My working day is fuelled by hot drinks and pity. The hot drinks come from the kettle in our office kitchen, and the pity comes from my colleagues when they see me making yet another cup of instant coffee.
My lovely coworkers are far too well-mannered to say anything, but they don’t have to. There’s always a slight moment of involuntary recoil as they see me add a teaspoon of Home Brand Granulated Instant Coffee to a cup and then pour boiling water over it. Nobody else in the office does this. I’m the cheapskate weirdo from Lifehacker, and I’m proving it yet again.
In Australia in 2014, instant coffee rates on the drink scale somewhere just above slurping water from a muddy pond. We take our coffee seriously. Buying a “proper” cup is a ritual that many of us follow on our way to work. We have definite preferences on the cafes which are acceptable, the size of the shot, the variety of milk. And we’re happy to slag off “instant” coffee as an inferior, appalling choice in the process.
Not everyone worries about choosing the perfect blend or the ideal way to steam milk, but plenty of us try and replicate that cafe experience at home, either with a full-blown coffee machine or a pod-based alternative that’s less hassle to clean. Obviously quite a lot of people are buying instant coffee — they wouldn’t consume half an aisle in my local supermarket otherwise — but it’s no longer what most Australians mean when they say “coffee”.
But you know what? I like cheap instant coffee. I don’t really think of it as a variant on the flat white or long black I would order in a cafe or restaurant. To me, it’s an entirely different drink, just as peppermint tea isn’t the same as regular tea. Each has its place. And for me, the main place for instant coffee is right here in the office.
Instant coffee is easy and inexpensive and I can make it whenever I want. The price of a single flat white from the cafe outside the office covers a jar of coffee that will last me for weeks. Yes, I could spend more on a pricier brand, but the reality is I’ve not been any more enamoured of the flavour when I’ve done that. So why pay out the extra cash?
Instant coffee works for me. And I’m willing to admit that.
I don’t ask you to join me. Whatever hot drink you want to consume is fine by me. But I ask you not to judge me. I’m content with my choice. Let me be happy with it.