Saturday night and I’m still stuck in my deadly dull guest house. Fungal Peter hadn’t called and friends are pretty non-existent at the moment. So yet again I took myself off to Exclusive Books Hyde Park and planned to spend the evening drinking coffee and looking inviting.
Johannesburg is so not Cape Town, I literally sat the whole night alone. I’m beginning to think the only way to meet a man is to run him down – the same way I met Fungal Peter. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Exclusive Books’ coffee is a curious experience. The new look coffee shop is under new management and I’m convinced the proprietor is a coffee fascist, the Benito Mussolini of the book lovers’ coffee bean. To begin, no cappuccinos, they’re not allowed. Instead, customers are offered a Flat White – that highly questionable lukewarm milky drink, with deep roots in Australia. We aren’t allowed hot milk because it has some kind of negative chemical reaction with the coffee molecules, changing the taste experience. The proprietor is worried about chemical reactions, I’m worried about wasting R20 on luke warm milky coffee with NO foam.
For the uninitiated, in Australia, particularly Melbourne, one can order a cappuccino, a flat white or a long black. Australians take their coffee drinking seriously. Joburgers are just grateful to get served and to survive the experience without being robbed or losing their table to a hipster. In polite language, South Africans like their coffee hot and sweet, not lukewarm and snarky. In Oz, a ‘long black’ is simply a black coffee, but in South Africa Australians ordering ‘long blacks’ from terribly handsome Zimbabwean waiters are received with raised eyebrows and knowing grins.
On Saturday night I had a chance to watch white men order ‘flat whites’ from young, good looking black baristas. I can’t be sure, but I suspect the customers’ shoulders drooped slightly in resigned defeat. If it’s not the ANC or Malema pointing fingers at the white male, then it’s Exclusive Books with their terribly pc coffee policy. I watched an Ethiopian man receive a lecture from another customer about how ‘proper people’ drink warm, not boiled coffee. I thought back to the number of times I’d eaten at Ethiopian restaurants, how I’ve loved sitting around a small coal fire while Ethiopian coffee beans were roasted and then blended into the nicest coffee imaginable. I thought of that afternoon in Istanbul, where I was served thick sweet Turkish coffee while choosing carpets in the Grand Bazaar. When I sipped my lukewarm coffee I thought of my daily cappuccino at Giovanni’s in Green Point my favourite place on earth before everything fell apart, and I wonder what they would say about this emerging trend of milky, foam-free, barely warm brown stuff.
So my evening was spent watching white men cringe and black men giggle. I also noticed that I was probably the only girl in Birkenstocks and I’d probably have to invest in a good heel if I was going to survive Johannesburg. Seriously, the shoes in this city are insane.
Worst of all, and I promise I didn’t do this intentionally, when reversing out my parking place I slammed my car into the door of a navy blue Aston Martin. I confess my car made a little dent, and I had to give my details to the angry owner. His name’s Andrew, Hurricane Andrew, and I think he’ll call in the morning.