It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity – Dave Barry

When not at work, I wish my days rounded with the ambiance of ritual caffination.

Working in the emergency department is distastefully instant. You are simply not afforded space amongst the catastrophe to let your lips simmer over molten-gold creme. To pause and feel the weight of your favourite chipped clay mug cupped in your hands. Or perhaps porcelain. Or earthenware.
To lean in and feel the swirling warm steam feather your cheeks.

I admit here that I like my cup strong and hot as sun-plasma, which is not really a great cup if you are hardcore, as it dampens the delicate oils and ‘bakes’ out the flavour, but then, I am not coffee hardcore….. but I am a coffee seeker.
It makes me happy.

Even when I lope over to the hospital coffee shop and impatiently queue up for a brew, standing in line for 10 minutes behind a towering orthopaedic registrar only to have him step up and order 9 cups for all his theatre buddies…no, actually make that 10. And then turn to face down to me with a sorry about that grin that leaves me no other choice than to deliver a swift imaginary flying back-kick to his testicle bones. With a run up from way down the corridor near the oncology unit. Compound fractures.

When I finally do return with my prize, I inevitably end up leaving it sitting half interrupted, just a few sips past foreplay, next to some pile of patient notes.
Whilst I, you know…..rush over to someone vomiting, or dying or wanting me to make them a coffee or something.

So I leave my Styrofoam cup laying around to go cold…again. Or to be spilt expletively across a patients notes, or into a keyboard.
Probably by a staff specialist or the nursing unit manager.

At work, for me at least, coffee is just Styrofoam, or perhaps those reusable cups that I buy from time to time to do my bit to save the planet. Cups that always smell of plastic and stale milk ‘cause I never wash the lids out properly…. and then inevitably leave lying around only to be found several months later in a cardboard box on the tea-room table full of dirty tupperware… with a sign written in red bold pen proclaiming that any items not claimed in the next week will be thrown out. Thrown out in capitals with 3 exclamation marks.

Lets see, that’s….um, 11 curd encrusted planet savers, right there. In the box.

But on my days off, coffee can be way more enjoyable.
Searching out new coffee shops provides a matrix of way-points to plot against any downtime adventures. Especially satisfying are those unexpectedly awesome coffees found in stumbled upon places.

I once spent a 3 week holiday dragging Kelly all over Japan in a desperate search for a good cup of coffee. We totally had the most fantastic time and our search bumped us up against many helpful people ….but alas, the coffee sucked everywhere except for one Arabica-oasis in the centre of Tokyo.

In fact by the end of the trip I think I had completely detoxed from caffeine against my consent. I felt more relaxed. And light. My soul was re-perfused with oceans of green tea.

Despite this, arriving back in Sydney airport it was a mercy dash to the first coffee bar to order a flat white.
The bored looking girl behind the espresso machine cranked out a cappuccino. When I pointed out that I had in fact ordered a ‘flat’, she lifted the cup back from me, placed it down on the counter, picked up a knife and (with a flourish) sliced the foam off before handing the cup back to me. A decapitated cappuccino.
I so love Australia.

I have my favourite coffee haunts that I guard with the same measured vagueness you might get when asking a local surfer about the best local break.

My personal secret way-points are cast wide.
There is an Autumn place in Leura, a small town in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Spring coffee beside lake Wanaka on the south island of New Zealand.
Winter brewed in the heart of Melbourne. Summer on the Great Ocean Road.

And yes, I have my favourite places right here in Canberra. Give me a rainy afternoon, a comfy chair and my Kindle. Life is good.
Knife wielding baristas need not apply.

Im sure you will agree, great coffee is about far more than what is in the cup.

If you talk to true coffee experts they will talk about the 4 M’s that go together to make the perfect cup:
Macinazione is the correct grinding of a coffee blend. Having a good grinder is considered at least as important as having a quality expresso machine.
Miscela is the coffee blend. There are as many blends as there are adventures you can undertake searching for them.
Macchina is the espresso machine. Now don’t get me started here, some of these things are works of art. Ohh….shiny.
And finally the Mano. The skilled hand of the barista. I could tell you about my dreams of scantily clad, geeky, Swedish baristas…….Ahem…..but I wont.

No, coffee is more than even the sum of these parts.
It is also about infusing place, and person. The ambiance of your surrounds, the quality of your companionship, and the metre of your day.

5 Responses to “This nurse and my coffee.”

  1. Coffee is infinitely connected with work for me.
    I used to just drink tea when I worked in Recovery, or on the wards.
    But when I started in ICU: coffee- black/white, with/without sugar. I didn’t care. Just looking at it gave me the lift I needed it get through the shift.
    Decades later, I start my shift strolling in with a cup and just hoping for the best.

  2. absolutely agree. Great writing. I also now wanna be in that happy place…!

  3. Beautifully crafted piece.
    Makes me want to go get a coffee!
    Coffee Barun in South Aust one of my faves. Roasted in house with beans from exotic, far away places that let me dream for a few minutes and escape….

  4. Had many a promising hot cups turn chillingly cold as new patients came strolling in. Interesting blog post and enjoy your tweets. Will catch you again.
    Fellow ER Nurse,

  5. You are a poet, sir.
    Most reliably excellent coffee I’ve known is a macchiato in Fremantle, WA. Long or short. Coffee’s improving over here in the UK but you lot are streets ahead.

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