Those of you who know me well will know that there are two things I need to keep me happy – chocolate and coffee.
Chocolate in Asia is a disaster. Yes, I can pay a huge amount of money for Cadburys, but it is either from in Australia – in which case it is just about edible but generally disappointing – or Singapore – in which case it has wheat added to it and I can’t eat it – or Malaysia – in which case I would be better off eating a box of wax. I basically rely on closely guarded and rationed supplies from the UK, which are sometimes sent by friends or brought by visitors, topped up with Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups when I need a sugar fix.
Coffee, however, has not been an issue. Until, that is, I moved to Indonesia. Indonesia is a country famous for its coffee – including the infamous luwak coffee made from civet poop – yet I just cannot find a good cup.
Part of the problem is that – whilst I have finally purchased a French press and some very strong ground beans for the weekend – I tend to drink instant coffee during the week. Yes, I know, what do I expect if I insist on drinking processed muck? However some Vietnamese, Cambodian and Malaysian instant coffee is actually very good and not a thing like the tasteless, over-processed granules that come in your Nescafe jar. Not as good as the real thing, but definitely a substitute when you are running late for work and have a screaming 3-year-old blocking the route to the kettle.
Indonesian instant coffee is, however, terrible. Weak, laced with sugar (many brands list sugar as the main ingredient!) and disappointing to taste. However the very worst thing of all is that the powder refuses to dissolve.
Now I know that proper coffee needs filtering and so on, and that the ability of instant coffee to dissolve is a product of the terrible processing that instant coffee undergoes. But it is also the whole reason why I choose instant over real coffee. I don’t want to spend time filtering or brewing. I don’t want to have to carry various pieces of equipment to work every day. And I certainly do not want to have a mouth full of gritty coffee grains at every sip.
Why is Indonesian coffee like this? I cannot find a clear answer online. Most websites just seem to assume that it is normal for Indonesia. One even suggests that it is part of a charming tradition of drinking coffee from an upside-down glass, sipping the liquid from the saucer whilst the coffee drains remain behind. However that sounds to me more like a convoluted solution to a problem that really shouldn’t exist. Other people suggest simply waiting for the residue to settle. But, to be honest, if I don’t have time to make a proper cup of coffee, I don’t have time to wait for my instant coffee to be, well, not instant.
And so it is that I find myself in the most contradictory of positions: an instant coffee snob!