Every morning, before catching my train, I stop at the kiosk outside the station to buy my newspaper. They sell mostly newspapers but also chewing gum, Red Bull, drinks, that sort of thing. But yesterday I had to queue behind a bloke trying to buy a cup of coffee. And I thought, why the hell is he buying a cup of coffee here? Why isn't he getting his cup of coffee somewhere else?
The kiosk outside the station doesn't do great coffee. I don't drink the stuff myself, but I can tell. When someone asks for a coffee the bloke behind the counter reaches across to this small machine in the corner and presses a button. It's not a fancy machine, nothing that might squirt out something allowing you to swirl a monogram in the froth. It seems to churn out something very ordinary and brown, taking about thirty seconds or so, which is then dispensed in a small cup with a plastic lid on top. It's nothing a discerning coffee drinker would queue for.
But they're queueing for it more and more. A couple of years ago I could wander up to the counter and pay for my paper generally unobstructed. Sometimes someone would be scrabbling to find the coins for their tabloid or trying to buy breakfast in a can, and I'd have to wait, but generally I could just hand over my money and go. And then the coffee machine arrived, and then people started to learn it was there, and suddenly I was waiting more often than not.
I understand that some people like coffee, that's fine. I understand that some people like paying for their coffee, that's fine too. But I don't get why people are paying for not very exciting coffee a few hundred yards from their front door. What's wrong with making their own coffee at home? Is instant coffee really so unacceptable these days?
When I was a child, making coffee for my Dad involved spooning granules into a mug and adding boiling water. He was easy to please, he didn't need a splash of milk, but even that wouldn't have been tough to deliver. I could serve up a perfectly acceptable dose of coffee to kickstart the day, compiled using nothing but a jar of Gold Blend and a kettle. Are today's caffeine addicts so dedicated that only bespoke-pumped artisan-crafted coffee will do? Or do they not have the means to boil water at home, or do they not have the time?
It is perfectly possible that the folk queueing in front of me are challenged for time. They may not have a spare minute to make coffee in their pressurised morning schedule, let alone the additional minutes need to drink it. It is perfectly possible that they don't have a kettle, that they've been kipping on someone's floor, that they're on shift work or whatever, and the kiosk outside the station is their only opportunity for a caffeine fix. But nobody's stopping here for quality reasons, that's for sure.
Coffee-dispensing opportunities are sorely restricted round my way. Starbucks have never made it to Bow, let alone Costa or Nero, nor any quirky independent coffee shop. There's a Mcdonalds drive-thru by the flyover, and a drinks contraption in the Co-op at the garage, but they're not serious options. We do have a flat white dispensary up the alleyway beside the art gallery, but they're not targeting for the takeaway market because they don't open til 10. First thing in the morning, I guess that squat machine in the corner of the newsagent's shed is the best option there is.
I'm only unsympathetic because I'm a tea drinker and I don't need a fix on the way into work. I'm perfectly capable of dunking a bag of leaves in boiling water at home in the morning, and I don't need someone else to do it for me. Indeed I've rarely seen the point of buying tea in public, unless it's a particularly nice teashop. There's some skill to making 'proper' coffee, whereas handing me a cup containing a slowly stewing teabag is never worth £2 of anybody's money.
If you want to spend hundreds of pounds a year on coffee, that's fine by me. If you can't get an hour into your morning without paying someone to dampen some beans, that's your prerogative. But if the prime focus of your morning commute is acquiring a stream of brown liquid in a plastic cup from a newsagent who's never had barista training in his life, I'd be obliged if you could step to one side while you're waiting and let me buy my newspaper unhindered.
A passer by writes...
Every morning, before catching my train, I stop at the kiosk outside the station to buy my coffee. They sell all sorts of drinks but also chewing gum, chocolate, magazines that sort of thing. But yesterday I had to queue behind a bloke trying to buy a newspaper. And I thought, why the hell is he buying a newspaper here? Why isn't he getting his news somewhere else for nothing?
What's on this weekend? Spring Into Summer Saturday 30 & Sunday 31 May
40 free guided London walks. Purley Festival Friday 29 - Sunday 5 June
Bunting week, below Croydon. E17 Art Trail Sat 30th May - Sun 14th June
250 arty Walthamstow things.