I didn’t drink coffee for a long time because I didn’t want to be a part of the weird cult of personality surrounding this beverage. Like, I hope no one ever catches me drinking coffee out of one of those ostensibly funny “if you get between me and my coffee I will bite your torso and give you a disease” type mugs.
Of course, I eventually broke down, and I do actually believe now that coffee is the best part of waking up, although that’s not really saying a whole lot.
While I don’t want to be a coffee snob, I do find myself really confused by how bad the coffee from the S— chain is. It tastes like a delicate blend of Colombian Folgers and Ethiopian cigarette butts. It’s definitely worse than your generic Office Coffee. Although I suppose judging the S— company based on their plain coffee rather than the sugary drinks that the S— chain is known for is a bit like judging Nirvana based on their weird cover of that one song by The Cars.
However, with absolutely no data to back me up, I would like to point out that the S— chain played an important role in making coffee into the hip commodity that we know and love today. It may or may not have been the S— chain that used a vaguely Euro element to market coffee, but let’s just say that it was, and boy was it a clever move. Coffee moved from its traditional realm of the diner to the “café.” Look at that “é”! So Euro!
Though praising S— is nowadays pretty gauche among those who like their coffee “haute,” the appeal of Euro cool in the world of coffee lives on. One fun piece of coffee equipment I have is the Bialetti Moka Express. It is so cool. It takes forever to use and is a pain in your bidet-washed butt to clean, but it definitely makes interesting coffee, and it is so cool.
Perhaps interesting given the fact that a lot of our coffee culture looks outside of the US for inspiration: can you guess the biggest thing that sets the American coffee culture apart from the rest of the world? Apparently, it is that Americans stubbornly refuse to buy instant coffee. Weird, but true. When is the last time that you bought instant coffee? I had never had it, until recently. All I knew was that “true” coffee drinkers would rather drink S— coffee with tears streaming from their hiply bespectacled eyes than be caught near the stuff.
An interesting quote from an interesting read: “The U.S. is entirely unique in its aversion to instant coffee.”
If this is true, doesn’t this put instant coffee in the same category as manual transmission cars, universal healthcare, trains, unlocked phones, and capri pants? I like all of those things! (Except capri pants, although I guess they make sense.) Time to experience the Next Big Thing in hip coffee enlightenment—instant coffee!
Soon, I found myself the proud owner of a jar of N—é Clásico. Just look at that “é”! That “á”!
I assume you know this already, but instant coffee is a powder that you drop into hot water. It really lives up to the “instant” part of its name, setting it apart from misnomers such as instant noodles (2 minutes to make), instant cameras (2 minutes of flapping a gray square), and “Instant Karma!” by John Lennon (playing time—3:18).
As for the taste? I think of instant coffee as a different substance from regular coffee. As a drink in and of itself, I think N—é Clásico is pretty okay. But it fails to be Actual Coffee in a lot of respects. It basically doesn’t have any fragrance. I would say the difference between coffee and instant coffee is like the difference between Han Solo and one of those cardboard cutouts of Han Solo that nerds own: pretty similar, as long as you ignore an entire dimension.
But those cutouts are kind of cool in their own right, and in any case, you don’t really think Actual Han Solo would want to hold a dynamic pose in your room all day long, do you? I definitely see the value of cardboard Han Solo—and instant coffee. Instant coffee is easy and quick, and while it may be kind of bad, it is bad in a comforting, passive sort of way. (This makes it way better than Actual S— coffee, which is actively bad.)
I guess instant coffee is kind of like capri pants. Sensible, but just not that great.