Thursday, 1 October 2015

Coffee in a Land Far, Far Away


Hope had me sampling all the coffees I could spot. Maybe, just maybe, the next one I’ll be trying would actually be worthy of its title, rather than yet another cup of dirty [soy] milk?
I was away from home. I was desperate. Desperate for a decent cuppa, like the ones you can get at every street corner of Melbourne (not to mention the really good ones that are there for the picking, too).
Looking around me, I noticed I was the only grumpy faced person around. Everybody else was loving their coffee, admiring it, a facsimile copy of my face upon consumption of the real thing from Melbourne.
It was then that it occurred to me: these people are at risk of living out their entire lives without ever knowing what a proper cup of coffee tastes like. Through the relative obscurity of good coffee, they will suffer for their ignorance, missing out on one of life’s biggest joys while wasting their lives in mediocrity.
What a shame.

As inconceivable as it may sound, coffee isn’t everything. There are more important things in life. Even I will concede that. Thus the question I found myself asking, as I was watching these miserable people sipping their dirty milk and waste their lives in their blissful ignorance, was this: what other things are we missing out on through our ignorance? What things are there, ripe for the picking, but are left on their low hanging branches because we’re simply not looking the right way?
Take the average Sydneysider or Melbournian who never had the opportunity to get away much from Australia. They could lead their entire lives completely unaware of what a properly functioning public transport system feels like. That could lead to them appointing captains like Tony Abbott (good riddance!) to lead them, a guy that will fight against public transport with the full might of his religious fervour while seeking to invest billions after useless billions on jammed up roads.
If we cast our eyes State side for a minute, we can state the obvious and note just how dumb American public discourse sounds like to everyone else (i.e., the rest of the world). Democrats tear the Republican guts and vice versa, but both stand out like total morons on matters such as health care. Probably one of the most beneficial experiences for your average American would be to have themselves a medical emergency when visiting the UK, just so they could experience the wonders that the absolutely free NHS health system has to offer.
How can such horrors of ignorance take place?
Well, it’s not too hard to see that we all grow up accepting that what we see in our immediate surroundings is the universal truth. To an Australian, public transport is a worthless endeavour; to an American, free public health is synonymous with murder. When public discourse is controlled by self interest, and let’s face it – the level of political discourse in Australia is lower than kinder, with the two major parties ecstatically happy to keep it right there – there is not much hope for the general public. When the media is, in effect, a monopoly held by one guy whose name starts with Murdoch, the process of critically reviewing that public discourse is aborted prior to birth. And when the Internet, once deemed the secret weapon of democracy, is ruled by a few greedy giant conglomerates through which we consume the wealth of our information about the world – your Facebooks, Googles and Twitters – the hope of us individually crossing the divide to open our eyes to the world plummets to previously unexplored depths.
The only tool available for us to gain our freedom of mind with is travel. We might experience plenty of disappointments as we go about – the poor coffee that lies in the realms beyond Melbourne, the medical emergency awaiting us at the UK – but with it comes a new way of seeing the world around. Travel is the most effective removalist of ignorance.

All of which leaves me asking a personal question: what experiences am I missing out on? What is that excellent cup of coffee that is not at the end of the rainbow, but right around the corner, waiting for me to try and marvel?

I do not know the answer to that frustrating question. What is clear to me, though, is that I am almost certainly doomed to never read the book I would find the best ever. But I can try; I can explore books in order to climb up the tree of that crusade for the holy grail. At the end of it all, it is that exploration that counts and it is all that really matters.

2 comments:

Uri said...

How do you determine which experiences are worth pursuing?

To me the coffee distinction seems trivial and stupid. I bet lots of people feel the same way about different colas, Star Trek shows or science fiction books.

There many people who think that different types of alcohol (beer/whiskey/wine/…) or cigars are really important. And probably, if you start drinking and smoking, you’d grow to appreciate it as well.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I guess it's up to each one of us to determine what's worth pursuing. If you ask me, that's my answer to that "what is the meaning of life" question.
If we are talking coffee then, of course, it is not one of life's essentials. It's only during the last 3 years or so that I got into coffee, the result of a Project Manager insisting we hold our project meetings at a coffee shop. I agree, though: like the cigars, coffee has the potential to provide much joy (with much less harm!).
That joy can come in a variety of shape. Take Starbucks, America's favourite: if you ask me, I'd opt for crab juice long before I'd let that crap enter my digestive system. But clearly many would disagree, so there is a question of taste / what you're used to / etc.
In the particular case I am referring to in my post, the Starbucks analogy does not apply. I am referring to places that advertise themselves as practitioners of Italian style coffee (i.e., what most people this side of Starbucks refer to as coffee), and promise to deliver you the artisan experience. However, they end up delivering hell while seriously thinking they provide a glimpse of heaven.
I'll put it this way: the best coffee in the area was served at McDonalds.