Sunday, September 24, 2006

Coke Blek

My love affair with coffee didn't actually start when my folks allowed me my first cup at 16. Think of it as an engine on idle, awaiting the lead foot to stomp down on the accelerator. The seeds of my coffee-love were planted many years before, on entering the now-lost Java Shoppe in downtown Edmonton in the 1960's. The exotic aroma of newly roasted beans, cinammon, and espresso settled into a deep place in my hind-brain, and got all connected-up with a nurtured indelible memory of a sunny Saturday morning adventure of a 9 year-old with my Mom & Dad. In those days, espresso was a rare indulgence, and the machine to squeeze out those precious drops of super-concentrated coffee essence were the size of a 50-gallon drum, usually encased in copper and brass, with a perched eagle on top in full wing flight. I had no desire to drink the stuff, just the smell, the dark interior shot with beams of sunlight, and the alternating wafts of coffee and cigarette smoke made the whole experience surreal and memory-misted.

Italy took me to another coffee level in 1977, when I backpacked through Europe on my pre-university Eurail-Hostel sojourn. We took the night-train from Roma to Firenze, arriving at 6am Sunday morning. Stumbling off the train after the conductor gave us a 2-minute warrning to get up, dressed and packed, we stood on the platform looking up at the morning sky, and watched the stream of people heading for the cafe. There, the animated waitress was slinging the "cappuccio" and a bar full of bleary-eyed travellers were being transformed from zombiehood to several rungs up the evolutionary ladder. Two spoons full of sugar, and that small cup solidifed a feeling of well-being (and settled an uneasy stomach) that monks have to spend years in meditation to achieve.

Of course, twenty years later, Starbucks has commoditized and packaged that experience, but it still retains much of its original allure. But whether or not you think Starbucks is over-roasted crap or a good cuppa, we can certainly find lots of REAL BAD COFFEE. Real Bad Coffee (RBC) can most likely be found in the following places:
1. school cafeterias
2. coin-operated offee machines
3. offices that pride themselves at providing their employeess with "free coffee"
Real Bad Coffee has some basic characteristics. It comes from robusta beans; high caffeine; high acid acrid chunks of brown stuff. It has been dripped from tap water through water reservoirs and taps that haven't been cleaned since they were installed. The check-out people wouldn't drink it even if it's free.

Coca-cola, on the other hand, is also part of my growing up experience, and while it doesn't carry the semi-spiritual patina that coffee does for me, it is up there in list. Coke would like-to-buy-the-world-a-Coke, and the Real Thing, and all that, and who cares what the taste-test says, I ain't drinking Pepsi (ha, Brand Autopsy tells me I'm already doin' that, if Frappucino is bottled by Pepsi!). Coke is the pickup, and man, nothing cuts the grease of food-fair chinese combos than a can of Coke.

So when I heard about Coke Blak, I dreamed about what it might be like. My two favorite black liquids - together. I imaged a bottle of frappucino, with a coke twist. I imagined classic coke, with a shot of sweetened espresso dripped into it.

So, after cruising ebay for a while looking for the early versions, Sol brought a bottle he picked at 7-11. After leaving it for a night in the fridge to settle, I popped it open today. It is so bad, I can't hardly even write about it. Imagine Diet Coke, then you took the worst cafeteria coffee you could find, boiled it down, and poured it in the bottle. Unintegrated, vile, caustic. Unbelievable.

Well, they totally missed MY demographic. Perhaps someone will like it...