”

While abroad, he was so desperate for coffee prepared his own way, he purchased a small Bialetti espresso maker. Then, he pondered which variety of grounds to buy, finally accosting three elderly Italian women in a supermarket to ask their advice. While initially, they were wary of this strange babbling man, they warmed up as he smiled, performed exaggerated simulations of someone guzzling a hot drink, and expressed his utter helplessness. Happily chattering in Italian, they pointed to a brand of coffee they liked best.

This is a serious business for Tom and not to be trifled with. Several years ago, he underwent an operation at the University Hospital in Edmonton. After two days of confinement, and miserable, watery coffee, he rose from his bed to peer out the window.

“Well, whadya know…” he said, his eyes narrowing in thought. Shortly thereafter, a man could be seen exiting the front doors of that worthy institution. This fellow, one hand dragging a rolling IV pole and the other clutching the ends of a thin hospital gown that fluttered dangerously in the afternoon breeze, crossed the busy thoroughfare. This man was on a mission. He cared nothing for the interested stares of onlookers, the imminent threat of indecent exposure, or the conventions of society. He spared no time for the idle curiosity of strangers who wondered at the sight of a man marching briskly across the busy intersection in a pale blue dressing gown and bedroom slippers. He wanted a “decent” cup of coffee. And he had spotted Tim Horton’s.

Give someone a smile with Helen’s humorous Prairie Wool books, or newly released fantasy series, Runestaff Chronicles. Find them at helentoews.com or Amazon.