It’s been a strange time over the last month since I turned forty – rather difficult to put into words (and for me, who loves and thrives on words and language, that’s saying a lot).
Today, however, is probably not the right time for me to be delving into that “strangeness”, and trying to figure out all the mixed emotions that seem to have followed me over the past month. Why? Why don’t I want to try and explain and share some of this strangeness (because we all know that, if nothing else, I’m always real!) – to be quite frank, it’s because I’m not feeling quite strong enough today. While it’s a public holiday here in South Africa and I imagine most people are enjoying a day off work and spending time with loved ones, the last few days have been rough for me, and there have been moments when the anxiety has been overwhelming. So I’m doing some introspection, which includes figuring out my worth and my consequent boundaries (which has always been a challenge for me). And one of the unfortunate things when you suffer from depression is that you don’t necessarily see your worth in the same way that others do and, as such, the introspection is not always pretty.
But moving on. I met Nicky for coffee this morning which, in itself, is nothing unusual as Nicky and I often meet for coffee, lunches, catch-ups, bubbles and all manner of good things, and probably see each other most weekends. So what was so special about coffee this morning that has prompted me to write about it? Well, it has to do with another item on The List (which coincidentally was contributed by Nicky). Nicky suggested that I discover the best coffee in the neighbourhood – whether that be my home suburb of Bryanston, the greater Sandton, trendy Braamfontein or wherever I choose. This was not going to be a hard task – I love coffee as much as I love bubbles! So, without making a specific choice as to which area was going to become my subject, I started taking particular note of the coffee at the various places at which I’ve had coffee over the last few months (of which there are many!) so that I could come up with the winner for The List.
As can be expected, I had a number of different experiences – different tastes, quality, roasts, temperatures and ambiances in which the coffee was served. In no particular order, there was the faithful Woolies cappuccino (and I say ‘faithful’ because it is of a consistent quality – you always know what you’re getting, no matter which Woolies Cafe you go to). There was the coffee at Tasha’s at Atholl Square, which was unfortunately a bit weak for my liking. There was Motherland at Dunkeld – lovely rich (but not overpoweringly strong) coffee, but a bit of a hit-and-miss experience with regard to friendliness of service (which is super important to me!). Mugg n Bean – often great coffee because I associate it with the halfway point at the 1-stop on the N3 on the way to Durbs. Are you starting to see the pattern of how other things are affecting the coffee experience?
And then, of course, there’s Seattle at Grosvenor Crossing, where Themba and his team greet you by name when you walk in the door (having remembered your name by the second or third time you’ve been there). And without fail, they make me giggle. My coffee order is pretty consistent (as any of my friends will tell you) – tall skinny cappuccino in a takeaway cup, extra hot (or sometimes hot, hot, hot) please. And so at Seattle, when I walk in the door, I am greeted with “Tall skinny cappuccino today? Extra hot, like you!)” How can that not make you smile?! Glenda’s at Hyde Square was lovely, had quite a “posh” feeling associated with it and who can forget Naked Coffee at Melrose – excellent coffee, made triply enjoyable by the fabulous barista there, Mpho. He is a real gem and, even though I’ve only been there once, he made such an impression on me and I will carry on recommending Naked Coffee because of him alone (although, like I say, the coffee was fab!).
So many options – and I’ve only mentioned a couple of them above. So which one was going to be the winner? And on what criteria would I make the selection?
At the risk of disappointment and an anti-climax, ultimately the winner is not one of the above. Rather, to an extent, it is all of them… and none of them. Let me explain.
What I discovered is that, as I have already alluded to, there are a myriad of factors that influence the coffee experience – factors completely outside of the strength, roast and quality of the brew. And the biggest factor? Without any doubt, the company! Which brings me full circle to my coffee with Nicky this morning. We met at the Woolies cafe in Morningside (so it was sure to be a ‘faithful’ coffee) and, even though I spent most of our time together with tears falling into my coffee, I can still say it was one of the best coffee experiences. Why? I was with a best mate, I was listening to her exciting story of an evening out a few nights ago, and she was listening to my ‘stuff’ and supporting me through the tears. So even though my tears could have overwhelmed our time together, on the contrary it was an awesome coffee experience evidencing the depth of our friendship.
And so it is that I’ve realised that as with most things in life, it’s all about the people. I have coffee traditions with so many important people in my life – Penny and I used to have coffee together every morning when we both worked at ENS, which was replaced by coffee (still virtually every morning) at the Vida e Cafe on Fredman Drive after she left ENS. That Vida saw its share of laughter, tears, frustration, relationship analysis and virtually everything else through us.
Mands and I meet once a month on a weekend morning for a coffee and writing morning, where we drink good coffee (that’s still important!) and work on our respective blogs (take some time to see Mands’ awesome blog at http://cleanlivingchronicles.co.za). It’s an awesome focused time to write, but in the best company, which gives both the coffee and the writing a whole new meaning.
There are so many other examples of awesome “coffee mates” and experiences which are all about the company more than the coffee – Dannean, Jules, Angela, Heather, Ingrid, Christine, to name but a few (and who I’ve pictured here above). And let’s not forget John (who only drinks tea, but it’s still a “coffee experience” for me). John and I have coffee/tea together virtually every day at the office (sometimes just instant coffee in a big mug – see? nothing fancy, it’s the people!)
If I absolutely had to choose the best coffee in my area for purposes of The List (purely on the basis of taste), I’d send you to Seattle at Grosvenor Crossing – that would be my favourite. BUT (and it’s a big ‘but’) I cannot emphasise enough that, for me, it’s the company that dictates the coffee experience. So to every person that I’ve had coffee with over the years – thank you! A coffee experience is, for me, a bonding experience and a special experience. Thank you for being part of my world. And to those “extra specials” whom I have coffee with SO often – know that for me a coffee meeting is a “heart” meeting – I love you!