During the week of WBC/SCAE 2010, your Sprudge.com content team were housed, guided and bemused by a Mr. Patrick Berning, of Hackney, East London. Patrick’s generosity and kindness were staggering, and without him we would have never experienced the garden sales, outdoor markets, perfect pubs, boozy walks and London Fields scope-outs his neighborhood has to offer. All Patrick asked in exchange for his extraordinary bonhomie was the chance to contribute a piece to Sprudge.com. It’s our pleasure to print Patrick’s editorial in its entirety. Thanks, Patrick, and we’ll see you for Bloody Mary’s in Portland this Christmas! – Editors
First off, let’s get this out of the way: I am not a coffee connoisseur. I love coffee, I drink it a lot, and I generally survive only through its perky embrace, but my journey to caffeine-fueled enlightenment has been a long and arduous one. For most of my life coffee started in a Kirkland signature tin and ended in a black crust at the bottom of a pot. General avoidance was inevitable for a fickle youngster. My first real foray into coffee? Chai tea lattes. This was well before I learned that a ‘shot’ was a shot of espresso, and not just an enthusiastic pump of syrup-like caffeine. I would like to think that other non-initiates have made this mistake, but I was honestly surprised when I ordered a shot in my chai tea and it tasted of coffee. A mistake not soon repeated, but a seminal coffee experience nonetheless.
Architecture school was baptism by fire: if by fire you mean coffee and baptism you mean full-scale stomach annihilation. Had my taste buds not been completely burnt away, I may have even been able to tell good from bad. But unfortunately coffee became a mere tool, no better than my used drafting board or pirated copy of adobe photoshop. It was not a thing to be enjoyed, rather a late night necessity I would have preferred on a drip.
I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since then, living in such a thriving coffee mecca as London, but unfortunately my two CCC/WBC attendee houseguests served last week as a constant reminder of my inability to discern quality beverages. Having two of the blogosphere’s most infamous anything staying at your flat would be intimidating, but most infamous coffee bloggers? I would surely perish.
And to be honest we didn’t get off to a very good start. Awkward small talk at the station consisted of ridiculous coffee-based questions: ‘How was the coffee on the ferry?’ (terrible) and, ‘Do you want to get a coffee on the way home?’ (no, it’s 11.45pm). The only coffee available in my flat the next morning was a stale mix of 8 week old Monmouth and 8 month old ‘cafetiere blend’ from the off-license downstairs. Apparently good coffee is not named by the type of brewing mechanism for which it pre-ground. As well my trusty cafetiere was so outrageously unhygienic that it required an emergency (and mostly secretive) sterilization session while I stepped briefly out. Judgments were flying through the house like planes through an ash-less sky. So far I was not faring well.
Actually making the coffee was even worse. I cringed as Zachary carefully measured scoop after scoop of stale blackness into the bowels of my cafetiere. Boiling water topped the flaky grounds and the mixture was left to sit for exactly three minutes. As the coffee was poured I realized this may be the worst cup that Zachary had ever had, possibly topping the ferry coffee on a scale of 1 to horrendous. I think I succeeded, as Zachary took one polite sip and proceeded to quietly leave. (Ed. note: This is only half-true. I drank about 2/3 of the coffee. The worst coffee I’ve ever had was a full 12oz lungo at an art show in San Francisco.)
Further events during the week perpetuated my charity case. Jordan and Zachary would note hints of ‘apricot’ or ‘hazelnut’ while I would notice hints of ‘coffee’ or ‘tar’. Occasionally I would note hints of chocolate, but this was as far as I could push the boat out. Names of fancy espresso machines would roll off their tongues sounding like a line-up of hot Italian fashion designers. I would tell others that they wrote a coffee oriented blog so it didn’t seem quite so scary, and late at night I would surf the sprudge to try and digest the incompressible conversations that took place that day. I can’t say I ever did.
I learned all about their love of coffee, coffee shops, coffee events, and coffee gossip. Caps lock COFFEE all the time. And though I can’t say I share the same obsession with this caffeinated beast, I can say that said beast was the crux of some A+ tomfoolery centered on this past London weekend. If what occurred was any small slice of the café culture pie, then one doesn’t have to be a world-class barista to taste a fabulous slice of the coffee lifestyle. Boys, that s**t was bananas, and your judgmental/fabulous/crazy coffee ways are welcome back to my east London flat anytime. You may have made me feel bad about my left of centre coffee habits, but you made me feel pretty good about what this caffeinated world has to offer.
-Patrick Berning, Hackney, East London