Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Black Coffee

I have had the coffee conversation, in English and broken Portuguese, too many times to count. Here in the northeast (I am not sure if this extends everywhere in the country) it is almost unheard of to drink coffee without sugar. Most people take it black with copious amounts of sugar, and the rest add milk to the mixture. The sugar is added during the brewing process, in fact, which to me is a very rude thing to do--Americans can be particular about such things. If all you have to offer is sweetened coffee, you're potentially excluding not only gringos like me who don't like the taste of it, but also diabetics. The solution: when someone orders coffee black, they are served instant coffee. It's an outrage.

I, for instance, take my coffee black, and have done so for almost as long as I have been a coffee drinker. When I started drinking coffee at 18, I usually added half-and-half and two packets of sugar. One day I tried it without sugar, and found that the cream complimented the coffee a lot better on its own. After some time I eschewed cream and haven't looked back since. I even drink espresso black.

I can tolerate milk or cream in my cup, but I have become an enemy to sweetened coffee. To me, combining the sweetness of sugar with the smoky bitterness of coffee is too much of a flavor clash. That's the taste I've acquired. I also am not a snob about my beans--I'll drink whatever's sloshing in the pot, as long as it at least reminds me of what coffee should taste like.

When a friend visited from the States last year, he had enough of my exasperation in caf├ęs: "No matter how many times you order it, people are going to look at you funny. You can't change that. Get used to it."

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