Thursday, December 1, 2011

Drinking with the enemy

Upon returning to San Francisco after my first trip to Istanbul, I had an impossible time convincing anyone how hard it was to find decent coffee in Turkey. "But what about Turkish coffee?!?" they would say, incredulously. "Didn't the Turks practically invent the stuff?"

"Fine, fine," I thought. "If you like having half of an itty-bitty serving end up as sludge in the bottom of the cup, go right ahead. But I'm talking about coffee -- a nice warm brewed cup of Joe that you
can put your hands around and sip every last drop. Besides, Turks all drink tea anyway. They think 'kahve' translates as Nescafe! That's what it said on all the little kiosks in Sultanahmet: 'Çay (Tea) | Kahve (Nescafe).'"

Since that trip 10 years ago, Starbucks has surged into Istanbul, with three outlets on İstiklal Caddesi alone, and been followed by a Turkish imitator, Kahve Dünyası ("Coffee World"), as well as other coffee options. But Nescafe is still ubiquitous, with a "cappuccino" mix and 3-in-1 packets with "extra cream aroma," "extra coffee taste," and chocolate and hazelnut versions. Never having managed to acquire a real taste for either Turkish coffee or tea, I would grudgingly opt for my old nemesis when offered caffeine-related hospitality. When drowsily waking up in my seat near the tail end of a night bus ride, I actually even enjoyed it a little bit. The sweet artificial taste started to mingle in my mind with watching new landscapes go by as the sun rose.

It wasn't until I started working at a local newspaper, though, that the relationship began to get out of hand. To get me through the afternoon deadline crunch, I started stocking Nescafe packets in my desk drawer -- all I had to do to get my fix was run down the hall and get some hot water from the dispenser. I no longer begrudged it its bad taste and god-knows-what ingredients. I started to look forward to it, just like the equally (and rightfully) maligned Efes I couldn't wait to drink after the madness was all over.

I don't work at that job anymore. I could just break up with Nescafe (and Efes, for that matter). But when I went to buy a cup of filtered coffee at an event yesterday afternoon and was told there was none left, I just shrugged and shifted over to the Nescafe line. It sure as hell ain't coffee, but sometimes (there, I've said it) it hits the spot.

4 comments:

Tactless Wonder said...

I've never tried the "ready-to-go" sugar (and sometimes cream) enabled Nescafé, but um, there might be a jar of the "Classico" in my cabinet as I write this. I reverted to having one at my desk at work as it was a better choice than the brand they opted to provide for us...which did not make sense in this coffee city.

To it's credit, it makes AWESOME coffe ice cream. (2 TBSPN crystals +2 TBSPN hot water then cooled and added to the almost done churning vanilla ice cream. And Café Neuva Zealandia in Zihuatenego, taught me how to make the most tasty iced coffees (1 tsp Classico + 2-4 tsp (depending on taste) of that barely ground white Mexican sugar + ice + cream + blender).

And isn't it best to know your enemy? I can't remember the quote all that well on a sleepy Sunday morning ;).

The Turkish Life said...

Truth be told, all the iced Nescafe frappes I drank in Athens in summer 2008 probably went a long way toward breaking down my resistance. Those are darn tasty and refreshing. Love the coffee ice cream idea!

Joy said...

Nescafe does do in a pinch, but that's why we have our own filter coffee machine at home! :)

Ellen Rabiner said...

I love this post! I've been fighting a solitary battle in Antalya on this very subject! Nescafe is NOT American coffee, any more than Mc Donalds is a reasonable example of an American hamburger.

I've just gotten used to the Nescafe Cappuccino, which I find easier to tolerate than the straight stuff. But now it seems they've discontinued the blue one (without sugar) so I'm back to drinking cay when I'm out. We only have a couple of Starbucks and Kahve Dunyasis here in the wilderness. ;)