This morning I was up just before six, sat in the living room staring at the amber light on the coffee shop sign down the street. It came on at 6:03, a little late. A revolving flashing light, like an emergency: COFFEE AND CAKE! It’s comforting having an old-fashioned coffee shop in the neighborhood where you can order something and sit for as long as you like, an alternative living room.
I buy bottled coffee for iced coffee every summer for Sam. He likes it sweet and sometimes needs a little container of sugar syrup even with the presweetened kind. The package of sugar syrup containers is very small, only enough for about a week and a half of iced coffees. No wonder I’m always at the supermarket. Always running out of something or other. The reason for such small sizes of everything, I often hear, is that Japanese kitchens are small, no room for storage. Well then, maybe it would be a good idea to have apartments designed by people other than men who don’t cook and have only three pairs of shoes and a few suits. The rest of us have stuff and need places to put it.
I’ve started buying the unsweetened coffee for myself. I don’t do the whole routine of getting a frozen glass and filling it with ice like I do for Sam, I simply swig from the bottle until it looses its coldness and back it goes into the refrigerator. I finish my last bottle of coffee as the bell from the elementary school rings, starting the school day. The coffee is lukewarm, like saliva, and probably mostly backwash by now. I’ll have to go to the market for more coffee later, and this morning I used the last sugar syrup. I look through the newspaper flyers and start a list on the back of one with a blank side. The cicadas are busy, it’s getting hotter and more humid. The amber coffee light flashes.
Donald W. George, The Way of Coffee:
“To enjoy this simple rite, you need first to install yourself in a comfortable coffee shop … . When your iced coffee is placed before you, study it for a while: the dark, rich liquid glistens with ice cubes whose curves and cracks hold and reflect and refract the liquid. Notice the thin silver streaks and peaks in the ice cubes, and the beads of water on the outside of the glass — a cooling sight on a hot day. Then take up the tiny silver pitcher of sugar syrup that has been set just beside the glass and pour it into the part of the glass that is nearest to you. The syrupy stream courses through the coffee like a tiny waterfall, then quickly disperses and dissolves, like the dream of a rain shower on a summer afternoon. After that, pick up the tiny white pitcher of cream that was placed just beyond the silver pitcher and pour it into the middle of the glass. Watch it disperse into countless cream-colored swish and whirls and streams, which hang suspended in the middle of the coffee like a frozen breeze. Notice how the cream is pure white in some parts and a thin brownish hue in others. Notice also that a little trace stays on the surface, spiraling down into the middle of the glass. … Finally, after appreciating this effect to y0ur satisfaction, stir the coffee vigorously with your straw — the ice cubes clinking like wind chimes in a seaside breeze — until the coffee is a uniform sand-colored hue. Then sip the coffee through the straw, tasting the coolness and complex mix of bitter coffer and sweet sugar and cream.”