Travel broadens the mind.
More importantly bike travel through Europe precipitates many a petrol station pitstop, and with this an unrivalled opportunity to sample a crapload of variations on the world’s most accomplished libation, iced coffee. I’ll run you through some contenders.
Cafè Royal – Extra Strong
These Café Royal cats have their iced coffee shit on lockdown. You’re looking at the Extra Strong line. But they have a whole host of flavours, my original intention was a blogpost dedicated solely to this one brand. And yet life passes most people by while they’re making grand plans for it.
So it came to pass that after this first memorable encounter I never saw Café Royal again, running out of petrol stations before I’d crossed the Swiss border into Austria. A sad allegory for the fleeting nature of life, a lesson in grabbing opportunity while you can. I’m left instead with the memory of that delicate nectar as it slipped down my throat, the kick of the added caffeine only the Extra Strong line could provide, and the loving wash of the artificial sweeteners on my brain. A moment made more beautiful by its precious transience, it will be in my heart always.
Emmi – Caffè Latte Macchiato ‘I’m sooo creamy’
These days you can find the Emmi line in any Tesco extra, but the acid test is drinking it in situ. In the same way prosciutto di Parma tastes better on the terrace of a hilltop village in Piemonte, or a devilish fromage de chèvre hits the palate with more resonance whilst sitting in the shade of an umbrella pine overlooking the valley of the Luberon, I figured drinking a german iced coffee in Germany would take on greater meaning. But Emmi is made in Switzerland, so my logic didn’t fly. Like all other iced coffees it was sweet, and pretty sickly. It was creamy though. So creamy.
Mr Brown – Coffee Drink
I blame the craft beer revolution for turning me into one of those guys whose heart genuinely falls when looking right then left then right again at the bar and failing to see a tap with that cool lick of condensation itching to pump out a pint of obscure pale ale. There are still pubs aplenty you don’t even need to walk into to know their beer of the week will be a toss up between numbers and not remotely cold Carling extra cold. The pub equivalent of Ronsil Quick Drying Woodstain, doing exactly what it says on the tin.
In loosely the same way Mr Brown Coffee Drink is only stocked in Germany’s most godforsaken petrol stations. But when in the baking sun in the outskirts of some shit town in North Rhine-Westphalia, it hits the spot. It looks, tastes, and is cheap. But comes in a can. Which none of the others do. A lovely little USP.
Gggnnnhhyuuuggh under no circumstances go near one of these. It’s admirable the way they’ve managed to condense 18 tonnes of refined sugar into a bottle that size, but it is fucking disgusting. I think I got stopped for speeding that morning. Three weeks later I’m still gagging from the memory.
Movenpick – Espresso
I have absolutely no memory and made no mental note of anything to do with this iced coffee. I don’t even have any opinions about its packaging. In a blind tasting Sam Allardyce would pick Movenpick.
Caffè Lattesso – Cappuccino
If iced coffee was a character from a film then Caffè Lattesso Cappuccino would be Johhny Depp walking through Miami International airport in Blow.
Or Dufresne crawling out of the shit-pipe to freedom.
Or Larusso post crane-kick manoeuvre.
This is more than iced coffee. It’s the moment of all our lives. If I ever have a child, I want an ice cold Caffè Lattesso to reach for at the moment of truth in the maternity ward. If Harry Kane ever scores the winner in the Champions League final I’ll be pouring Caffè Lattesso Cappuccino all over the fools next to me on my L-shaped sofa, hoping it’ll stain, because it will be a Caffè Lattesso stain. Before coolly reaching for another from a fridge full of them, chilling to perfection.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday. A petrol station in northern Bavaria. A muggy afternoon. A smiling petrol station attendant, blonde, eyes like emeralds in a glassy sea, the first pair of eyes I saw once I’d come to on the petrol station forecourt after passing the fuck out. I asked her to marry me, she laughed and kissed me on the cheek, and pulled out a glossy of some bearded german brey. At any rate, the elevation of an artificially coloured sweetened caffeine drink from exactly that to one of the defining moments of my life was a profoundly humbling experience, and one that left me deeply moved.
It tastes much like all the others, but comes with a little amaretti-type biscuit hidden in the top. Check it out.
I wasn’t taking any chances on more Movenpick non-moments and loaded up.
As I cycled off into the greyness of that September afternoon, I glanced back and saw Helda’s hand pressed up against the glass, as her eyes locked onto mine in a retinal embrace, an imperceptible longing etched onto her silken face. All at once my life unravelled before my eyes, and as my soul soared skyward my heart threw itself against my chest, imploring my head to turn my bike around, to be within a heartbeat of her once more.
They say that what you love you must set free, and gazing back in her direction, still in my head were all the promises I had to keep, and in my legs the miles before I’d sleep. I turned away, and moved blindly onwards into the arms of some alternate destiny. Can I hand on aching heart say that Caffè Lattesso had no part to play in any of this? I can’t
What kind of iced coffee does that.