You can’t spend time in Seattle and ignore The Bean.

Coffee shops were already thriving there when Starbucks opened its first outlet in 1971 and other chains and independents have been opening up at a terrific rate ever since- presumably to try to make amends.

There are now over 600 of the buggers: that’s 2 and ½ shops per 1 thousand people.

Even so, Seattleites aren’t drinking as much as the Finns, who get through a whopping 11 kilos of the stuff per person a year and must be more nervous than the Tory party when they found out Boris was going to be London mayor.

A typical coffee shop in the Emerald City is in a leafy suburban road, with cool graphically-designed signage.

Inside, the furniture is retro with original artwork by local artists on the walls and The Delgados on the juke-box.

The clientele are one at a table, tapping away on lap-tops, wearing ear-phones.

And behind the counter stands an inconspicuous barista who may just make you THE BEST LATTE YOU’VE EVER HAD.

Because they take the art of coffee-making seriously there.

And if you’ve ever sampled the best you will know that an art it is.

It is painful watching the average cup of Joe being made in London, involving the sloshing of overheated milk on top of a bitter, lifeless liquid.

In Seattle, it’s close to an erotic experience.

Being the prudish sort, I have recently brought the whole dirty business into the privacy of my kitchen.

So now I have an espresso machine, ready to do the unspeakable for me every day.

And this excerpt from a mail advising me how to froth the milk with it suggests that on this subject I am not alone:

so first up stick your nozzle (ooh mrs) right down into the milk and then slowly slowly lower jug until the tip is just under the milk surface, and you get that schhchchchhhhhhhhhh noise. the bubbles you’re making should be really tiny.. one or two big ones is allowable though, cos you can get rid of them later. dont move the jug up and down. this is called wanking the jug (i’m serious) and although you may be tempted sophie, resist the urge.

The delicate film on the espresso; the velvet texture of the milk; the intense aroma; the stimulating buzz after the first sip…

It is, quite simply, the naughtiest activity you can engage in whilst simultaneously doing the washing up.

Do it. Do it now**********

* If this chat has titillated you and you would like to see some pouring porn visit here:

**If this chat has made you want to go to Seattle and embibe the most delicious organic coffee in the most stylish environment, owned by the nicest people ever, then visit here:

*** If this chat has made you want to try a cup of caffeine nirvana in central London, the 2007 Time Out Food and Drink awards think you should visit here:

Fernandez & Wells, 73 Beak St. W1
Bullet, Third Floor, Snow & Rock, 4 Mercer St, WC2
Flat White, 17 Berwick St, W1
Nordic Baker, 14 Golden Square, W1
Sacred Café, 13 Ganton St. W1

****If this chat has bored you to tears then have a double espresso and WAKE UP, goddamit!

Tomorrow: a love letter to my machine.


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