Coffee brewed from powder is still my cup of tea
Last updated at 14:53, Monday, 30 January 2012
WHY is it so difficult to buy coffee powder these days?
Mrs Hextol and I like our coffee frothy; whipping up a brew with a head like a pint of Boddingtons is one of the few manual skills I possess.
Yet to achieve this pinnacle of caffeine perfection, one requires coffee powder, rather than granules.
Spoon a teaspoon and a bit of powder into the cup, add three-quarters of an inch of milk and leave to stand while the kettle boils.
As soon as it clicks off, raise the kettle to head height and pour from about three feet above the cup.
After a bit of practice, you will hit the cup most of the time and any spillage is easily mopped up.
The result is as fine a cup of coffee as you will find anywhere.
Yet try the same technique with coffee granules, and the resulting brew looks like something dredged from the depths of the Ganges at monsoon time.
The world has gone granule mad. Everything from coffee to gravy browning now comes in those crusty little nuggets.
There used to be a host of firms selling both powder and granules, but the powder has gradually blown away from the supermarket shelves.
There seems to be only one powder purveyor left and its offering has shrunk to a small jar, which sells for as much as a big one.
The coffee snobs sneer over their skinny mock turtle expressed milk smoothies (is that right?) that coffee powder comprises only the inferior sweepings from the warehouse floor.
Be that as it may, it’s what I like, and sincerely hope that one day coffee powder will rise again.
I grew up in the 1950s when all coffee came in powder form, in vacuum-sealed tins about two inches high.
You could only get the lid off with the handle of a spoon and then you had to pop the air-tight seal to the coffee itself with a knife.
I have to confess I didn’t think much of my first taste of coffee.
Because it was brown and powdery, I thought it would taste something like cocoa, so licked my finger, stuck it in the tin and took a hearty lick
Even though it was heavily advertised on television as America’s Favorite Cawfee (“Flavor, Flavor – ra ra ra”) I found it perfectly vile.
It seemed to coat the roof of my mouth for days afterwards, and why anyone would want to drink it was completely beyond me.
I think the coffee had been acquired by my father, who made a big thing about quaffing this exotic brew for a week or so, before reverting to his usual sergeant major’s tea.
He did have a coffee renaissance when he was made redundant and lavished his vast pay-off of a couple of hundred quid on all manner of useless household appliances – like a sandwich maker and a coffee percolator.
He used to percolate coffee all day long, dragging perfect strangers in off the street to sample the delights of the Blue Mountains of Jamaica or wherever.
Then he graduated to making home-brewed wine and beer and the percolator was condemned to the back of the kitchen cupboard, never to be seen again.
His devotion to tea remained though – tea wine was his speciality.
Tea only came in quarters, not tea bag form, but it made no difference to me, because I have always hated it.
However, I did develop a fondness for PG Tips, purely on the grounds that each quarter of tea also contained a picture card.
These featured flowers, birds, trees and animals of Britain, and it was from them I gleaned much of my knowledge of flora and fauna.
We didn’t drink enough tea in our house to quench my thirst for knowledge, so my sister and I would go to the posh houses at the end of the estate and knock on doors.
Imagine the shock of mill owners’ wives at being confronted by two scruffy urchins demanding: “Er, ’scuse me, but what sort of tea d’yer drink?”
Our early market research proved remarkably fruitful – we would often be given dozens of the cards at a time.
We would use flour paste to glue pictures of red breasted mergansers, shelducks and great crested grebes into purloined school exercise books – we couldn’t afford the sixpence for an official collector’s albums – which I’m told now change hands for up to £100 each!
First published at 09:11, Monday, 30 January 2012
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk
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