Coffee in the time of Corona

Eight O'Clock

A little about me:
I identify as a black coffee drinker – need 3 cups on average to get me through the day. Coffee is integral to my existence and therefore a good cuppa (and sometimes the lack thereof) has a direct impact on my mood on any given day. 

I don’t quite recall when I started drinking coffee…but I am certain that it was somewhere in the 1-2 year mark of landing my first job post business school. Sitting in the 4th Floor of a colourful, upbeat office in South Bombay, me and my freshly recruited set of friends sipped on some ‘not so fresh’ machine dispensed coffee and looked to our future with hope and excitement…and there has been no looking back since.

Over the course of the next few years, coffee became my companion at work and through the day – a symbol of the modern-day working professional. it began with milk coffee and very soon progressed to the black version in instant form and stayed there for a long time. It is only when I began travelling out of the country and took a liking to the black coffee at the cafes & offices did I make the switch to pure Roast & Ground coffee back home in India. Since I spent maximum hours of the day at work, I set up a coffee kit in office (we all know office coffee is the worst!) – full with a french press, a large size personalized coffee mug and of course freshly roasted & ground coffee that I replenish every 7-10 days. The office boys often chuckled at the amounts of coffee I consumed and the rumour is that they were the first to “guess” I was pregnant because I had suddenly stopped drinking coffee!

In march ’20 when the lockdown started, I was thrilled at the prospect of working remotely, I have always been a proponent of WFH and here was my chance to prove the model right. The last 12 months have been some of the most hectic and fruitful of my career of 13 years and when I look back on the factors that played a key role in ensuring my productivity was at its peak, there are a few I want to call out that trained my brain to switch into work mode at 9 am.

  • What definitely worked was going about my day the way I normally would – dressing for work – attire, makeup, earrings, et all
  • A separate area cordoned off as my “work station” – laptop, stationery, headphone & diary
  • and Of course starting the day with my coffee. In addition to my work station, I also created a coffee station - my office kit moved in-home and instead of the office boys it was me making my coffee every morning – a ritual that has become a powerful symbol of the start of the workday for me…

On hindsight I think the role of small yet significant rituals really helped me keep my mental and physical sanity during these hard times of hectic work days, endless meetings and physical and mental fatigue. 

One ritual that I sorely missed was one of frequent business travel and there was no getting around that.

Other than the aroma, freshness and rituals associated with coffee, there is also a magic so unique about the beverage that it instantly transports me to places beyond the 4 walls of my home – and for an on-the-go frequent corporate traveller like me, coffee filled some gaps during this long period of confinement at home. I’ve always romanced New York and in this pandemic my mid-day cup took me right there - influenced by the American sitcoms I watch where key characters are going about their days with takeaway coffee cups in their hands – the swanky glass cabins of Harvey Specter in Suits or Axel Rod in Billions, the ever so warm chatter amongst the gang of friends in Central Perk or the racy gossip between the girls of of Sex & in the City over a mid-day cup in Manhattan. While I do like my basic black coffee the most, during these mid-day breaks I also became curious about additional varieties – the pumpkin lattes, the macchiatos, the caramels and wondered how well those flavours would go with the regular black, would I need to add milk or how creamy the mouthfeel would be..

Out of the black
The number of coffee offerings during the pandemic has only multiplied and this was a huge bonus to have a range of fresh coffees delivered at my doorstep at the click of a button. If you are a
coffee avid coffee lover like me, this really is a delight. But I also wanted to experiment a little, so I improvised and added to my coffee station new items like milk, flavours (I bought some of these online) and some smaller size cups (could not consume large serve sizes in these unexplored territories).

So here is the menu from my Coffee Station – lockdown special!

  • Black coffee without sugar – of course, my main 
  • Filter coffee – with milk, with sugar 
  • Dalgona coffee – yes I fell for this one, I even used the dalgona coffee base as an extra layer on my basic sponge cake and made a snack out of it! – I love cake & I love coffee and so this combination was quite pleasant
  • Cold Coffee – Hell Yes! Made by beating some instant coffee, adding milk + water (I don’t like very milky beverages) + ice, adding some chocolate to top it up, I also crushed some hazelnuts and almonds for the extra bits
  • Coffee protein shake – I am a fitness enthusiast and have a mini gym in my home – so 4 pm for me is the time when I take my protein shake – I added some instant powder into the regular protein shake and also threw in some bits of almonds 
  • Coffee protein bars – finally I also integrated coffee into my snack – prepared homemade protein bars – oats, peanut butter, protein powder topped up with some melted dark chocolate and coffee mixed up – chilled and eaten as mini snacks through the day

Pretty good, even if I say so myself – would like to carry forward some of these unique combinations much after regular life has resumed. Coffee is here to stay in my life – I am a reserved person by nature and like to stick to basics, but in this case I can happily conclude – the more the merrier indeed.  

Back to the future:
And while our country, family, friends and loved ones have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, the hope for a brighter future continues. Being away from office and people for so long, I am eagerly looking forward to returning to my workplace with a child-like excitement – takes me back to where it all began, to the south Bombay office – full of energy, enthusiasm and hope...except, with a fabulous cup of coffee in my hand this time.