Friday, January 8, 2010

The first taste

Express Staff Writer

I can remember clearly the first day of my addiction. A drizzling autumn day. The prospect of working outside and spending the entire day in the marrow-chilling damp.

Like many cases of inflicted overuse, mine could be directly attributed to peer pressure. But unlike my college days when friends coerced me into imbibing copious amounts of malted hops, this instance featured a drink designed to keep you standing straight up for hours rather than knocking you down in minutes.

I'll be the first to admit that it took me an inordinate amount of time to have my first cup of coffee. About 26 years to be exact. But my god (I'm taking even longer to decide on a religion, so my supreme being remains unglamorously uncapitalized), was the wait worth it!

As a bike messenger in Auckland, New Zealand, during the month of June, one is faced with the unappealing necessity of riding about 60 miles a day, thoroughly soaked to the bone for approximately 59.9 of those miles. In a word: miserable.

That is, until I discovered that a coffee first thing in the morning would have me zipping around town like a professional cyclist who prefers a spot of EPO in his coffee rather than milk.

Suddenly, cold and deadened legs found the power to accelerate past cars. Granted, those cars were parked, but I still felt fast as I beat them to the next traffic light.

From that day forth, I would stop at Brazil, not the country but a coffee shop on Auckland's grungily hip Karangahape Road, and fuel up for the morning rounds.

Since then, writing has replaced riding, but the morning ritual remains, albeit with one big difference.

While a visit to any coffee house in the U.S. will find you confronted with a plethora of drink choices with obscure names and obtuse sizing references, their menus are still missing what quickly became my raison d'être—the flat white.

A staple in New Zealand and Australia, the flat white is similar to a latte so beloved stateside, except that it's stronger and contains less foam. Although the difference sounds minimal, in reality it's like comparing a Guinness to a Miller Lite.

Still, even though it's perfectly reasonable to expect different cuisines in separate continents, the two types of coffee are similar enough, like the aforementioned brews, that the flat white would find acceptance, and likely adulation, at local cafes. In other words, this is not the equivalent of asking the Pioneer to heap a serving of fried crickets next to your Ketchum Cut.

Sure, our antipodean counterparts have a predilection for unintelligible sports like cricket (where the games can take a business week) and rugby (I have a problem with any sport where it's acceptable to wear jerseys with pink pants on Nantucket), but they also gave us Elle Macpherson and kangaroo boxing, so we can't discount their contributions.

Todd Rippo and Jesus at Java, I really hope you're reading.

Jon Duval is a staff writer for the Idaho Mountain Express.

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