Crimes against coffee and tea

International Coffee Day (October 1) is upon us – and I am marking it by occasionally looking longingly at pictures of frothy cappuccinos in exotic locations. The photogenic drinks are transporting me back to a time when I sat down and enjoyed a cup at the right temperature at my own pace.

But sadly, I probably won’t consume any coffee on its special day.

Detective Dale Cooper enjoys a damn fine cup of coffee in Twin Peaks.

Special Agent Dale Cooper enjoys a damn fine cup of coffee in Twin Peaks.

Since becoming a mom, my attitude towards caffeine has had to shift. I have had to learn to cut back and to, let’s face it, lower my standards a whole lot. I am regularly committing what I previously would have said were crimes against coffee, and its sister caffeinated beverage, tea.

There is a whole host of reasons why caffeine has become problematic for me. There’s the nagging thought that perhaps any caffeine I consume could make its way into my milk and affect the baby’s sleep after she nurses (though research investigating this issue shows that moderate levels of consumption aren’t likely to cause any problems). There’s also the annoying catch 22 of needing caffeine to get through the day but then realizing that if you drink it, you won’t be able to catch up on your sleep when (and if) your baby naps.

But perhaps the most lasting grievance is that it’s just so hard to find the time to enjoy a good cup.

Back when caffeine was part of my day, I very infrequently brewed a pot of coffee – a pot is far too much for me to drink and I am the only coffee drinker in our house. When I made coffee at home, I used a French press/cafetiere. Even more frequently, I used to get coffee on the go, nice cups made by nice baristas with fancy espresso machines.

That just doesn’t happen any more. When you’ve got a baby, you just don’t have the time that it takes to make a good cup, with fresh, ground beans, or to go out and buy a good cup. Tea, which, in addition to having less caffeine, is simpler to make, so is a good stand-in. But you can even screw that up.

Like many new moms, I’ve learned to live with these realities:

  1. Boiling water and then getting too busy to actually make the tea or coffee. Then boiling it again and forgetting about it again. Repeat.
  2. Once tea is made (after the sixth time the kettle has boiled), the tea bag stays in for an hour until the tea becomes so dark you could paint with it. Standards have lowered so much that in these circumstances I often pour half of it out, boil the water again and add more water, and then the milk.
  3. When the stars align and I am able to make a nice cup of tea which has steeped for the right amount of time, it often coincides with the baby or dog needing some form of long-term attention.  By the time I get back to it, it’s cold. My former self would not have had it cold. Now I do. (Microwaving it is an option, but that will just lead to me forgetting it in the microwave and having to start over).
  4. If I buy a coffee from a shop, I am often carrying the baby and walking the dog at the same time. So I either have to drink the coffee quickly before continuing the walk, or walk with an extra thing in my hand. (Picture me trying to pick up dog mess with a latte in one hand a baby strapped to my chest and you have my reality). A really hot coffee makes this situation a really hot mess. So I will add ice water or ice cubes to the coffee to make it luke warm.
  5. Using out-of-date beans. There’s probably no real reason that coffee beans need to be used before their best-before date, but my former self would probably have scoffed at using them. Not anymore.
  6. Here’s the worst one – using INSTANT COFFEE. I bought a jar of instant coffee grounds for my in-laws when they visited a few months before Bea was born. (Instant coffee is the norm in Britain, so it’s what they are used to). I didn’t think I would need to crack it open for myself. But it turns out convenience is far more important to a new mom than quality.

As I prepare to go back to work in November, one of the things that I am most looking forward to is sitting at my desk drinking a nice cup of tea or coffee at just the right temperature.






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