On the Road Again
After all the hard work
and planning that went into the World Cup Seville, I found it most necessary to stay in Spain for a few days afterwards for some much needed vacation time. A close family friend accompanied me for her first ever trip across seas, snapping pictures of “Spanish dogs” and “Spanish cars” as evidence of her overwhelming excitement. Over 1,500 photos later, our “road trip de Espana” was more than sufficiently documented.
We started every morning with a cup of café con leche. “Why does it taste so delicious,” she would ask me. I racked my brain to give her an answer. Was the coffee truly that much better than what we’re used to, or was there just something in that fresh Mediterranean air? Maybe it’s the water? I needed to investigate further. The next morning, I paid special attention to the preparation of our morning brews. A bold, French Roast-type coffee was brewed in an espresso maker (this varied from extravagant to stovetop, depending on the establishment). Whole milk was warmed till almost boiling and added to the bottom of the coffee cup, about halfway to the top. The coffee was then poured on top of the milk, filling to almost the rim. It didn’t appear complicated or scientific, there was no confidential formula or process… it all seemed rather standard. I will just need to return to the country, time and time again, until I uncover the secrets that are European coffee.
As we continued our journey south in Spain, the café con leches served in the hundreds of coffee shops became less of a familiar sight. Instead, the Moroccan influence crept into our European adventure and tea salons were the popular midday rest stop. A surprising relief from the scorching sun, the warm teas served in traditional teapots, were the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. Although I have never been to Morocco, I was told by the locals that the Spanish tea shops are about as authentic as you can get without making the trip to Africa. With menus listing dozens of different types of loose leaf teas, mint being the favorite by far, according to various owners, my traveling companion was both impressed and intrigued. “Why don’t we have tea shops like this in the U.S.,” she asked. I explained that we in fact do have tea salons, of all different forms - from trendy and modern to traditional and modest. Their popularity and success however is overshadowed by the coffee mega-chains.
As a native New Yorker, this recent trip showed me I have a lot to learn from the Europeans. Coffee and/or tea doesn’t have to be about the “to-go” factor. It doesn’t have to be a convenient and quick method of upping your caffeine levels. Instead, I should learn to slow down, enjoy the sights, sounds and smells around me. After all, a café con leche tastes better when you take the time to say a big “gracias.”
Tea & Coffee - July, 2009
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