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A Coffee Junkie on the Road

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CYCLING VACATION
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There's a brilliant scene in breaking bad in which Walter gets a lesson from fellow chemist Gale on the finer points of using Bunsen burners, glassware, and precise heat to create the finest product. It's well into the scene before we realise he's not talking about cooking meth, but about brewing coffee.

The scene draws a direct parallel between the everyday addictions we all indulge in and the illegal ones to which some people succumb.

When it comes to coffee, I am a junkie.

Knowing I am an addict meant that preparing for my daily fix was a priority when planning a bike trip around the world.

Home Cookin'

Before we left, I was using the terrific Organic Coffee Sock with a Melitta Ready Set Joe single cup pour over cone for my daily coffee. I only rolled out the Bialetti stove-top Moka sparingly (usually when I had guests). I also had a KitchenAid Pro-Line burr grinder to ensure the finest grind for the freshest taste from locally roasted beans. I had spent many years refining this set-up.

As I said, I am a junkie.

I'm used to a certain quality of coffee, and I knew I couldn't let my standards slip just because I was on the road. Since I am travelling by bike, I needed a set-up that was small, light, and didn't use electricity.

Coffee To Go

I brought my Ready Set Joe because I love a pour-over and this simple cone-shaped piece of plastic is lightweight and compact. A few new coffee socks will cover my filtering needs for about 18 months. A cotton filter lets the oils through into your brew (this is a good thing), while paper filters tend to soak up the oils. Also, who wants to carry a box of filters that you throw in the garbage every day?

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I assumed I would be able to buy a new supply of beans when I needed them, but I started with a supply of my favourite roast, Chuck Roast, from my favourite roaster, Jones Coffee.

I am very picky about having freshly ground coffee each morning, so I was happy to learn that there's a whole world of hand-powered grinders out there. Japanese company Hario are experts at all things coffee, and their hand grinders are tiny things of beauty. They make a small hand-grinder, the MSS-1B, which grinds enough for one cup. Perfect for me as Jane doesn't drink coffee daily.

It has high-quality ceramic burrs and is adjustable to the very fine grind I prefer. I tested it at home against my very large, very electric, and very expensive KitchenAid grinder and I couldn't tell the difference. It is also compact, light, and has a detachable handle for ultimate packability.

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The final piece to my coffee puzzle was a cup that could carry my coffee on my bike, without spilling it or letting it get cold. After picking up a Klean Kanteen Insulated 12oz cup which is made for just this purpose, I was ready to ride off into the sunset.

Italy: Espresso Centrale

We started our trip in Italy. "Everyone in Italy drinks coffee. They will have great coffee to experience," I thought. How wrong I was. Every bar, restaurant, trattoria and osteria sells espresso, but I didn't find a single place where they seemed to care about their coffee.

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Like Americans, most Italians don't actually drink coffee for the flavour, it's all about the caffeine fix. Not once while I cycled the entire breadth of the country did I see whole beans for sale.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoy espresso. I was just hoping the independent coffee culture had advanced in Italy in the past decade as it has in Britain and America. It hasn't. Most espresso is made poorly, with pre-ground, roasted who knows where or when, coffee.

Thankfully I was able to brew a delicious cup whenever my taste buds demanded it, and whenever time allowed.

Croatian for Coffee: Nescafé

Disappointed, we headed to Croatia, where there is a very strong Italian influence, and the situation in the caffes is pretty much the same (just with an extra 'f' in caffe). The appearance of Nescafé as a drink on the menu almost everywhere was most unwelcome.

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When we arrived in Dubrovnik I was running scarily low on beans. After some research I headed to Caffe Orlando which reputedly has the best coffee in Dubrovnik. Unfortunately, they don't have any beans, they just sell drinks. A helpful waiter was able to tell me that he recently noticed a shop selling beans and, in true Croatian style, gave me very detailed, perfectly accurate directions.

I restocked with a medium roast (roasted in Zagreb) from Franja Coffee & Teahouse. If you are ever looking for beans in Croatia this may be your only chance at buying something other than vacuum packed pre-ground coffee at the supermarket. These beans aren't as fresh as I would like, but I may have been the only person looking to buy whole beans in Dubrovnik this year. The roast isn't what I would normally choose either, but for now, they will have to do.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out in Slovenia, our next destination.

If you need the perfect music to accompany your next culpa, here's my coffee drinking playlist on Spotify.

And don't forget to check out our daily trip journal at www.myfiveacres.com

All photos copyright Jane Mountain, 2013

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