Friday coffee time….
Friday is my coffee time. I drink coffee the rest of the week too – a lovely strong cafetiere brew, brought to me in bed (I know!) with an indulgent splodge of whippy cream on top.
But on Fridays, my precious day when I don't go to the office, I go straight from the school run to Chiswick High Rd, and allow myself the guilty pleasure of catching up on my blog posts while sitting in a cafe.
I've always loved going to cafes. Even when I was growing up in the Midlands, where 'going for coffee' wasn't really a thing in the 80s.
My mum, who travelled waywardly round Europe in her 20s and was a bit more continental in outlook, got the whole 'going for coffee' thing.
Saturdays were the chance to wander 'down town' and dive into a cafe. Coffee then was essentially a splash of instant, with a lot of boiling water and that strange froth that came out of coffee machines back then in the 80s. Not unpleasant I have to say – not like the rubbish that passes for coffee in cheap cafes these days.
When I inherited my mum's itchy feet and did my own wayward travelling around Europe in my 20s, going for coffee took on a different form. It was a relatively cheap way of finding somewhere warm and snug to spend a few hours, with a book and a journal to hand. (No twitter or blogging then! Contact came via poste restante, picked up from the main post office and whatever big city I'd just landed in.)
At university there was the late night caffeine overdosing that was done once a week to help combat the weekly 'essay crisis'. Writing and drinking filter coffee until the very early hours, watching healthy Oxford rowers run down the meadow for their 6am row, while I was just getting into bed for a three hour sleep before my tutorial.
After university, in those dead months living in a bedsit in Muswell Hill, as yet unemployed and very very broke, coffee drinking again became a treat. A coffee was lingered over, as I spent hours listlessly flicking through the Media Guardian for jobs.
In the golden years – those years when finally I had a consistent salary, and no ties unless you count a live in boyfriend – coffee drinking became a regular indulgent pastime. Saturday mornings meant strolling from Camden to Charlotte Street and Eco, where we'd start off with croissants and mochas – and stay there reading the papers and buying more coffees until it was time to buy one of their pizzas.
When I had my son, and was at the stage where I felt confident enough to roll him into town, balancing the plethora of bags and accessories that you think you need just to get a baby from A to B and back again.. then I would visit coffee shops every day. There were my lifeline. People would coo over my baby and if he fell asleep I would have a couple of hours to pore over newspapers, and get a pang of homesickness every time I saw London mentioned, or saw a picture of Big Ben. (Because for my son's first years I decamped to Yorkshire).
Now that I'm back at full time work and my son is in school, indulgent coffee time is rare. But these Fridays are my precious moments. I felt guilty at first – spending a fiver on a coffee and a bun when I could be spending it on socks for my son or saving towards holiday spend.
But coffee shops are about more than the coffee and the bun aren't they? Sitting here, in Tamp Coffee (a coffee shop I only noticed for the first time today), there's a buzz in the air, a palpable energy that murmurs 'you're here, you're in London, you're alive'. Groups of friends are chatting, a couple of stray birds like me are sat twiddling with phones or on ipads….there's some lovely music, stacattoed with the comforting clatter of crockery and the gentle hiss of steam.
I've decided that I'll put my Friday coffee jaunts to good use, and from now on will be blogging my review of each cafe I visit.
So here's Tamp Coffee, Devonshire Road:
The damage: Cappuccino (£2.60) Pain au raisin (£2.40)
Beware: 20p charge if less than £5 on a card payment
Plugs for low-battery: Yes
Coffee rating – taste: 5/5
Coffee rating – size: 2.5/5 (Small cups)
Coffee rating – presentation: 5/5 Lovely heart, and lovely brown cups
Coffee rating – crema (that lovely foamy sludge you get on top that makes a coffee a coffee): 5/5
Bun tastiness: 5/5 (nicest pain au raisin I've had – very gooey)
Reading matter: 3/5 nice local free rags, plus a couple of papers.
Staff friendliness: 4/5 (nice and pleasant)