The best coffee I ever had was at a small cafe in Hamburg. It was a new place that had just opened a few weeks earlier; the labour of love of a coffee connoisseur called Stefan. After scouring Hamubrg for places where I could find Melbourne-quality coffee, his cafe was the first place anywhere near my apartment that I found it.
I went there nearly every day for my coffee fix. Then, one day, Stef walked in with a slightly shifty look. The kind of look a drug dealer might give a client when some particularly potent product has just come in. "This is the good stuff."
The coffee was mind-blowing. It was rich and dark and powerful, yet somehow not even slightly bitter. It was the first time in my life that I drank a coffee without sugar, and didn't feel the urge to add any. It was a great moment; sitting in a cafe on the other side of the world from home, appreciating the work of someone who passionately cared about what he did.
The worst coffee I ever had was, ironically, at an extremely nice restaurant. On the hill above The Magic Castle in Hollywood is a Japanese/American "fusion" restaurant called Yamashiro. It is a damn nice restaurant. I went there for the first time with a group of friends, and the food was delicious. Nicely prepared, amazing flavours, great drinks to match, and friendly helpful service staff.
Lulled into a false sense of security, I ordered a cappuccino with dessert. The dessert was delicious. The coffee was so bad it was astonishing.
Everything that could possibly be wrong with a cup of coffee was wrong. The milk was burnt, the beans were burnt, the coffee was watery, the foam looked like dishwater, and there was a slight grittiness to it that tasted like three-week-old espresso filter residue.
It was craptacular. Truly spectacularly crap. If a master barista sat down, cracked their knuckles, and set out to make the worst cup of coffee possible, they would probably create something like this. Then they would hide in a corner and weep for the evil they had unleashed upon the world.
For the record, I highly recommend Yamashiro. As mentioned before, the food is excellent and the place is delightful. Just stay away from the espresso.
But if you ever find yourself in Hamburg, try to check out a place called Lohas Coffee on Lange Reihe in St Georg. Tell Stef I sent you. And ask him about the good stuff.
(Photo by flickr user pocius, licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0)
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