The Method in the Mocha

I’m learning to drink coffee without sugar. It’s not easy, but I think I’m getting there.

Not a thing you’d expect a coffee expert to say, is it? Well, despite a part of my career revolving around the knowledge and consumption of this most-craved-in-the-Western-World-drink, I have never been a fan of the “little black bev”. When applying for a job at a coffee shop a few years ago, my primary motivation was money, not the prestige of inhaling freshly ground coffee on daily basis. But my second motivation, in fact, came from a sort of attachment I felt with the hole ritual of drinking a hand-crafted beverage, sat relaxing in a coffee house, together with dozen other people being there for exact same – or completely different – reason. The hypocrisy of this realisation forces me to make a statement: many a time I curse those people waiting in 20 person queue, asking, pointlessly, “do you really need your coffee that much?” But rest assured, I love my job, for all it is, as overall it’s more of a lifestyle than a career for life, and, I believe you agree, the former is more likely to change than the latter.

But back to what brought me to this job in the first place (apart from the rent that desperately needed to be paid). When I was still at college, once in a good while I would visit a bigger city somewhere outside the Lake District that actually had a Starbucks around; it would be with my friend or boyfriend, when we would stop for a short while, for my favourite beverage: a mocha. I can almost see the devoted “black with no sugar” drinkers cringing; but since my adolescence (probably because I had been a savoury kid before then), I’ve always craved sweetness, and a sweet coffee is, in my view, the best of both worlds.

Again, I feel I should rephrase that: I have tasted some sickening sweet coffees, and I’m not a fan of those either. A perfect mocha – and any perfect beverage or dish, the best coffee brewers an chefs will agree – is about the balance of flavours: sweet, but not overwhelming chocolate, preferably of the dark variety, and strong espresso, which if poured fresh and under right conditions, should be smooth and sweet in itself. I don’t know when it started, but I know where; and I knew mocha will always be my favourite beverage.

From this realisation came two ideas for a pastime, and a platform for some creativity. Firstly I decided to seek the best mocha out there. Because, since I started making my own, my attitude to the Starbucks mocha I used to love changes respectively to whether they can follow the same standards as I do. It is a bit condescending to rank a coffee shop based on the quality of their mocha; but in this free world everyone can set their own boundaries (yes, this is an overstatement, and I do apologise), and this one just occurred to me naturally: I would always (and still do) order a mocha in a new coffee venue, and that way I know whether I would be returning there or not.

The second tie of my quest is to find a coffee that is better than a mocha. Not very specific that, since in some places, I would prefer to down a black filter, than to drink their idea of a mocha…

So, looking back to the opening sentence: why exactly am I learning to drink coffee with no sugar – and, to clarify, by coffee in this respect I mean the “little black bev” variety? Well, this you did not expect, but it is: dietary reasons – after a few weeks of overdosing on artificial sweetener I had enough (and was also told it’s a carcinogen), but I didn’t want to go back to sugar, as I don’t use it for much else. I also know that in the long run I will appreciate all the varieties of coffees (which I will gradually share with you on this site) all the much more without the unnecessary additions.

And where does mocha fit in this reasoning? Well, everyone needs to let their hypocrisy ran loose once in a while…

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