'Ma always said that without tea the British would have lost both world wars.' Michael Bentine
I seem to have spent half my life sitting in bars, hotels, and restaurants gazing into the distance, a look on my face of cheerful expectancy, a smile of hope over experience, a mature woman who has not quite learnt the realities of a disappointing world.
I speak, of course, of the search for the perfect cup of coffee. It would be comparatively simple to find a tasty, refreshing, reinvigorating, honest to goodness man. It isn't just in England that one is disappointed. I have travelled the world to include coffee bean producing countries – Jamaica, Kenya, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Mexico – but sadly not Brazil. They can't always be relied upon to produce a decent cup of coffee.
More recently I have confined my search to England and close to home. Within walking distance of the house in Tetbury there are a dozen places that offer coffee. We are yet to be struck down by that plague of choice that indicate so-called sophistication, those Italian/American words designed to make us feel inferior or superior. Would you like a skinny caffe machiato with latte art? No, I want a cup of coffee with some warm milk on the side, please.
Do you remember your first cup of coffee? At my childhood home it was a spoonful of Camp in a cup of warm milk. Later there was the frisson of dish-water cappuccino taken in coffee bars with boys with greased back hair and naughty thoughts. And holidays in France where coffee was served in great bowls and one was allowed to dunk pastries. Much later a boyfriend said, 'If Lesley asks you to come up for coffee it is a threat rather than a promise.' Perhaps he meant I couldn't make a decent cup of coffee.
Now it is so easy. At home, at least. Beans from any supermarket, or Keith's in Cirencester where coffee is understood, into the burr grinder, a gentle turning of the handle, nothing rushed, a due regard for tradition, ritual and ceremony, and a knowledge that the beans must be gently sheared, and then into the cafetiere. Nearly but not quite boiling water and there you are. All the senses satisfied. Simples. But where to go locally? I could tell you where not to go but, with good manners and a mellow cafetiere to hand, recommend The Kitchen at Minchinhampton (which also serves fabby cakes), Jack's in Cirencester (with the largest sponges in the world) and Quayles (where you can pick up delicious goodies) and Hortensia, both in Tetbury. How they manage it and the rest can't bewilders me.
In this section
- 'Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.' Lewis Carroll
- 'The only athletic sport I have ever mastered is backgammon' Douglas Jerrold
- 'When I use a word,'Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.' Lewis Carroll 'Through the looking glass, and what Alice found there.'
- 'Being thick isn't an affliction if you are a footballer, because your brains need to be in your feet.' Brian Clough
- 'The British are not good at having fun. I get overexcited if there's a pattern on my kitchen roll.' Victoria Wood
- 'The trouble with the French is they have no word for entrepreneur.' George W Bush
- 'There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.' Winston Churchill
- 'How on earth did Gandhi manage to walk so far in flip-flops? I can't last ten minutes in mine.' Mrs Merton
- 'Visitors young and old will be amazed when they arrive at your home and see a larger than life fully lit outdoor reindeer complete with bells and sleigh.' A Christmas catalogue
- 'You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.' Norman Douglas