Coffee, cafe, caffe, kahioa, kafe, ga feh, kava, koffie, koffe, kohv, kahvi, café, der Kaffee, kope, koohii, kawa, cafea, kafa, kofe, kave, ikhofi, or even muckadaymashkikiwabu – no matter how you say it, coffee is the pillar of life, happiness, and civilization. Okay, well, maybe not all that but it’s pretty darn good. I love coffee. I drink a lot of it – in the clear light of honesty, I might actually drink a little too much coffee (and Diet Coke, but we shan’t go there for now, please. Thank you.) But when one is in the throes of the final stages of finishing a dissertation and completing a PhD, one does not even contemplate trying to make major life changes. And cutting back even by one tiny, little, precious coffee bean would be a MAJOR life change right now.
At any rate, my recent travels – which I have sorely failed to tell you all about mostly because unfortunately there was little ballet and mostly dissertating but I apologize just the same – had me thinking about coffee. Let’s take a moment to discuss our favorite libation, shall we!
Coffee is plentiful and varied greatly in the U.S. But let me hit some major points -
California - like everything in California, you can get really expensive, worthless crap but feel really special about getting your really expensive, worthless crap at the same place as Kims, Demis, Bens, Jens and a ton of other people that I don’t really pay any attention to. But we also have a great appreciation for the small, independent houses with local roasts. In California, coffee is like wine – a new venture for us but we are really into it and got really good at it really fast. Ballet Link: Home of San Francisco Ballet, San Jose Ballet, and wonderful contemporary companies like Diablo Ballet, Heidi Duckler, Diavolo, and many more.)
New York – it’s the water. Seriously. New York has incredible water. It’s what makes the pizza insanely good (on par and in some cases better than Italy and I’m not kidding). You can find insanely good, strong coffee in New York. Drink up. Ballet Link: America’s home of all good things dance really – American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Trish Brown, Cedar Lake, we could honestly be here all day! Home of Marcelo Gomes and Herman Cornejo.
“The South” - chicory. Lack of extensive history lesson here but New Orleans and thereabouts has a big French connection (read Manon, excellent). The “South” developed a taste for coffee from the French influx and then it became unavailable during the Civil War in 1840 when the harbors were blocked. Le crap! What to do! Chicory. I don’t like it personally. But if you are going to go there, chicory coffee drinkers swear by Café Du Monde or French Market. Approximation to beignets makes even chicory coffee better though. Ballet Link: Atlanta Ballet, technically Miami City Ballet is south, but I’m not sure I think of Florida as “the South.” Southerners and Floridians can chime in on that, thanks.
Seattle, Washington - world-renown purveyor of Starbucks (blame Seattle, peeps, blame Seattle.) Seattle lays claim to the foundation of ”the coffee house” in America. Lots of independent roasters and it’s sort of a rainforest without the warmth in Seattle so coffee is a good and very tasty thing to have there. Ballet Link: Pacific Northwest Ballet, yes please!
Leaving the U.S. -
Toyko, Japan – expensive. I once managed to pay $14 US for a coffee in Tokyo! Granted, I was in a really upscale coffee house in a really posh part of town and the iced coffee drink was most excellent. Still – that’s the most I’ve ever paid for a coffee. Coffee is easy to find and well made. Ordering it is along the lines of ordering coffee in the U.S. – a coffee is a cup of black coffee and you can ask for milk and sugar to add at your discretion. It’s sort of like ordering off the Starbucks coffee menu even when you aren’t in a Starbucks – which is the par for the course in the U.S. when ordering coffee now. Ballet Link: People. Tokyo is a HUB of ballet activity. Incredible. Gala’s like nobody’s business! And Tokyo Ballet is most excellent! Don’t buy $14 coffee’s, save up your change and go there immediately. Period. P.S. epic ballet shopping at Chacott Stores – EPIC.
London, England – I love you, London. Don’t order coffee. You will be sad. That’s pretty much it. I still love England though. The British know tea, let them do their thing for you and enjoy a pot of tea in England. Ballet Link: Royal Ballet of London, English National Ballet, Akhram Khan and all manner of loveliness! Also, fabulous ballet shopping all around the Royal Opera House.
Rome, Italy – coffee should be rated by weight like motor oil. I have slick of Italian coffee on my liver that I’m very sure will be there for the rest of my life and into the afterlife. Having said that, it was goooooooodddddd. I’m pretty sure that they add water to the grounds through an eye dropper and you get the tiniest cup you’ve ever seen in your life but it is like syrup – strong, black, rich coffee syrup. I’m a hardcore black coffee drinker and one cup gave me heart palpitations. That was ordering a coffee and not even an espresso! which is basically half an eye dropper of water through tamped coffee grounds and once you pick yourself back up from the floor, you realize it was almost an out of body experience. If you stick to the touristy places though, the coffee is more standard fair. Order coffee American or coffee with milk for something good but less as hair raising. Ballet Link: National Ballet Company of Rome and lots of ballet galas. There is more opera here but galas and festivals pop up with some pretty great dance.
Paris, France – YES. A THOUSAND TIMES, YES. Order everything – espresso, café, coffee with milk, coffee American, life is good. All the world is beautiful and perfect. At a stand on the seine, in an upscale hotel tea room, at a bistro, at a restaurant, at a bar, order coffee and get one for me too. When ordering coffee, a coffee with milk is not a cup of coffee with a little pot of milk to add at your discretion. It is one part coffee to one part steamed milk. This sounds like too much milk, but French coffee is lovely and strong so the balance is nice even if you prefer strong coffee like I do. Coffee American is basically watered down coffee if French coffee is too strong a brew for your tastes. Even so, it’s not badly watered down and can be nice black or with just a touch of sugar. It’s a good after dinner option to espresso. Ballet Link: Forever home of Manuel Legris and Paris Opera Ballet (even if they are acting crazy right now, I forgive them and love them always). One more word: Repetto.
Your turn, where are you/where have you been and what are your coffee experiences, suggestions, comments? Grab a coffee, put on some ballet music, and let’s talk.