I love a good hot chocolate. With a head of foam so deep you could float your spoon on it. Not too sweet, a little bitter so your can really taste those cocoa beans. As I drink I imagine 18th Century ladies in their salons, sipping from thimble-sized cups, every brown dribble worth more than gold. I see their powdered wigs sway on their heads, each passing breeze threatening to capsize them, like galleons fighting squally tempests off Cape Horn …
Of course, when I order hot chocolate, what I’m actually served is a thin liquid that has a layer of sludge at the bottom an inch deep with the consistency of quick sand, tasting both slimy and gritty. The stuff is so sweet the sugar melts my teeth. Each hot chocolate should come with a voucher: collect ten and you have access to the onsite dentist who can do running repairs to your molars between drinks.
The tea’s no better. Tea in any cafe chain is tinny and bitter. Think of a photograph of David Tennant: it might resemble that handsome, dashing creature, but you couldn’t wrap your arms around it, give it a big squeeze and take it home for cuddles on the sofa. Well, you could, but at the end of the day, you’re not getting quite what you hoped for, and the same goes for cafe chain tea.
And I don’t drink coffee. ‘Proper’, fresh brewed coffee has my heart galloping like the winner at Derby Day and sends my head feeling like it’s stuffed with pillows. And it makes your breath smell. Coffee breath smells like the liquid that gathers at the bottom of a rubbish bin.
So, you would assume I’d avoid coffee shops. You’d think their synthetic drinks, their bustle, their noise, their whole corporate, faceless, aggressively marketed schtick would have me running. But I’ve spent hours in certain outlets. You know- the one named after a Battlestar Galactica character.
Why? Imagine it now- the low hum of conversation, my single table with nothing on it but my laptop and the cooling, sticky swamp of a barely touched chocolate flavoured drink… There’s something about the anonymity of the chain coffee shops, the fact that there’s so much coming and going, it’s easy to block it all out, the fact that members of staff won’t move you on, even if you’ve been sitting there for three hours and only spent £2.50.
In a cafe, I can’t get up and make myself a nice cup of tea. The WIFI’s not secure, so I won’t keep checking my inbox for that short story acceptance email that never comes. There’s no cupboard of snacks to rifle through and I’ve left my writing mags and shelves of books at home. For a busy place there are few distractions.
And another thing. Look around you. Every other table has a guy or gal tapping away at a laptop. Many are just watching cats miming to Bohemian Rhapsody on You Tube; some are students frantically working on theses that should’ve been handed in months ago, but that miming cat’s been just so hard not to watch… But maybe one, perhaps even two others might just be writing a story, a novel, a tale that’s wormed inside them and is finally breaking out. Some of them are my people.
Right. I’ve got to go cos I’ve a yearning for a triple mocha-choca-chino with hazelnut sauce and a double helping of aerosol cream. Can’t imagine where I’ve developed a taste for those…