It was the tail end of winter, 1991, that I first came to the United Kingdom. Actually, I thought it was meant to be spring – because it was April after all and I had been told that that was when the light returned and the days became warmer and longer.
‘Twas not exactly true, and worse it was when I came to truly miss my brew! Tea did not cut it after being frozen into my little pup tent all night outside in the garden of Bath’s fancy Italianate Youth Hostel on the hill.
I needed something warm, and fast, to unchill me and keep me going on the second leg of my three week journey down in the Wild West of England – where you can hear the crystals clinking at every step. Except those crystals weren’t on the hippies I met at the hostel, or in the many New Age shops down at Glastonbury – they were danged ice crystals, and the first ones encountered were those that I had had to bash off the zipper sealing the entrance to my tent. It was almost an ice sarcophagus, I kid you not. Even the Youth Hostel manager was surprised as to why I had not come in that night when they had given shelter to every other camper in the garden due to warnings about the drop in temperature.
Somehow I did not get that warning, but I suspect now it was because I had somehow managed to get myself warm that night with my three layers of clothing on, and newly acquired four seasons sleeping bag, and so I was probably snoring too loudly to hear him.
However it was the first time that I really noticed the absence of coffee in Britain, as neither good coffee nor café culture had arrived in the country to help cheer us all up and getting us going when the cold snap has set in. The best one could do was settle for a hot cuppa tea or some soup.
Now here’s the thing, having just arrived only a few weeks before from Sydney, Australia – a place that already had a reputation for great coffee and an amazing café culture – tea or soup just didn’t cut it. So it was back then and there, with the fresh smell of snow drops and icicles on my breath, that my first inklings of the beginnings of this quest began….