Friday, 15 May 2015

Expat Routines: Mourning Morning Coffee

Expat life will certainly bring about new routines and new experiences, from the big to the small. These smaller cultural and everyday changes can often form a significant part of how expat life differs to being at home.  Here’s our latest guest blogger, Garrett, talking about one of the biggest changes to his daily routine since becoming an expat –the morning coffee run!

When I lived in Boston, I was used to grabbing large drip-brewed coffees to go. I am a huge coffee fan, and I often indulged in flavored takeaway coffee treats.  There is nothing better than heading off to work with a giant caffeinated beverage in hand!

Then I moved to Italy - a country that is proud of their espresso (and rightly so) and abhors coffee to go. Italians don’t typically walk around with beverages, and the coffee culture there entails going to a bar for a quick espresso in the morning, usually consumed on your feet while checking Facebook or having a brief 3 minute catch-up with a friend.  It’s a quick stop in, drink up, head off procedure.

When doing the homemade coffee thing, Italians will usually make it in this little stovetop device called a moka. The first time I used one of these things, I forgot to put the rubber ring back on it before closing it and putting it on the heat. After about 5 minutes, the moka usually starts making a sputtering sound, letting you know that the coffee is ready. However, forgetting a small detail like the rubber ring means that instead of sputtering, ready-to-drink coffee, you hear more of a “PONF” sound as the wet, hot, steaming coffee grounds explode from the pressure built up inside the moka and spray all over the kitchen, sticking to the walls and even (sigh…) the ceiling.

Ok, so I learned from my mistake and never had to impale a sponge on the end of a broom to clean coffee grounds from the ceiling ever again. I learned how to use the moka correctly, but something was still not right. I was feeling weird during the day - sort of anxious and flighty and easy to anger. My friends would ask me what the problem was. Did I miss home? Was I stressed out in my new apartment? Was Italian life throwing me off balance? I couldn’t figure out what was making me feel all … weird.

One day, I invited a friend over for lunch and decided to make us some nice coffee once we’d finished eating. After I had poured the contents of the moka into one American-sized coffee cup, I filled up the moka again with more coffee grounds and water as I prepared to make another one. I mean, we were two people after all. My Italian friend looked at me in horror and said “Che cacchio fai?” (What the heck are you doing?).

Apparently, there are different size mokas. The one that I had and was using by myself every single morning was for a family of 4 people. Yes. I was drinking the equivalent of 4 times the amount of espresso that I should, and the caffeine overdose was what was making me crazy.

I got myself another, smaller moka (see picture below, conveniently placed in front of my American coffee maker to show the size difference) and can proudly say that I can finally make myself espresso at home without ruining the kitchen or getting the shakes. Though sometimes I still burn my tongue trying to take a piping hot shot of espresso as I run out the door, late for work. Some things I’ll never learn!


About Garrett
Originally from Boston, Garrett lived in Italy for almost 8 years, and he is now living in Z├╝rich, Switzerland. His blog offers the point-of-view of an outgoing extrovert who loves diving head first into his new host culture(s).  Tweet Garrett your views on expat life @GarrettMcK.


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