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Java Jive

updated 24Feb05 - although I've still to find out about Mr Moto and the coffee pot thing...

I love coffee, I love tea.
I love the java jive an' it loves me.
Coffee and tea and the jivin' and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!
Both Diamond Geezer and Blue Witch posted this week about coffee and what surprised me in the comments to those posts is the slightly puritanical objection to coffee, as if drinking it is some kind of vice. Or is un-British. Or indicates a consummerist lifestyle.
I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops! Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot
Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!
No, I don't know why The Ink Spots were telling Mr Moto they were a coffee pot (I've always suspected there is some secondary meaning to the song which I lack the cultural knowledge to unlock).

Coffee and tea arrived in England at about the same time. The first London coffee house opened in 1652, thus putting pay to the notion that coffee is un-British. Lloyd's of London, the venerable insurance house, began publishing its shipping lists in a coffee shop in the City. Tea arrived from China in 1650 or so, so Restoration England must have been on a severe caffeine high.

Blue Witch need "wonder what people drank and how they managed to get through their days before the invasion of Starbucks and its clones" no more. The difference is that now we consume our beverages as we walk, rather than sat down, or standing about a van.

Tea has come to be seen as British primarily because it was on tea that the Empire revolved. Trade issues with China lead to the establishment of the Indian plantations (including my beloved Assam), not to mention the tax on tea which lead to the Boston Tea Party. It is really that mythological event which shaped the perception of tea=English, coffee=American which still diffuses attitudes in this country. Tea comes with ritual, philosophy and long arguments about methodology (I do love Orwell's essay with its didactic listing of how to make tea), coffee is perceived as a brash upstart drunk by foreigners.

("Still trying not to refer to you lot as 'bloody colonials'." says Giles, the American stereotype of the English tea-drinker, in Buffy. "Cup o' tea, cup o' tea, almost had a shag," is Spike's summary of Giles' life.)

I grew up in a bi-partisan house. My father mostly drinks tea. My mother mostly drinks coffee. I started drinking coffee at about 12, but only really began drinking tea when I left home and discovered how well the milder buzz of it goes with dope. So although both drinks give me that caffine buzz, each serves a different purpose through association. Coffee is the wake-up call, the stimulator and eye-opener. Tea is the reflective relaxer, softening yet refreshing.

Espresso MondoThis is Espesso Mondo's street sign. I get my coffee from here. It's Fair Trade, freshly roasted and ground. They do great lattes because the guys are true barristas. They also do a Sumatran bean which I use for my cafetiere at weekends.

Boston Tea PartyThe Boston Tea Party is my lunchtime haunt in the week and often on Sundays. They do lovely teas, brewed from loose leaves in a teapot which gives up two mugs of the stuff. I normally sit with a pot of assam or keemun and write for forty minutes over my lunch. Again, they are involved in a workers' co-operative scheme similar to the Fair Trade one.

(I was entertained to read recently that "Fair Traders" was another name for Cornish smugglers - bringing this back to taxation and shipping.)

updated to add: Bristling Badger (who has a real name, but I forget) has written a good article on why fair trade makes a difference, for Julian Cope's Head heritage site.

Coffee doesn't have to be from a nasty corporate shop, it certainly doesn't need all the glopppy frothy bits, it has a long British tradition and by gods, it's good. Go coffee! Coffee is our friend!

Oh, slip me a slug from the wonderful mug
And I cut a rug till I'm snug in a jug

Waiter, waiter, percolator!

Posted @ 10:02 am on Thursday, November 25, 2004
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