There is a certain consumer transition my woggy family has gone through when it comes to food and drink. When I got off the plane in Sydney, back in the 80s, as a small kid entering the land of plenty, I was gobsmacked at the amount of choice of foodstuffs in the supermarket. Namely Franklins. My love affair with potato chips developed fairly quickly, a taste sensation foreign to my then commie palette (my first love will always be chicken flavoured Smiths). My parents, I remember, were both in awe at the variety of food that came in plastic packaging but also a bit worried about the lack of root vegetable choice. All in all, we were all ecstatic that we finally made it to a place where Coca Cola was in abundance, symbolising we had entered the West. And so our drinking patterns changed from home-brewed black current juice, to Solo, Sprite and Pepsi. We were fizzy with happiness. As time went by we grew wiser and more aware of our rotting insides. We switched to cordial. Ribena to be exact. Then ‘juice’, then the proper ‘freshly squeezed’ stuff from the fridge (by this time my parents were shopping at Woolies). Then bottled water. And finally, in the ultimate stage of assimilation, we were drinking water straight from the tap, but chilled from the fridge. Just like proper Aussies. With the occasional glass of cold milk in the morning. We were truly home.
When it came to coffee the pattern was not dissimilar. In Poland, back in the day when we left it, the only way to drink coffee was in the most primitive fashion (still in practice today and very popular with grandparents). Namely by way of the infusion method. I, however, prefer to call it ‘stewing’ or better yet, ‘festering’. You take a glass (not cup or mug), you put in a few teaspoons of ground coffee into the said glass, you pour boiling water over it all, and you watch and wait and see how the coffee ‘festers’ before the sediments drop to the bottom of the glass, at which point you start drinking your horrible brew. Making sure to sip and blow simultaneously, so you don’t get remaining bits of coffee grind stuck to your teeth or lips. The result, as you can imagine, is disgusting. So, when my parents arrived to Oz, and discovered instant coffee, a coffee that actually dissolved, they really did think that immigration was the absolute bomb. Nescafe become the new God. Then they grew wiser and more aware of their rotting insides, making the transition to filtered coffee (which, let’s be honest, is just another way of making muddy water). Soon the plunger arrived, a nice alternative to the festering method, then the percolator and finally the espresso coffee maker. It was at this point that I started to drink coffee and really started liking it a lot.
Arriving to Krakow, I was devastated to learn that the Poles here did not make the same transitions as their woggy counterparts in Oz were doing. Upon arriving at somebody’s house, I was offered either a festering glass of mud or an insides-destroying instant cuppa. Six years ago it was also hard to find a cafe in Krakow that served decent coffee that did not cost you the equivalent of a glass of the best French champagne. Luckily things have improved incredibly of late. Maybe not in the domestic sphere of the parents’ generation, which appears to have stagnated at the Nescafe is the new God stage, but revolutionary changes have taken place with my peers who are now paying attention to the way coffee is prepared. The new cafe movement has also created a competitive edge with cafes trying to outdo one another by purchasing the best possible brass coffee makers, importing from Italy and France.
The only thing so far missing in the Polish coffee drinking scene is the wank. I’m sure that will arrive soon enough. Krakow has now about four independent coffee roasting houses. The floor is set.