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January 07, 2003

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

I drank my first latte at ConFrancisco, in 1993. There was a coffee cart in the lobby of the hotel I was staying in. And, in fact, there were coffee bars everywhere else in San Francisco. I drank a lot of large milky coffees that holiday.

I missed them when I got back to London, but soon we had coffee culture here too. Work is hard; it's not unreasonable to have a large, expensive coffee drink to help you get through the day, is it? Or two. At first it was quite hard to find latte, but help was at hand when the first branch of EAT opened just around the corner from my office. And it wasn't just the coffee; these shops sell pastries too. But I'm not poorly paid. I can afford a coffee and a croissant.

By spring last year my purse bulged with a festoon of cheerful coffee loyalty cards. A typical work day would involve me getting up, sleepily feeding the kids breakfast, walking Marianne to school, and walking to the station, where I'd buy a coffee and a Guardian. That would sustain me for the tube journey; on the way into the office I'd buy a grande skinny latte (see my concern for my health?) and a chocolate twist from EAT. At lunch I'd go to another coffee and sandwich shop, usually Pret. I'd have a baguette, a cake or croissant of some kind, and another large coffee. If I worked late I tended to nip out at 5 or so for another grande latte; otherwise I just bought the Evening Standard for the journey home.

When I bought a new toy computer I tried, experimentally, to knock the coffee habit on the head. In particular, I stopped buying stuff before getting on the train in the morning, and read the newspaper on my Clié. And I started going to Benjy's for coffee and toast at £1.10. It worked; though I eased up a bit after I was promoted. I mean, I could afford the computer and the coffee now, right?

Just before Christmas, as a lark, I had a cup of black tea. I remembered that I liked black tea. This is notable, because I don't really like Benjy's huge 60p cups of filtered coffee. So now I could just get the toast, and no coffee, and make black tea in my office for 4p a cup. No newspapers either. Back to Benjy's for lunch (in this cold weather, my super favourite tuna melt toasted panini), and more black tea, and water cooler water. The only downside is that I have to drink a gallon of Whittards Earl Grey to get any adequate caffeine rush.

And compared to my former habits, a single day of the new regime saves £7.50 or so. That's £30 a week, as I only work 4 days. Enough to buy four books, two DVDs, or a round of drinks at the Silver Cross. In just under 5 months, I'll have saved enough to buy a new digital camera.

But hey, don't I deserve a nice cup of coffee?

Posted by Alison at January 7, 2003 11:00 PM


Of course you deserve a nice cup of coffee. If I was in your shoes I'd have half a dozen of them every day. I'd eat enough pastries to make my doctor frown too. Then again choice isn't a serious factor to me since even if I had the money I don't have the desire to trade in my 1996 computer. Oh I would buy a laptop but it would be a less than top of the line second-hand bargain. Hardly a desire for toys which would interfere with coffee and myself.

Posted by: Kim Huett at January 8, 2003 10:19 AM

I was aware when I was writing this that it was a conspicuous consumption post, and possibly insensitive to those of my readers whose choices are between the cheap and the cheaper. But I was trying to get over this sense that just because I can choose to buy venti eggnog lattes (which I adore, by the way) doesn't mean I should.

Posted by: Alison Scott at January 8, 2003 10:55 AM

Do you know that one of your writing tropes is to use the word "cheerful" in inappropriate places ? (In a good , trans-anthropomorphic way I mean - as in "cheerful coffee loyalty cards".) Just noticed and thought you'd be intrigued..

Posted by: Lilian at January 8, 2003 02:44 PM

I, feeling like a couple of dollars a day was too much to spend on coffee, but more particularly because the campus coffee stands close at 3pm (what sort of time is that!?), bought a coffee machine for the lab.

Now if only I used it.

Posted by: Damien Warman at January 9, 2003 03:37 AM

If I were to drink four grande anythings in a day I'd never get to sleep. You amaze me. At any rate, the entry reminded me of how shocked I was when we moved to Nashville in 1989 and they did not have coffee culture. There were no kiosks at the malls, no Starbucks or the like, no lattes or capuccinos anywhere to be had, and the regular coffee tasted like ass. I used to have to import decent coffee beans from California via Peet's mail order and grind it (and brew it) myself.

Posted by: Lucy Huntzinger at January 10, 2003 09:35 AM

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