Coffee Five Ways
i) The God Shot
In coffee parlance, the God Shot refers to the perfect espresso. Mine was in Naples (though a few others in Italy are very close rivals).
Naples was an amazing discovery. Even in the height of summer the only crowds were outside the gelateria and two pizzerias competing to be the best in the city. En route to the Archaeological Museum (not to be missed) we sought out The Bar Mexico. A strange name for a cafe in Naples, but well worth a visit.
The Bar Mexico is an unassuming place near the Piazza Dante. Inside was immaculate, with both the bar and the machines gleaming. Two men in white suits stood behind the bar. One poured us a glass of sparkling mineral water; it was on tap, like beer in a pub. The other made the espresso: strong, flavoursome, with a rich crema. The God Shot, and for only 1Euro.
ii) Coffee From a Vending Machine
Choices for coffee in Japan proved limited. In this land of vending machines, however, I wondered if this might be my best option.
Just about everything can be bought from a vending machine (though I have yet to find those mythical ones selling underwear). Coffee came in a multitude of choices – which, unfortunately, were in Japanese. The most I could decipher was a red button for hot, a blue for cold.
Coins fell into the machine, I chose a button, the came a whirl and a shudder, followed by my can. It was almost too hot to touch. Not surprisingly, the coffee had a rather metallic flavour. Still, I've had far worse.
My affair with coffee began an airport – Rome airport, to be exact. Flying anywhere from Australia takes forever, and on landing at 5am I was exhausted.
The world lay in darkness. Customs waved us through with a glance, the luggage with our carousel had to be coaxed from sleep.
Heading towards the exit, we passed a bar. The metal bench gleamed; the rest of the bar was outfitted in black. The barrister sported immaculately oiled hair with matching stubble. Without a word he slid two espressos towards us. I had never had such coffee before. It was strong and sweet, and suddenly finding the right bus was easy. Fuelled by the java I had the energy to explore as Rome awoke under the kiss of dawn.
For a coffee aficionado, this might seem a strange choice. In Halong Bay, Vietnam, I found the local market at the back of town, away from the chaos by the water.
Our delicious lunch was cooked over a tiny wok. As I nursed her baby, the lady in the stall next door made coffee. All through Vietnam coffee is brewed with the most gorgeous percolators which drip thick coffee straight into a glass. This is followed by a dollop of condensed milk. The fruity flavour of the coffee and the sweetness of the milk seemed so appropriate in the heat of the day. (I drank similar brews on the balconies of Saigon.)
Just near the Pantheon is the Cafe Eustachio. to find it, just look for the crowds outside, even at midnight. There are no queues; simply elbow your way to the front, Italian style, then do the same in reverse, coffee in hand.
This was the best coffee I had in Rome, (a big call) plus possibly the best in Italy. A distance of 20 years separates my visit here with that of Naples, so it is unfair to compare the two. But the aniseed flavour of the coffee lingers in my memory.