Black Gold

19 February 2016 | 3 mins

I am a relative newcomer to the world of good quality coffee. Growing up, all that was available in our house were the cheap jars of instant, only ever used if we had guests who did not drink tea. I suspect this is a fairly common arrangement in most households in Britain, because what sort of primitive animal doesn’t drink tea?

Acquiring the taste

My first real introduction to coffee occurred during my five-year tenure at McDonald’s, although it took a surprisingly long time to take up the habit. Don’t get me wrong, as a full time student working 20+ hours a week, I had already developed a severe caffeine addiction; it just came in the form of cheap energy drinks from the petrol station across the road from work, rather than the coffee machines on the front counter.

However, in my second year of university, the petrol station closed down. As McDonald’s don’t yet have Red Bull as an option in their soda fountains, I turned to espresso coffee on my lunch breaks for my caffeine fix. It was bitter, and I didn’t enjoy it for a good few months, but like most things it soon became an acquired taste. I didn’t appreciate it back then, but McDonald’s actually do good quality coffee for the price range. No worse than brand-name coffee chains, anyway.

After moving to Edinburgh for the first time, I got my first real taste of what truly terrible coffee tastes like, in the form of the free office coffee machine. Immediately after the thick brown sludge hit my tongue for the first time, I realised that I’d been spoiled by the McDonald’s coffee, much like how an abused child realises his father had always pulled his punches immediately after he gets into his first real fight. This simply would not do. I could now discern between good and bad coffee - I had to find better.

Becoming a regular

Having developed a more sensitive coffee palate, on my return to Newcastle I sought out a regular coffee shop near the university to complement my continually-increasing McDonald’s coffee consumption. As luck would have it, a small University-owned coffee shop called Campus Coffee was located on the walk between my car park and the CS department’s computer lab. Pretty soon, I was on first-name terms with the staff there; and I should have been as I was spending the majority of my student loan on their large Americanos every day.

I loved that coffee shop. They always served subtly better coffee than any other outlet on campus, even the outlets under the same brand umbrella, and a whole lot nicer than the Starbucks in the student union. The location was convenient, just across the road from Haymarket Interchange, and Northumberland Street. Unfortunately, the coffee shop is only open Monday to Friday 9 til 4, so now that I no longer live in Newcastle, I never get the chance to visit.

Since moving back to Edinburgh, I’ve acquired an even stronger love of good coffee. I’ve begun learning to brew my own coffee (so much cheaper than the Costa outlet at work), and I’ve found several new coffee shops that I love. No doubt I will find many more in the city over time. Until then, I’m off to make another cup; my caffeine levels are getting dangerously low…

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