BITTER THEN SWEET

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‘Mama, what did you do today?’ Saffron asked me this evening on our Skype session.

‘I went to a coffee shop. Then I went to another coffee shop. And then I went to a third’ I answered her as I recalled my failed attempt to drink the undrinkable double espresso at the first place, then cringing at my second attempt at a double espresso which was barely softened by the pumpkin + coffee cake I had at the next place, followed by the ‘pour over’ I had this evening with Nina at Brew Lab.

‘Mama, you go to a lot of coffee shops! Even when we were in Germany...’ she continued and I had to agree though it is not something I do back in the States. The experience of searching for the ‘best coffeehouse in [insert city of choice]’ I save for my travels abroad.

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Wandering about a new European city, or even if I have visited the city before, cannot be compared to the experience of having to sit in a car for half an hour, fight traffic, and waste 20 minutes locating an available parking space in the city centre of Austin with the hope you will get a good cup of coffee at a place purporting to be ‘the best’.

I simply have not found anything in the States which compares to the coffee I have had at Five Elephant in Berlin, Germany and at Suas Coffeehouse in Ennis, Ireland. Since I discovered a new coffeehouse today, I will have to return tomorrow to see how their flat white fares.

‘Is this a double’ I looked at the tablespoonful of coffee she placed in the blue cup in front of me.

‘Yes’ she put the espresso and plate with the fruit scone and what was supposed to be clotted cream. It was butter.

I waited for what seemed like ten minutes. The people who walked in after me got their order but it wasn’t until the two ‘computer’ guys were served coffee at their table that I got up and enquired about my order.

‘Oh was it the other girl’ asked the girl behind the register. I wasn’t paying attention who took my order. I meant this to be a quick caffeine fix as I finished my jog around The Meadows this morning.

I tasted the espresso but it had a bitter taste. I added sugar. It was still bitter. I walked up to the register and told the girl the coffee was bitter. She took the little blue cup and told me she would bring me another. This was after she brought me clotted cream instead of the butter.

The espresso she brought next was no better. I added more sugar and even a dollop of clotted cream remembering the 'craze' of adding butter to coffee in the States. Nothing helped. I considered simply leaving. Instead I walked back to the register for the fourth time and mentioned to the girl that the coffee was 'undrinkable'.

She returned my £1.90 and mumbled something about having to clean out their machines. I told her I reviewed a lot of coffee shops around the world. Ok, 'around the world' is a bit more like half around the world at this point.

As I was leaving, I stated the scone was 'amazing'. Which it was. It stood about two inches tall and was soft and fluffy and tasted as if they make them in-house. I returned to my flat and continued with my morning.

I spent two hours sitting on the display window at lovecrumbs. With my laptop in my lap, I enjoyed the pumpkin + coffee cake. It was moist and not too sweet. I realised I should have simply ordered a flat white but ended up ordering another double espresso. It was bitter but I drank it, unlike the one at Press Coffee. The girl sitting across from me was sipping tea and savouring a slice of chocolate mint tart. I was tempted to order one too but thought it might be too much for one day.

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I was glad to have received an email from Nina whilst at lovecrumbs. We met over the weekend and decided to get together at Brew Lab this afternoon. Seeing how I had an hour and a half before our agreed upon time, I walked in the direction of Brew Lab so I would know where to go later in the day.

As I waited to cross the street by Blackwell's bookstore, a guy with a black dog screamed obscenities at two different men. I walked into the bookstore and lost all sense of time wandering from one section to the next.

On my way back to the flat, I passed by a group of young people holding a large flat basket in front of them. 'Free bread' they cried out. I looked at them quizzically. 'Take as much as you like. It will be thrown away otherwise' they continued. I took half a baguette and headed homewhere I ate the bread with cheese along with the leftover cauliflower potato soup.

Hesitant to try an espresso for a third time today, I ordered something new at Brew Lab. New to me, at least. I ordered a 'pour over' which was not bad though later realized I should have tried the espresso as Nina seemed to like hers. Tomorrow, I thought.

Though the day started out bitter, it ended on a sweet note as I treasured the conversations I had with my children, my boyfriend, and Nina. In good company, time passes us by quicker than we realise.

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