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Coffee in Context Remy Millar

Coffee in Context Remy Millar

A black sharpie pen tells me that Steve has 3 shots in his grande cappuccino. A woman leans so far across the table in the train carriage that her breasts are squashed against the laminate pine, and her chip almost touches Steve’s lid. She attempts a seductive look over the cup to catch Triple Shot Steve’s attention. ‘Have you finished your coffee?’ she asked softly, and purposefully. ‘Yes,’ says Triple Shot Steve. ‘Would it be possible to put the lid on? I just can’t stand the smell’, she says resolutely with only a hint of self-consciousness, aware that the entire carriage is judging her fastidious request.


I’ve never known anyone to dislike the smell of coffee. To me, a coffee is the most comforting and inspiring smell there is, but maybe that’s of the association it has with writing. The smell of ink might be comforting for a printmaker, or the smell of grass for a gardener, or the smell of the pub for an alcoholic. It’s like creative fuel; I can’t imagine anywhere I would be more productive than sitting in a café with nothing else but coffee, a notebook and the people on the other side of the window for company. I wonder if Steve would have eaten the left over cappuccino foam with his spoon, or run a long index finger around the inside of the cup to collect the bubbles and erotically licked them off (perhaps for this woman herself’s benefit) had she not humiliated him into claiming he’d finished. As it was, the woman had tarnished all hot drinks for the passengers of that carriage, and the almost empty cup was humiliated, and forced through a very resistant flap into a dustbin between two pairs of seats. My interest in coffee stemmed from my interest in celebrity paparazzi shots. I was always drawn to tiny celebrities dwarfed even further by their venti takeaway cups. As an easily influenced fourteen year old, I deduced that to appear on trend (with the bonus of being made to look skinnier simply by carrying a cup bigger than my face), it was imperative that I started having zero calorie hot drinks to go.


Something told me that hot chocolate didn’t hold the same kind of status symbol as coffee, so I weaned myself onto caffeine with a mocha and seven spoons of sugar. Eventually, I learnt to handle my mocha with with no sugar, and months later, I braved a very sweet latte. Chasing the buzz, I started asking for double shots, and graduating to a sugarless coffee was a proud day. Finally, after several years of force-feeding, grimacing, and sugar relapses, milk cheating, I achieved my ultimate ambition: I enjoyed a tall, black, Americano. And then I had the right to become a coffee snob. (I proudly know nothing about the difference between Relentless, Red Bull and Pussy. And don’t get me started on chicory, decaf or Starbucks. I love turning my nose up in disgust when I see someone heap a teaspoon of instant coffee granules, and watching in disdain as they stir boiling water into any ill shaped mug. My morning coffee cup is so delicate that the white china is almost translucent. The height to width ratio makes the cup feel open and solid, without the tackiness of a flare or the heaviness of mugs sold by Sports Direct. I also am revolted by anyone drooling over their cup of coffee whilst trying to battle a hangover. Coffee is far too special to be tainted by a hangover. After all this bravado, I know nothing about what coffee means to be Columbian, Kenyan, or Arabica. My excuse is that I’m always too spaced out for lack of coffee when I choose which vacuum packed brick will be strained through my coffee plunger for the next month (but secretly I fear that if someone served me a black coffee made with over processed Nescafe granules, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid.


Part of my love for coffee is the persona that goes along with drinking coffee. It’s so fucking arty to have caffeine withdrawal symptoms, and to announce to your friend that you can’t have a proper conversation in the morning until you’ve had your coffee. And then irritating them by bouncing up and down whilst spinning around on a swivel chair in front of the computers screen you’re meant to be paying attention to. The benefits of caffeine as coffee are widely known. It is an antioxidant, an antidepressant, an appetite suppressant, and rumour has it, an aphrodisiac. And its also used in enemas; and a vegan staple for the purists’ buzz. And luxury brand Tiffany & Co (who market themselves as a brand with the ultimate in good taste and good style) use make the coffee bean silver for customers to wear as a pendant around their necks. And speaking of luxury, in most coffee shops the mark up is so overpriced that although it’s a rip off, it feels like its an affordable luxury. Considering the 1250% mark up for a coffee, the price seems obscene, but relative to living in general, a couple of pounds isn’t extortionate. Sometimes I go too far with coffee. I become jittery and edgy, and my wee, sweat and tears start looking suspiciously like a coffee. And when this happens, I usually think, there is nothing a cup of tea can’t fix.

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Photography & Design by Jordan Randhawa

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