25 February 2010

The root of all evil


That, my friends, is the technical term for how I am feeling this morning. Normally at this stage in the day I am up, bouncy and refreshed and ready to take on the world, at least in blog form. My day begins, post ablutions, with a trip to the it's-criminal-just-how-close-it-actually-is local coffee shop and the purchase of a tasty frothy beverage of the hot and non-alcoholic kind. The wind in my hair, the rain on my cheek, the caffeine in my bloodstream are all part of my daily ritual of awaking, but the stars are aligning (and not in a good way) and something about this ritual has to change.

I went in to Brown Thomas this week to look for Gaggia coffee machine. Now BT would not normally be the type of shop I would share my custom with, being almost the exclusive domain of Ladies Who Lunch and their Celtic Tiger Cubs. Were I outfitting myself for a best dressed partner (there being no easy acronym for "wives, girlfriends, and that mysterious category of 'other' that allows the still-married Taoiseach to bring his mistress along to State events and not be condemned by the Catholic Church) competition in the Fianna Fail tent at the Galway Races no doubt BT would be the place to go for a lovely smock, but normally I would not darken its doors. However a quick online search told me that BT had a Gaggia shop, so off I went.

BT is obviously run by Ireland's most clever and well funded psychologists, for its ground floor is an intricate rat's maze through which one must dart and scurry avoiding the shambling automatons that look scarily like actual humans save for their hideous painted clown visages and glowing nuclear orange skin that stand hyena-like guarding a fresh kill over their counters of placenta-enriched lotions and potions that absolutely guarantee your husband won't leave you for a younger model like he left his first wife for you.

(I bought two, just in case)

But why brave all this? Is a Gaggia not the ultimate symbol of the Celtic Tiger years, the product of an Ireland that abandoned generations of milky-tea history and surrendered to the rich-roast frothy embrace of neo-liberalism? Possibly.

My Grandparents are tea drinkers and have been all their lives, with their day divided into inter-tea periods as they count down the hours to lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and finally 9pm supper with a biscuit and the news. My parents, however, are all coffee drinkers as are my uncles and aunts, a generation of jittery twitches and nervous bursts of energy poured into fruitless endeavors abandoned in their prime when the short focus of attention moved on to the next shiny thing. My own generation fell in love with the foamer and the three Euro mochabochachocachino as a sign of our disposable wealth, and the kids behind us in the office have already moved on to Red Bull and Frosties for their morning pick-me up, each generation outdoing the next in its need for a pharmacological start to the day. No doubt the future drones of Gen Z will arise from bed into the milky embrace of a crackaccino (it's got cocaine in it) before hopping into their flying car and off to the office, with Molokos all round at lunch. Yum.

However today and now there still remains that annoying €3 a pop aspect for my vice of choice, and this has begun to weigh heavily on my mind. A morning beverage six days a week leaves little change from a twenty euro note, with fifty one weeks (the beverage dealer being closed between Christmas and New Years) bringing us to just over €900 a year. Yikes. At that sort of money the €250 a small Gaggia will cost starts to look like a more reasonable investment. And so off I went to brave the degradations of that sticky-sweet smelling oompaloompa-land.

Only to find that Gaggia is no longer cool enough for Ireland's bright-orange young things, banished from the shelves now all the hip cats quaff Nespressos.

I have many problems with this. Nespresso is a capsule-system from Nestle (kills babies), which a) is a proprietary system that instead of being able to use whatever coffee you like requires you to continually buy Nespresso capsules from Nestle (kills babies) at the proprietary Nespresso store in BT that occupies the space where shiny-chrome Gaggias once stood. I like my hot frothy beverage open source and DRM-free thank you very much, b) it is incredibly unenvironmentally friendly with each capsule being a single cup's worth of coffee encased in an unrecyclable plastic and aluminium mix destined to end up in the gut of a migrating Tern, c) none of the coffee that ends up in Nestle (kills babies) Nespresso capsules is Fair Trade, and coffee bean pickers and growers are among the most exploited workers in the world, and finally d), and this is the biggy, its Nestle (kills babies), and Nestle kills babies! All the George Clooneys in the world can't mask the smell of blood richly infused in each and every perfect cup of Nespresso.

So off I left feeling simultaneously saddened and disgusted with myself for compromising my principles enough to venture in and cheated that I left empty handed. With the donning of the ritual sackcloth and ashes that marks the start of each golden shame-spiral, I thought now would be a good time to question my relationship with my morning beverage and coffee in general.

I am a poor sleeper, I have high cholesterol, I am prone to stress, and am, at times, a frustrated ball of nervous energy, all before I have a single cup of coffee. Perhaps an excessive amount of coffee drinking, in fact any level of coffee drinking, is not necessarily a good thing for me.

I am, however, unable to drink proper tea for I find it too acidic, am not a fan of hot chocolate, find hippy herbal teas too anemic, am too young for Horlicks and too old for Ovaltine and so basically have been driven back to coffee time and time again despite all its obvious flaws.

Until this week when someone suggested Chicory. What? Chicory. Actually Chicory Root, specifically Prewett's Organic Chicory drink, no caffeine and now completely gluten free. Yay.

To be honest its not too bad, the French have been diluting or substituting coffee with chicory for hundreds of years and it comes across as a slightly weak, odd tasting coffee. It has filled the need this week to have a cup in my hand as I think and type, but like a smoker with a lollipop the body memory may be fooled but I still know its not the same.


(oh, and if you think the whole Nestle killing babies thing is a tad exaggerated, check out this article from the Guardian in 2007 that gives a pretty good overview of what Nestle have done and are still doing, and why the boycott of their products is as important today as it was when it started over thirty years ago)

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At 11:30 pm, Blogger Snag Breac said...

Oh Dave, you make me laugh so much!
ps, have you tried yannoh (actually quite nice) (well, i like it, that might not be much of a recommendation when it comes to herbal teas and stuff) made with milk or half and half; or the old dandelion coffee substitute thing? sounds like complete cack to me, but thought id mention it...
i also think there is a mix, with dandelion, chicory and acorns too.
but personally, i give you a week before you go back on coffee!

At 1:18 am, Blogger 2BiT said...

Your own Gaggia=best thing EVER.

The company seems to have been bought tho...not sure they even _make_ em anymore.
I've this...it's deadly :)


At 1:19 am, Blogger 2BiT said...

Where do you want me to send the KitKat?

At 12:43 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

@Snag Breac - somebody also suggested fennel to me, but she's a nursing mother so it might not have the same benefits for me.

As for how long this works, the main goal is not so much to give up completely, just cut it down to a manageable level. I'm rather surprised I've made it even 48 hours and have been trying ti ignore the headaches that always come when I give up/cut back the caffeine.

@2BiT - I think Philips bought Gaggia, and a machine still might be on the cards, I just need to know I can control myself before I bring such an enabler into my house.

As for KitKats in fact I was able to enjoy their yummy goodness in the US where they are made by Hershey's, and not by the baby killers.

At 1:58 pm, Blogger peacepyro said...

crackocino, cracked me up too!

Good luck with the coffee DT's . The first few days will be the worst, nettle and camomile tea are good fluids to drink. . . . lots of honey for first time drinkers make them more palatable.

And why not try an espresso pot, very cheap and cheerful :)



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