Coffee with caffeine and dairy? Like the last of the Magnificent Seven, I left the young'uns all a-twitter after I strode up to the barista – Susan Morrison

We used to be slightly frightened of coffee. It had a faintly racy reputation.

By Susan Morrison
Friday, 5th November 2021, 4:55 am

Coffee was consumed around campfires by desperate gunslingers one shoot-out from a ride to Cemetery Hill. Frothy coffee was the drink of choice for the leather-clad biker boys haunting cafes blazing with chrome, yellow formica and fluorescent light.

Perhaps it was too strong a tea-drinking nation. Or it could be because our coffee was utterly appalling. Coffee bought on CalMac ferries tasted like it came direct from the bilge. Museum tea shops usually started stewing their coffee about May to serve in late July.

Coffee scared us so much, we even had a brand with ‘Mellow’ in the title, to reassure the nervy consumer.

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Despite all this, it was the first step to adulthood for many of us when we rejected Irn-Bru, orange squash or even ginger beer floats, and ordered coffee, brewed on a machine that roared loud enough to drown out Marc Bolan on the jukebox.

When I went to university, I drank instant, because I knew no better and it was pretty much all there was to hand. It was vile. Opening the jar always released a puff of rank powdered coffee, like the rush of air from the opening of a particularly cursed Pharaoh's tomb.

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I don’t drink instant now. I have a snob's taste in coffee, freshly ground and carefully brewed.

Ordering coffee in a cafe is great now. Edinburgh is bung fu’ of brilliant coffee shops, looking at you, Artisan Roast and Fortitude.

Thus, I had no fears when I arranged to meet a friend up town at a coffee shop, even though it’s near the university and therefore awash with young people.

When I walked in, I realised I was about the oldest person there. In fact, aside from the brickwork, I was the oldest thing there.

Takes more than a few blue-haired youngsters to worry me these days. I strode up to the counter and ordered an Americano with a splash of hot milk on the side.

Now, I know, this sounds right poncey, but in my defence, I have yet to find a coffee shop that understands the concept of dark brown coffee. Coffee strong enough to sweep me off my feet, with just enough milk to swirl in and take the edge off.

“Decaffeinated?” said the lovely lass taking the order.

My entire psyche reared up like John Knox unexpectedly encountering a heretic. “Decaff? Nope, I’ll take all the caffeine you’ve got.”

She gave a nervous laugh and told me too much caffeine could make your heart race.

“Good,” I said. “I like my heart racing. If it stops, I’m in trouble.”

“Hot milk?” she said.

“Yes,” I answered, becoming slowly aware I was being regarded with interest, and some alarm, by the young people around me.

“Oat milk? Soya milk? Almond..?”

“Milk,” I said. “From a cow. Called Emintrude.”

The children around me fell back, positively a-twitter at this reckless behaviour. Caffeine and dairy? What madness was this?

I swaggered up to pay. I felt like the last of the Magnificent Seven striding up to a frontier bar, slamming two nickels on the counter and snarling “Gimme whisky”.

I lifted my Americano and hot milk. Looks like we’re scared of coffee again.

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