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July 2003 - Coffee Anyone?

For about as long as I can remember I've been a coffee drinker and I never let that awful tea stuff pass my lips.

I thought I'd better share that important item of information with you, as it's an essential piece of background to the subject I've chosen for in-depth analysis in this month's wonderful edition of Nick Harvey's Comment. Indeed, my frustration in the coffee drinking department of late has prompted this month's epistle.

Additionally, I should make you all aware that I had a rather nasty bout of flu a little while back and that is almost as important to you when we come to background details.

"What", I hear you all asking, "can possibly be the connection between drinking coffee and having a bout of the flu?" Well, I shall explain over the next few paragraphs, dear reader, if you'll allow me.

The connection is very simple. It's a regular feeling of deep frustration and the need to keep a dustpan and brush handy in the kitchen at all times.

Now, many of you will consider it my fault entirely that I got bored with conventional instant coffee; where you extract a couple of spoonfuls from a jar and slosh boiling water on top of same.

I simply decided to go for something a bit different and thought I'd try this Cappuccino stuff from deepest Croydon, the home, it says here, of Nestle UK Ltd.

By the way, I don't remember them asking my permission to change from good old "Nessuls" to this awful sounding "Ness Lay" name.  When did they creep that one up on me then?

Actually, as all my new found fans from last month will attest, when you pronounce the new name correctly, it sounds more as if you're talking about a Scottish breed of hen, that lives by a famous loch!

Oh, sorry, nearly got carried away on another of my pet subjects there for a minute or two, time to return to the subject in hand I think. I really must try to stop digressing quite so often, mustn't I?

Now, where was I? Cappuccino coffee wasn't it! Yes, I decided to opt for a change, and a drop of frothy coffee for a while; just after I'd got over the flu.

Looking back on it, it was a really silly time to opt for the change as I'd only just got over the terror and frustration of taking the Lemsip for the flu.

I really should have realised what was going to happen, but I didn't.

Now, I'll bet your all trying to work out what can possibly be the common factor between Cappuccino coffee and Lemsip at this point in the proceedings.

Let me enlighten you. The common bond between these two dreadful products is the fact that they both come to you enclosed in one of the twentieth century's most horrible inventions, the sachet.

To save you getting as annoyed and frustrated with me, as I get with the sachets, I'll pass by the fact that the word "sachet" sounds to me as if it's foreign, without any further discussion.

Now, the basic design of a sachet isn't that bad in itself. It's just the way they pack the sachets into packets, then boxes, then presumably crates or something like that.

What I want to know is why on earth can't they pack the sachets so they travel from the point where they're filled up, all the way to my kitchen the same way up?

After all, they know which end is the top of a sachet because it's got the little cut in it where you're told to start tearing it open. So why can't they all travel the right way up to their destination?

Whenever I get a sachet to open, they seem to have gone to an enormous amount of trouble to ensure that the powder contained therein is all tightly packed at the wrong end, the end with the slit in it.

Needless to say, this is the reason for the dustpan and brush being at the ready in the kitchen, in order to sweep up the powder which shoots out when you rip the sachet open.

In the case of the Lemsips, I reckon it's a crafty ploy to increase sales as you never seem to manage to consume a full dose; and therefore end up taking the damn stuff for weeks and weeks longer than you would have done if the treatment had been at full strength in the first place.

I'm firmly convinced that one of the main reasons for my flu lasting so long as it did, was the inventor of the sachet.

So you see, after all this trouble I'd had with the Lemsips, I really can't really understand what prompted me to try the Cappuccino coffee right after getting over the flu.

You really would think I'd have learnt my lesson, but no. I'd just consigned the dustpan and brush to the cupboard in the hall and got used to not treading in powder every time I walked into the kitchen.

This cardboard box full of sachets of Cappuccino seemed to be calling out to me from the shelves in Safeway. "Hello there sucker, I'm much more interesting than boring old normal instant coffee" it was crying out.

"Sucker" was the right word, because I fell under the spell of it, gently scanned it and transferred it to the trolley, whilst carefully keeping it the right way up at all times.

I needn't have bothered to have been so careful however. Any of you out there who shop in a Safeway branch where they haven't yet had the "take it all back OUT again" re-fit, will understand the dreaded word "re-scan".

This, for those of you who haven't sampled the delights of some parts of this particular supermarket chain, is where you get specially selected to be checked this week, so they can make sure you've scanned ALL of the stuff in your trolley yourself, rather than just some of the cheaper items.

So it's off to the checkout you go, to go through the entire business you'd hoped you'd escaped by scanning everything yourself.

Apart from this checkout operator who'd obviously been trained in the art of juggling with boxes of sachets as she scanned them over her bar code reader; it rapidly became clear that in all the stages of transport from sunny Croydon the crate had been turned upside down at regular intervals.

This became clear when I reached the kitchen.

I was quite looking forward to a nice cup of frothy coffee when I eventually got home.

I gently extracted the first sachet from the carton and held it vertically with the slit at the top. Realising that the contents were at their thickest at the top of the sachet, I shook same to try to get the powder back down to the bottom. It all seemed to fall to the bottom, but no.

This is the crafty bit of design!

Even though the contents SEEM to fall to the bottom, the design of the top corners of a sachet is such that the last of the powder remains trapped at the top, ready to spill out the minute you commence the ripping action and expose the contents to the open air.

Now where in that damn cupboard did I put the infernal dustpan and brush?

I've now learnt why Lemsip and Cappuccino coffee have one other thing in common. The instructions on both the sachets specifically tell you to use hot, but not boiling water.

Of course you mustn't use boiling water! By the time you've swept up all the mess from the floor, the kettle's long gone off the boil in any case!

At least with the coffee there's no warning about exceeding the stated dose, so you can make a cup using most of the contents of TWO sachets to make up for what goes on the floor.

That way, you do get five cups of coffee from a packet of ten sachets, but it works out to be a horribly expensive way of drinking coffee. I really don't recommend it.

I've gone back to the normal instant now, ever since someone told me that the word "Cappuccino" is Italian or something like that. Fancy Nick Harvey thinking he'd like Italian coffee! Can't think what came over me!

Someone else suggested that if the normal instant was a bit boring for my taste, I should try the real stuff.

That sounded like a pretty good idea till I realised that I'd have to make it in one of those things like an odd looking mug with a plunger on the top, a cafeteria or some other silly French word like that.

I've now decided to carry on with the jar and spoon technique, it's a lot less trouble and at least you can put a third heaped spoonful of granules in for extra flavour.

If I haven't passed away due to caffeine poisoning, the next edition of this load of old nonsense will appear at the beginning of August.

Phew! After all that writing, I think I need a brew. Right, I'm off, where's me tea bag?

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