There are a bunch of instant coffee taste-test posts floating around online, so I’m going to ignore all of them and conduct my own. It will probably depend on which one is cheapest at the supermarket that week. I am not bothering to buy a drip machine because last year in Glasgow I did, and it sucked (it was like ten pounds and it came with a German plug, which was weird, and sometimes it would just open by itself while it was coffeeizing), and the ground coffee was too expensive, and sometimes they didn’t have filters in stores and I would have to go to like three or four supermarkets and finally only found them in WAITROSE (omg too many good Waitrose links). So I’m going instant this year. I did it all summer in Russia and didn’t even mind, so this means: 1) I’m way less of a snob than I thought and 2) I have terrible taste in coffee. Café Bustelo 4 lyfe.
Coffee One is Jacobs Cronat Gold. It was on sale. (I have no idea which of these coffees will be available elsewhere in the world. You probably won’t want to drink most or any of them anyway so it doesn’t matter.)
When you open the jar, it smells like the burnt onions on onion bagels, followed by a slight burnt-coffee smell. The instructions on the jar read, “Полижите в чашку 1-2 чайные ложки кофе. Добавьте горячую, но не кипящую воду.” For some reason the instructions are only in Russian, but all the other information (like how it’s packed to preserve the atmosphere and how you should save it in a dry, cool place and something else with some long words I don’t know) is also in Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian. That’s actually really weird. I guess if you’re from the Baltics you just know how to make instant coffee intuitively, but if you’re from Russia you need additional assistance. #oopsmaybeishouldn’thavesaidthat
Anyway, the instructions (which mean “Put one to two teaspoons of coffee in the cup. Add hot but not boiling water”) are a dirty lie. You should add at least two to three normal-size spoonfuls, and then after you add your hot but not boiling water and taste it, you should probably add some more.
This doesn’t taste that bad (well, I actually wouldn’t know, since I haven’t had good coffee in a good three months at least from the time of writing, maybe more like a year). However, I will probably not buy it again, since it is pretty bad overall.
When I was in Israel a few years ago I fully believed that Israeli instant coffee was just as good as real coffee anywhere else in the world. So this summer in Russia I was like, fine, instant coffee, whatever. And it took me a while to get the hang of it but then I liked it. I would wake up before anyone else in the apartment and turn on the hot-water boiler and open the little ceramic coffee jar and put my coffee in the giant blue mug that I adopted as mine, and mixed in sugar, and then I poured in the water (boiling, not hot; sorry). It would froth and turn creamy gold on top, black underneath, and I’d add milk and make my instant kasha and sit by myself in the quiet at the kitchen table reading Dead Souls in English.
Instant coffee means reading Gogol and then walking past Soviet buildings and Orthodox churches to the best metro on the world, so fast that if one leaves right as you’re approaching, the next one will be there before you’ve walked halfway down the platform; and instant coffee means that you twitch inside all the way there, as you glare at the people who are glaring at you and practice words like литься and мерцать and run down the street past the bluest train station on earth, thinking of the people you might run into on the way; and it means that your hands are shaking even while you fall asleep at school listening to words like Archangelsk and Magnitogorsk, so you dream of snow and green ice, oil and iridescent fish; and instant coffee means you’ll need another cup after an hour and you’ll go to the machine and put in your fifty roubles and stand around listening to the best and worst jokes you’ve ever heard, told by people you liked a billion times more.
Yesterday there was great rejoicing in the land because I finally finished the Jacobs Cronat Gold, which was on the verge of making me refuse to get out of bed just so I could avoid drinking it. (Actually the rejoicing was limited because I was hungover, so there was really just a quiet kind of yaythisisthelastdayihavetodrinkthisshitokayletsstopthinkingnow.) And also, it came in a fancy glass jar so now I have a classy pen holder for my desk. Except it still says Jacobs Cronat Gold on it because I couldn’t get the label off. So really it’s … I don’t know, I can’t think of the right word. That’s probably because the next coffee I’m drinking isn’t working.
Which brings me to Nescafé Classic. I wouldn’t have bought it, because it’s Nescafé, but I was at Rimi rather than Maxima, and I was all, oh, Rimi is fancy and in the less-trashy shopping center, Rimi is great, the cashiers hate humanity less, it’s brighter, Rimi is the place to go. RIMI IS NOT THE PLACE TO GO. For one thing, something terrible always happens there. The first time, there was a baby who would not stop screaming at the top of his lungs and you could hear him all over the entire store. The second time, there were some EXTRAORDINARILY stoned people (I became stoned just by breathing the same air as them for .5 seconds, that’s how much weed was seeping from every fiber of their beings) and you could hear them laughing and looking for snacks all over the entire store. So basically fuck Rimi, Maxima is my spirit grocery store. Except they won’t give me a store card. 😦
Anyway. There was a very sad instant-coffee selection at Rimi. (Actually maybe that’s because Rimi looks down on instant coffee. I don’t know. The point is, it sucked.) So I got this Nescafé, because it was very dark in the jar and it looked like it would be satisfying. It is supposed to be Strong and Rich, how I like my men. So I opened the jar this morning and I was like, OH MY GOD, this smells like coffee. And I was super excited. Then I put it in the cup (same instructions as before, same ignored as before) and added my water … AND THE FOAM THING DID NOT HAPPEN. Like, it just turned dark brown coffee colored, like normal coffee. I was irrationally and deeply disappointed by this. Especially because I didn’t take a picture of the glorious and beautiful Jacobs Cronat Gold foam yesterday (my roommate was there and I knew I would not have had the mental energy to explain why I was photographing instant coffee, so I just didn’t), and now the foam is forever lost to me. (Update: I just plugged in my camera and found a picture of the instant coffee. So now I’m really confused and have no memory of taking it and am probably insane. See above.) The foam would be a light brown-gold and it would form patterns, like parentheses (Russian smiley faces), and I would feel like I was drinking something that might taste good. (It didn’t, but you need the moment of hope.)
Also, this coffee does not taste good. That’s all you need to know about it. This concludes the first part of our taste test. I will see you in a few weeks, whenever I manage to dispose of the travesty that is Nescafé Classic.
PS. I had to edit/upload this post outside on a bench in the park because it was the only place I could get wi-fi, and at one point a spider dropped onto my laptop, and I blew on it, and it ended up on my hand. NOW I SEE THAT IT IS BACK ON MY LAPTOP. So basically I have gone through endless sacrifice for this post.