I was wandering through Sainsburys the other day with my brother when I happened to stop in the tea and coffee aisle and ponder a particularly decorative box.
It was labelled ‘womankind’ and clearly not aimed at me, but I like shiny things and couldn’t help but stop and look.
This pink box was swathed in floral artwork and would have easily looked at home on the shelf of Laura Ashley with perfume or moisturiser inside it next to some nice curtain material.
On the front, amongst its flowery battle camouflage were its feminine credentials.
‘A delicate dance of organic cranberry, rose and sweet vanilla’
Girl tea danced! Why didn’t my drinks gayly cavort in this manner?
I wondered what the inevitable blue box for boys covered in footballs and cars would contain and looked left and right for ‘Mankind’. It was nowhere to be seen.
Nothing had been made to sway rhythmically for me. Quite the opposite in fact. There were no man specific herbal teas with infusions of diesel oils, essence of brick dust and a delicate bouquet of football turf made as a companion to this most ladylike of beverages.
Only oestrogen was on this side of the aisle, and it seemed I was trespassing on its territory. As a woman reached over me to grab a box of Womankind I looked around wondering where Pete had gone.
Over on the dark side of the aisle my brother was browsing the weaponised caffeine and hunting for something without a hint of roses or organic anything. It would be fair to say he is a big fan of coffee and can occasionally be heard remarking that beans have been burned (or something) and coffee not made correctly. I nod like I understand when he says such things.
Recently he and his wife introduced me to a new drink.
A flat white. It sounded boring.
‘What’s that?’ I asked, calling him on the way to pick them up at Coffee Architects in Leamington one day a month or so ago.
I’d never heard of a flat white but on the other end of the phone Pete and his wife were extremely enthusiastic. My sister in law Yuni (having been a barista) does not recommend coffee lightly.
‘Just try it – you’ll like it.’ My brother said with his wife chattering in the background. ‘We’ll get you one and a Pastrami sandwich as well.’
I wasn’t convinced. I fear change. But they mentioned food. My kryptonite. I was caught off guard.
‘OK cool.’ I replied.
They’d been raving about Coffee Architects for a while and I’d been meaning for some time to see what all the fuss was about. Some time ago the owner had made me a diabetic friendly fruit cake for my birthday (on Yuni’s instruction) which was truly fantastic.
Now they wanted to introduce me to ‘architected’ coffee.
Honestly my flat white was smaller than I expected – but boy did it taste good. Probably one of the smoothest cups of coffee I’ve had. Ever.
‘Niiiice!’ I said turning to my brother as I drove.
I carried on to our destination, gripping the steering wheel tightly and pressing the accelerator further to the floor.
It appeared that this was white coffee with attitude, and came with an outboard motor to strap to the back of your head. Sadly however it didn’t come with a pillow for me to fall face first into afterwards when the inevitable caffeine crash came.
I looked the drink up after my withdrawal headache had subsided and realised that it was an Australian delicacy (introduced relatively recently to the UK) that was basically two double Espresso shots with not much milk. Because it masqueraded as normal coffee it went down fairly quick and gave a hell of a buzz.
I’d like (in a rare moment of increased testosterone) to say that it’s a man drink – but my diminutive, hardcore sister in law destroys this argument in its entirety. She just necks that kind of drink straight from the kettle while laughing before strolling off to arm wrestle some builders.
I’ve been trying a lot of different beverages since I gave up drinking alcohol in an effort to pass the time – particularly where there is a large libation gap in the evening.
Chai tea latte and I recently had a brief flirtation in the hours before bedtime but ultimately she left me underwhelmed and with an odd taste in my mouth.
We broke up recently, mutually deciding to call it a day.
Then I bought a big box of herbal teabags with various fruity flavours. They all smelled lovely but tasted like I was licking the underside of my lawn mower.
I hope they are happy in the bin and I wish them well on their way to landfill.
Camomile and Spearmint teabags have been nice at work (I ran out of Earl Grey – don’t judge me) but fail to give me any ‘oomph’. Also, upon further inspection I noted the container stated they would give ‘A moment of calm’. This clearly isn’t what’s needed to motivate me 9-5.
It also has flowers on the box and I think I should steer clear of this poison.
My body is used to craving stronger coffee based motivation, and I know where it’s come from.
About three years ago my friend gave me a Nespresso machine as a housewarming gift. The first fix was free it seemed, and I had a pack of 20 pods in the box to get me started.
Clearly knowing how the addiction would pan out she also kindly purchased a further 200 pods of insane strength coffee that could legally wake the dead. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Making sure there was no way out of this spiralling dependency, for Christmas she also purchased me a milk frother. She might as well have been selling me crack.
Starting the day without my product red Starbucks flask (also bought by my ‘dealer’ friend) full of the largest sized ‘Lungo’ is inconceivable.
It never ceases to amaze me that I regularly forget to take my morning diabetic medication – but have never once had to drive back to the house for emergency coffee.
It has it claws in deep.
Still at least while I’m lying wide awake in bed at night, I can be assured that one drink that was intended for this particular man prompts rhythmic motions.
Unfortunately however instead of dancing this is the procession back and forth to the smallest room in the house, after which I lie twitching until I’m completely worn out and finally nod off.
I’m sticking with coffee despite its inconsequential and minor flaws – Womankind are welcome to their organic twigs and berries.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.