The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Embarrassing questions

“That’s great. I’ll see you at 10.30 that morning then!”

“Yup, great!”


“Er… just one thing”

“Sure, what?”

“Um… I know this might sound like a bit of an odd question…”


“But…, erm… what kind of coffee do you drink?”

Damn, it’s embarrassing.

Here I am, making arrangements all over the place to get photos of people for my exhibition, and over and above having to ask if they mind me thrusting my camera in their faces so I can create an intense portrait of them, I need to be prepared for varying coffee scenarios.

I only have 2 cups of coffee a day – one mid morning; one mid afternoon.

Because of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I only really feel properly alive for an hour or so after a good cup of coffee

If I didn’t restrict myself to 2 a day, I would be drinking it permanently and doing myself all sorts of damage.

So when I do have a coffee, I need real coffee. Proper ground up stuff that goes in a cafetiere or an espresso pot. Coffee with taste. Coffee with strength. Coffee that hits the right spot.

And it has become such a key part of my day – a key part of my surviving CFS – if someone says they happily drink instant, I will make up a flask of real stuff to take with me and, if necessary, down it in the car before I knock on the door of the person I’m visiting.

I feel bad about this on several levels – not least of which is some people I know would be mortified if they felt they’d been what they perceive as a less than perfect host.

And for those who are happy with instant coffee out the jar, it sounds like snobbery. I mean, imagine inviting someone around for dinner and they brought their own wine because yours just wasn’t up to it.

But instant coffee is just an entirely different drink to real coffee, no matter how many adverts would try to convince you otherwise. And my body struggles to cope with it.

Of course, in an emergency, instant is better than nothing. And if I’ve accidentally left my flask at home, then I’m more than grateful for anything with a hint of caffeine in it. When I’m creating portrait photographs, I need my mind to be working sharply.

Perhaps I should just adopt the maxim, “Never apologise; never explain” and just boldly state I will be bringing my own coffee unless they have the good stuff. Then I’d probably just be seen as eccentric rather than pretentious.

The good stuff



Jacqui said...

You'd really enjoy the coffee here in Spain, then - it can be so strong, one cup keeps me buzzing for hours. I have to drink de-caff for medical reasons, and I know they sometimes give me full-blooded coffee in restaurants after an evening meal when I am still going strong at 3am.

Suz said...

I know people who claim to not be able to tell the difference. I think they are either lying or have not had "real" coffee.

I am with you - the real stuff or I bring my own. I bring my own to work because they brew coffee bought based on price. UGH!

We with discerning taste buds should not have to apologize.

Rachel Fox said...

I don't drink coffee (drives me crazy...) but I'm a bit like this with tea. Give me a good strong cup or don't bother!

mapstew said...

I'll happily drink a good instant, but I love real coffee. The taste, smell, everything! And the stronger the better. Though when I do make a pot I tend to finish it in one sitting! Not always bad before a gig.The smell of good coffee always brings me back to my wild times in Paris in the 80's (complete with gay 'tache!). :¬)

Thrup'ny bits said...

Now the whole world knows I'm sure sure some astute purveyor of coffee will produce a special Kim Ayres Blend of dark roast arabica for the discerning . . .

. . . or come right out and explain the reason you ask . . .

My initial caffeine intake of the day has to be real coffee . . . then I revert to black tea.


Charlie said...

Unlike Map, I think instant is nasty stuff--even the freeze-dried, whatever the hell that means.

V said...

Never feel bad about having good taste! It seems that your coffee is tool of the trade...instant coffee is evil.

Lynne said...

instant coffee blah! Not that good. okay in a pinch, but for the most part I'll pass too. Nothing wrong with bring your own good stuff, it might even convert them if you ofter it to them too. LOL

The Pollinatrix said...

The only time I ever drink instant is when I'm camping.

If coffee isn't both good and strong, what's the point? Just take a caffeine pill.

Weak, cheap coffee is down there on the list with cold french fries and warm beer.

K. Erickson said...

You can have the coffee. I never developed a taste for it. Unless, of course, it was spiked with some Irish Whiskey and a few other condiments.

Ron Tipton said...

I never quite got the hang of coffee. Occasionally I'll have a cup with a meal when I dine out. I do enjoy a good cup of coffee and can tell the difference between good coffee and coffee flavored hot water (which is what instant coffee tastes like to me.) Same with soda. Never got the appeal of that either. However, if that is what gets you through the day, more power to you.

Someday..... said...

Just curious - have you ever tried an energy/vitamin supplement drink called Spark? It is by advocare...

I have been using it for awhile - and really like it....Same caffeine as a cup of joe ++ lots of vitamins....

I am not a coffee drinker (unless you count a brief addiction to Cafe MochaLatte's) - and I like the energy boost from this drink -
Just curious....

hope said...

Never liked coffee either, but Dad did,therefore I learned to make it, good little first born that I am. Now I make a great pot of coffee for the rest of those who drink it. ;)

Pat said...

One of our sons keeps various sized coffee pots here and brings his own coffee and everybody is happy.
We're tea folk really.
BTW Jacqui should beware tirimasou in restaurants noted for very strong coffee.

Alice said...

I'm giving you full permission to always, always bring your own coffee. If you feel the need to offer an excuse, so as not to offend, feel free to borrow the following:

"I like to drink from my own thermus, because I hear you let your dog lick the dishes clean."

Hindsfeet said...

Oh Buddy!!!! Hear Hear!!! Aint NOTHIN' like the real thing, Baby!!! Not a coffee snob either, but that's my one ritual a day I just need for my soul...I've given up everything else so the coffee's gotta be good.

I'm indulging lately in a stash of Jamaica Blue Mountain a friend sent me from there (yeah, I know, friends in high places......gotta love it) : )

Helen said...

Hey Bearded One - a pretentious eccentric - just my kind of person!!!

Library girl said...

You know, you cant't REALLY call yourself an artist if you don't have any little quirks. Consider the coffee thing a validation of your talents?

Eryl Shields said...

I start to look forward to my one (yes, large) cup of morning coffee before I go to bed. So if I can't have it at home I always take a flask and no one seems to mind.

Fat Lazy Guy said...

I'm like you, mate. I can't stand the instant. I can't just "have coffee". It's got to be espresso. French press is okay, but it's still not espresso.

And it's definitely not at all snobbery. They're completely different products. It's like the difference between smoking some Dunlop Nightcap in a meerschaum churchwarden and smoking a cigarette. Or the difference between reading Stephenie Meyer and H.P. Lovecraft.

There's a depth that doesn't exist in the other because it's processed and dulled down to suit the masses.

Katie Roberts said...

Instant comes from something alien beings that have infiltrated our society to bring it down from the inside! I'm sure 'freeze dried' coffee is some sort of addictive, artificial space gravel. So you shouldn't apologise for defending the human race from destruction.

I used to drink instant when I was young and had sleepless nights from an invisible rash, that I only discovered years later was likely to be caffeine itches.

I can only have a coffee once in a while, but when I do its got to be real coffee too. I'll meet you for one in a couple of weeks, if you like Kim. Do they serve 'real coffee in the villages of rural Scotland? or should i bring a thermos?

bonequinhoda bic said...

Kim, two lumps in mine please.
Thank´s :)

Jayne Martin said...

Over here you wouldn't even be noticed walking around with a cup of coffee in your hand or showing up somewhere with one. With our coffee bars on every corner, you thought of as strange if you don't have one.

And instant? That is just so wrong. Not as bad as decaffeinated though. I mean, really. What's the point?

Falak said...

Wow!Being someone is neither hooked to coffee nor tea I never knew people could have such strong feelings about coffee! And I don't think bringing your own coffee with you would seem prententious but eccentric -yes:)

Stella said...

Nescafe Gold Blend is the only instant I will drink, but real coffee, aaaaahhhhhhhh, but I can't have too many, makes me hyper! And no, not pretentious, eccentric is good :)

Anonymous said...

Methinks you spend too much precious energy thinking about this. Barbara

Kim Ayres said...

Jacqui - I first got into espressos when I visited a friend of mine in Portugal. He insisted on taking me round all these cafes and plying me with those intense tiny coffees where a single sachet of sugar almost doubles the size of drink. by the end of the long weekend, I was hooked

Suz - I think you're right - only those who enjoy instant are likely to claim they can't tell the difference. I don't envy you your workplace's attitude to coffee :(

Rachel - one of my stepdaughters likes her tea strong enough to start disolving the spoon...

Mapstew - ah, gay Paree ;)

Alan - I wonder if Illy or Lavazza would like to sponsor this blog...

Charlie - Here's what Wiki says about Freeze drying coffee. Although my attention wandered before I reached point three, so I copied and pasted the link for you, but am none the wiser personally

V - sounds like a new slogan in the making :)

Lynne - :)

Pollinatrix - and soggy cornflakes

K. Erickson - other condiments like... salt, pepper, Ketchup? ;)

Ron - unfortunately the power only lasts and hour

Someday - never heard of "Spark". But good coffee is more than just the caffeine, it's also the rituals of making it

Hope - you'll definitely have to find a way to get me over to the US for a photo session then :)

Pat - as you've mentioned tirimasou, I have to confess I hate coffee flavoured things - like that dessert, or the coffee cream in a box of chocolates

Alice - A phrase only to be used if you don't care about being invited back again... :)

Hindsfeet - I've never known anyone well connected before - I'll keep that in mind for one day...

Helen - :)

Library Girl - I wonder if I could claim it as a tax allowance then?

Eryl - you do make a damn fine coffee :)

FLG - your smoking references went clear over my head, but I get your drift :)

Katie - there are some cafes that serve the real stuff, if you know where to look. But I have an espresso pot and I'm not afraid to use it

Bonequinhoda Bic - of milk?

Jayne - serves the same purpose as non-alcoholic beer

Falak - neither tea nor coffee? What's your drug of choice then?

Stella - did you get converted in the 80s with all the Gold Blend "can I borrow a cup of coffee" adverts?

TheRextras - without the coffee, I can't think at all...

Tiffin said...

Kim, if you ever visit Canada, I can guarantee you a beautiful espresso, café Americain or lattée, pulled by my own in-house barristo, Himself. Ground in a coffee place in Toronto and sent up by Purolator within 24 hours. How's that for coffee snobbery! He's going cycling in Majorca for ten days and I'm going to be drinking tea. Can't stand bad coffee either and don't know how to work the machine!

Kim Ayres said...

Tiffin - sounds wonderful. Now all you need to do is get a few friends and colleagues to club together to fly me and the family out to Toronto for a couple of weeks for a holiday, and I can do portrait sessions for everyone in return :)

karatemom said...

or since you like to be more in control of your coffee "life" you can say ..something like..
Well, While I work I really prefer a nice tall glass of ice water.
Easy for them to have on hand.
your not being rude.
You can enjoy your coffee your way ..either before or after the visit.
and you have one less distraction.
oh and its good for you !!
just a thought .:)

Mary Witzl said...

Whew! No instant in our house.

I used to know a really sweet person who brewed coffee early in the morning and kept it on the hob ALL DAY LONG. She got hurt if you didn't accept a cup, too. Believe me, even Nescafe would have been welcome.

Anonymous said...

I'm a coffeeccentric too! Funny how we (coffedrinkers) become so particular about our coffee. Love your coffee photo.

litzi said...

Have you considered indulging in a cup of strong tea when you’re out and about taking photographs? That might solve the instant versus the good stuff issue.

Mimi and Tilly said...

My dad is very similar. He calls before he visits to let me know he's coming, and when I tell him I'll make him some coffee, he tells me "Don't bother if it's instant." So I have a coffee machine just for him so that when he comes I can brew him up the good stuff. I love the smell so much I brew up a pot now instead of lighting my incense burners!

Kim Ayres said...

KarateMom - but you don't get caffeine in ice water...

Mary - I used to detour to drop by your place for one of your damn fine coffees :)

Allen - thanks for noticing the photo - it was one I was particularly pleased with :)

Litzi - I have tried tea, but it just isn't the same I have to admit :(

Emma - what a good daughter you are - I hope he lets you know how much he appreciates it

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