Have you ever stopped to think about how huge the difference in quality can be when you're looking at life's most basic food and drink options? I mean, picture an economy-brand sliced white loaf from your local supermarket; open the thin plastic wrapper and the bread inside is generic, flabby, pale and characterless with no discernible flavour at all. Now imagine an artisan loaf fresh from a real bakery; wrapped in paper, still warm, with a rich yeasty smell, crisp golden crust and a deliciously soft and yielding centre . . . mmmmm. That kind of bread is worth eating on its own - with some unsalted butter perhaps, or gutsy green olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The supermarket stuff is really only useful to stop the inside of a sandwich from becoming the outside.
It's the same thing with coffee. You're standing at a vending machine; you put in your coins, a squat little plastic cup drops into a holder, and a nondescript murky brown liquid is dispensed into it. It could be coffee with milk (as the code you punched in promised), it could be school canteen gravy, it could be puddle water. You take a sip; the temperature pretty much rules out the latter, the rest is guesswork. Or you could head over to Kaffeine in Great Titchfield Street and beg for sanctuary, and an Americano. Rich, smooth, almost chocolatey in its intensity and with enough of a kick to get you right through the day, this is coffee as it should be; done properly, an affordable everyday luxury.
Kaffeine is an Australian/New Zealand-owned independent cafe and takes its coffee, and its food, very seriously. I stopped in on my way back from grabbing lunch so I haven't eaten here yet, although I want to. Salads, sandwiches and pastries all looked fresh and delicious as they were wafted past me to one or other of the cool crowd that seem to make up the Kaffeine clientele. It does have a very relaxed vibe: exposed brickwork, wooden benches, great music and friendly, laid-back staff. It's exactly the kind of place you'd like to hang out in on a rainy afternoon with your laptop, although it is so popular that you'd probably get guilted out by the queue before you were really ready to leave.
My gift to you, my fellow coffee addicts. Because we deserve the best.