I love coffee. I do not say, however, that I am a coffee addict. This sentence makes me cringe from within whenever I hear somebody says this. It sounds so cheap and prosaic. But yes, going back, I love coffee especially the instant ones.
Last night, searching for something to eat, I went to 7eleven for some 24-hour convenience store window shopping as I had nothing really in mind, and besides I was not at all hungry, just a feeling of compulsion to stick something in my mouth. In one of the less conspicuous racks I saw what might have been familiar-looking sachets of coffee. I nudged imaginary customers, telling them to stay out of my way as this was a race until death. I was the only one inside the store that time except for the two cashiers. I scurried to get as many as my hands could get hold of as if they are the last remaining on the face of the world. I literally did a panic buying. I almost looked delirious, looking like somebody on an unusual high while holding those golden sachets. I blurted: “My precious!”
There are only two kinds of instant coffee on the planet: Vinacafe and other. I first had a taste of this coffee as a student at Hanoi University. Every time before my class began, the head of the department would offer me a cup of Vinacafe. The taste reminded me of the mountains of Da Lac, Ha Giang, or Dang Nai where the coffee beans are grown. Em co muon uong ca phe khong? That was his usual line, or at least as far as I could remember.
Most instant coffee, especially the local ones, are literally fortified with caffeine that their coffee-ness plummets to nil. I have a feeling sometimes that I am drinking a concentrated caffeine solution capable of giving me a heart rate of 150 beats per minute similar to having an orgasm, except that this rate lasts for twenty-four hours. It’s good at a certain point, but who wants to have a heart rate that approaches that of a sexual climax when you’re supposed to be at the REM stage of your sleep?!
Vinacafe, on the other hand, is a master of its own league. It is Vietnamese instant coffee at its finest. You get just the right kick without being booted. Drinking it reminds me of a warm gush of air coming from a crowded bus on a cold Hanoian winter night. And last night, after a long search, I found the coffee that’s just right for me, and of all places, at the nearest 7eleven.