Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Dying for a coffee

Drove across the heathered, gorse-addled moors to a market town gripped around by hills this golden morning. I arrived early for a meeting so parked the car and ambled up to a cafe perched on a steep slope for a coffee. Could not get the door open. "Half day closing" the woman appeared to be mouthing at me through the glass. I think that is what she was saying. She could have been saying: "I am being held hostage by a stalker who has just smothered the other waitress with a giant buttered teacake". I nodded and turned away. A mistake bearing in mind where I ended up. I mooched down the slope into a shop and bought my mother a scarf I thought she might like which had caught my eye in the window. I said to the assistant behind the counter who was wearing the most startling green eyeshadow I have seen outside the seventies: "I want to get a coffee - where should I go?" "Try the place next to the undertakers," she advised. Never trust a woman with green eyeshadow.

I edged into an unpreposessing little cafe with a small window, cheap wallpaper and those varnished chairs you only see in cafes like this one. I said to the girl behind the counter: "Could I have a bacon sandwich?" She said she would see and disappeared into the kitchen. I am pretty sure the woman in the kitchen's words were "I suppose so." I should have left at that point but you do not want to rush into over-hasty judgment. I ordered a cappuccino. I really must stop doing that. In my defence, there was a machine with its back to customers with a whole list of coffees and what they consisted off - frothed milk, a shot of espresso etc. I took the cup over to a table and sat down with it - it smelled of the boiled milk I used to have to drink as a child when I was sick. It was also sweet. It was without doubt the worst coffee I have drunk in Northumberland so far - frankly, that is saying something. Despite the fact I did indeed get my bacon sandwich complete with crisps and spread, I went back to the counter, waiting patiently for the pensioner customers in front of me to be served. They shuffled off with their scones and tea and I lowered my voice; God forbid you are overheard making a complaint. I said to the very pretty girl serving: "Do you think I could have a filter coffee instead, this coffee is terrible. I've got to know how you make it." She handed me a little silver packet which I examined. It had to have real coffee in it - not a lot but a bit, and I imagine a little plastic tap thingy. I said: "Well there is probably coffee in there. What about the milk?" I was genuinely intrigued. She said: "It's granules." Why do people do that? Why not just save yourself the cost of a machine and stick to tea? I handed her the money for the filter coffee and she took it.

20 comments:

girl with the mask said...

"Never trust a woman with green eye shadow"... this is not a piece of advice you would have heeded before today?!

Swearing Mother said...

I wear green eyeshadow and am now mortally offended.

It is dull sludge green, not even remotely sparkly, so maybe this doesn't count?

wife in the north said...

re swearing mother: it counts

Expatmum said...

Come on WINT, you've been up there long enough to know that the coffee thing just is not going to happen. The tea might be pretty decent though. Try tea with stotty and it'a a different experience.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I knew there was a reason why I don't drink coffee.

Pam said...

Okay, I'm confused - is "crisps and spread" crispy bits of bacon and marg or potato chips and marmite? I think I've lived in the US too long haven't I.
Sorry your coffee was bad.

rosiero said...

You and stinking Billy must have simultaneously been having your bad coffee day.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

eeeewwwwwww.

Miriam said...

Reminds me of once going to a hairdressers in the country for wash and blow dry- "do you want it washed from the back or the front?". Had a fine cappucino ina hairdressers yesterday though, maybe you should go for a blow dry instead of coffee?? mimi

Sally's Chateau said...

Indeed, God forbid that any of us should be heard to complain !! summed up beautifully.

dum mum said...

I agree with expat mum - switch to tea when out - now I'm NOTB, I only drink coffee in the relative safety of my own kitchen.

LittleBrownDog said...

They may not do coffee very well, but you can get a much better cup of tea up north. How was the scone?

Journey of Truth said...

The coffee (filter kind) I picked up at Starbucks yesterday was shite. Excuse the expression, but really, you'd think they'd have done it properly.

Is it in England tea can't be done too poorly, like in America coffee can't be done too poorly? Sometimes it can, I guess. But Starbucks getting filter coffee all wrong?

DulwichDivorcee said...

Dear WINT, have just discovered your blog via an article in the Telegraph, and now feel as though I am the last one in on a great secret - it really is fab and I can't wait for the book to come out, though of course I may well die of jealousy when it does!

andy said...

Up here where we laugh at people who think that Northumberland (several hours drive south) is "north", good coffee is actually pretty easy to find; and I bet there is more appalling coffee to be had in London than the rest of the UK put together.

Is the old "feel superior to the provincials" routine just too easy a gag to use?

(Very) Lost in France said...

I'm glad it's not just me that misses a decent cup of coffee. My nearest Starbucks is 700 miles away! You should try the French stuff.

The Optimist said...

Yup, I tried to get a cup of tea at that particular village (well, I'm assuming it's Rothbury) on a recent visit home from uni, and found nothing at all was to be had until after 10am. It's quite cute, really, even if my mother and I were forced to loiter on the street for half an hour, only at the end of that period realising that we were standing outside a funeral parlour. Lovely. Ah well, I did get some lovely lemon meringue pie in the end, so mustn't grumble!

Lindsay said...

Love your blog - you have inspired me to write one of my own - but will never be so eloquent! Good luck with the book.

StuckinSouthWales said...

Why does everyone equate good coffee with Starbucks, for god's sake? What a depressing situation! Of course it's all down to personal taste, but if you are going to drink coffee from a chain cafe, Caffe Nero is about as good as you're going to find, and even that is far from perfection. If you're looking for the most sublime cappuccino known to womankind, pay a visit to Monmouth Coffee Co., round the corner from Borough Market, London (and in Covent Garden, I believe) and you will find it impossible to purchase a shit coffee from Starbucks ever again. Better still, purchase Monmouth's espresso blend (available online, thank goodness)and arm yourself with an espresso machine at home. You'll be drinking some of the best coffee it's possible to drink and saving yourself a small fortune in the process. Finding myself stuck in South Wales due to my partner's job, this is my main consolation and defence again the Segaffredo crap all the cafes so mindlessly serve around here. Hell, WITN, you think Northumberland is bad - try South Wales! I'll swap you for Northumberland any day!!

Tismee2 said...

I think I may have had the same awful coffee in the same place once before. I used to travel around Northumberland a lot and eventually managed to curb myself - "cap.......pot of tea please".

I need to have a spoach around your posts to see where else we may have bumped into eachother unknowingly. I live in Blyth btw!