Red Seed, Black Liquid, Flat White

A few pretentious notes on coffee.

Red Seed, Black Liquid, Flat White

There's an edge and bitterness to coffee that makes it addictive.

Part of a fantastically Continental childhood is being brought up with this drink: a canard in a filter coffee, black, usually after an impressive meal and equally suitable patisserie gem - I was four.

The first of many sweet and milky brews on a Saturday morning, planning the weekend and listening to the radio from the depths of a century-old family bol - I was seven.

My own cup from the legendary Hellem vacuum coffee maker after another fearsome spread, its darkness and astringency only matched by the high-cocoa chocolate I took with it. Rarely, some of the Chamonix that I love but never saw at snacktime on Mamy's table by the fire. Summer holiday, that one: eleven.

The last real milestone came after rugby or hockey on Wednesday afternoons - the beginning of what has become a great pleasure - deliberating over everything with good music, excellent company and a couple of flat whites. A little cohort of teenagers with caffeine, convinced this was the high life on the sofas at the back.

And it was. Not the very English affliction of coffee as a tool to get through the day, but some basic idea that four walls, comfortable seating, good coffee and unhurried atmosphere make a place where nothing really matters. Come in, order, and drink warmth, watching the footprints outside.

There are fewer comforts I think better than a deep leather armchair, a heady brew and the ability to watch people youd've never met before. Some place don't do that. Borough Market Monmouth is an experience in itself, or the Piaggio Ape coffee bars that have started colonising popular bits of cities nowadays. Although it isn't easy to find great coffee wherever you go in Britain, neither is it purely a drink. I am happy to pay many times more for a cappucino in an indie or chain than one I can make at home because coffee isn't just for thirst.

As a great American once wrote, "I have measured out my life in coffee spoons" - they hold memories. Nothing else is as easily accessible an inlet into continental savoir vivre. £2.40 isn't just a flat white, it's an hour spent with friends, a breakfast with an old mate, a private reflection or a moment of pleasure with a plastic lid and heatproof sleeve.

This place has been privy to frank discussion and arguments, confessions and conversations that can never last long enough. For lucidity of thought and total creativity? Coffee's earth tones and deep flavours. Open a book and write, draw or think time away. I am content in this corner.

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