Grumpy Br(u)no: Just Give Me a Normal Cup of Coffee
Photo: Freepik / For illustrative purposes.
The word “snob” is used in basically the same way in both English and Czech. It means, according to my 2,230-page Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language: “a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field.”
Yes, that is about right.
I am a snob. I like good wine and good whiskey and good food. I judge people by the books they read, or don’t read. And I especially value superior writing implements: ball-point pens are the equivalent of chalk; fountain pens are like figure skating on smooth ice.
I have a friend who used to have a license-plate frame that said: “I’m a snob – I can spell.” I can get behind that, too. (See 2,230-page dictionary proudly mentioned above.)
However, I am not a coffee snob.
There are a lot of coffee snobs in this city — and you know who you are.
I don’t get it. What is the big deal? Please, someone, explain it to me. Why the intricate ritual and the expensive appliance and the personally perfected method of preparing the drink just right? The end result doesn’t taste much different from the drip coffee I grew up on in the United States.
I drink a mug of coffee every morning and usually another in the afternoon. But I don’t have time and patience for overpriced grinders and espresso machines and changing filters and cleaning pipes. I don’t want an exotic blend from Africa. I don’t want a tiny cup with a tablespoon of bitter sludge that I sip for 20 minutes. I don’t want foamy frills or caramel hearts decorating my drink.
I want to wake up or stay awake. Period.
Coffee should be as quick and easy possible: Heat the water. Put two teaspoons of Nestle instant coffee into a mug. Pour boiling water into the mug. Stir. Drink.
Milk? Sugar? No. Just strong coffee that is black, like my heart.
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Brno is more and more often being described as a café city. It is a university town so it makes sense that there are a lot of places to sit, relax, drink something warm and stimulating and discus the great topics of the day, or study. That’s nice. There are worse reputations to have as a city.
I’ve been to most of the cafes in this town to teach conversational English. One student chose a different café for every lesson. It never got boring and we experienced the different, “hip” spots in Brno. Cafes are definitely a great place relax and talk.
Often, however, I got a beer.
I am a reasonably intelligent and worldly person, but I don’t even know how to confidently order coffee. I want the equivalent of what I got every morning from my neighborhood minimart in New York City for 85 cents. Just a normal cup of coffee. Yet, here in Brno, I have to order an Americano (what does that name even mean?). Or is it a Cafe lungo? Or just a Lungo? Every place seems to have a different name.
And I get a glass of water that is sometimes hot, sometimes cold. What is that? Coffee is supposed to make you dehydrated and feel slightly ill.
I’ve asked servers in nice cafes to just give me an instant coffee. It’s fun to watch them react with shock, as though I have cut into the very essence of their worldview. I can appreciate that. After all, I am snob about fountain pens.
Don’t get me started on tea (disgusting) and Starbucks (disappointing). We’ll leave those for another time.
I hope that this column will provide thought-provoking observations of local life that will be interesting for a Saturday-morning read. If you have any suggestions or comments, please pass them along to email@example.com.
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