Coffee or wine – if there could only be one, which should it be?
I recently went to a wine tasting at the Rickety Bridge in Franschoek (in the Western Cape) as part of a 30th birthday celebration. Now to say I don’t know my wines is an understatement – I’ve saluted couples at weddings with champagne, I’ve sipped the odd sherry, and I’ve walked through an orchard here and there. That’s really all I have in the way of credentials to be talking about wine.
For me, being included in this wine tasting experience was therefore about observing the alien world that is inhabited by folks like my friends who do the whole swirl-the-wine-around-in-the-glass-and-sniff-at-it bit. I expect they find my indifference to wines to be rather heathenish, while I’ve always suspected their ‘tastes a bit woody’ and ‘well, there’s a hint of cow fart in that’ to be a bit of elitist mumbo jumbo. Anyway, while I sat eating my overly fair share of crackers and smelly cheeses, those around me were taking small sips of wine, giving the waiter an approving nod, having their glasses filled, and then a few sips later tossing the bulk of what had been poured into the urn at the centre of the table. The waiter would then present the table with a different bottle for tasting. All rather dignified and wasteful.
I know a smidge more about coffee. I began drinking it when I started my university studies because (1) that was how you met folk and bonded: you gathered in various dorm rooms where all you had to offer each other on your simple budget was Nescafé and Marie biscuits, and (2) when I later started to do full-time research there was so much reading that my head would start nodding almost immediately, so I made the strategic decision to force an appreciation for the bitter drink on myself so I would no longer feel like taking a 9am nap. I unnervingly quickly developed the habit of a caffé latte a morning from the on-campus coffee shop (a poverty-inducing exercise if ever there was one). I’ve since moved to red cappuccinos and now find myself able to face the day without any caffeinated help, but I clearly remember the heady, pre first-sip moment that would sometimes be quite truly the highlight of my weekday.
All that said, I refer now to the title of the article, which asks that one choose between safeguarding either coffee or wine. The choice between the two is a superfluous question – the world of course does not have to choose – but it’s one of those random sorts of question I sometimes ask myself for purely inquisitorial reasons, and now I put it out there for anyone or everyone to help me choose.
But let me structure the question a little more focusedly: if you had to choose, which one would you say is more deserving of being kept around, since the issue of taste is too subjective to warrant discussion? Put again, which one commands greater history and tradition, greater science, trade and commerce, greater tourism and entertainment, and, well, greater all-round worthiness?
I’m personally undecided. Red wine supposedly has useful antioxidants, and them Frenchies certainly portray a sociable, healthy culture (aside from all the smoking) of sitting around a table, eating and drinking wine, and leisurely spending time together. That said, meeting a friend at a coffee shop is something of a way of life around here, and while I did not list it in the Acknowledgements, my dissertation was made possible because of the world-conquering boost the coffee cup gave me each day. So yes … hmm … I’m really not sure. Any thoughts?