In an allegory for our hectic world that sometimes seeks to slow things down, the Slow Coffee movement extols the virtues of filtering coffee slowly, just as it was always done in the past.
And what if the way we make coffee summarised the aspirations of our society? For years, decades even, nothing has ever been fast enough. You’ve barely touched the ground, and right away you’ve got to get the water boiling, grind the grains, prepare the filter and wait... Then electric coffee machines arrive on the scene. And ground coffee too. But it was all still too slow - except for the Italians whose approach to coffee making reflects la dolce vita and continues to rely on the use of a percolator. Too slow until the Dutch engineer John Sylvan invented the first ready-to-use coffee capsule at the beginning of the 1990s. And the Nestlé company, via is Nespresso brand, perfected its machine to extract this highly sought-after morning beverage in record time.
“What else?" asked actor George Clooney at the end of the adverts for the Swiss manufacturer who has become the world leader for coffee pods. There is no denying the practical aspects of the concept, there is nothing complicated about it, it’s quick ... Exactly like when you order an expresso at the counter on your way to work when you haven’t got time to stop. But fashions are always changing, society evolves, consumers become aware of the urgent need to save the planet, to preserve resources, to reduce waste, and also to slow things down... And for some, these good intentions start first thing in the morning by reconnecting with the pleasures of a real filtered coffee.
For years now, the press has been referring to a Slow coffee movement. In the United States, in the big cities on the west coast, where anything to do with ecology, well-being and health is greeted by an attentive public, a new kind of coffee shop has started to flourish, a coffee shop where one is anything, but in a rush. In these cafés, each variety of coffee is selected for its specific aromas. Grains are ground to order. And water is heated to a precise temperature and not a degree more. It is then poured into an individual filter holder in successive glassfuls, leaving time in between to allow the coffee to brew and gently filter through.
An allegory for our rushed world, snatching at ways to slow things down, to take the foot off the accelerator and to re-appreciate the simple pleasures in life, coffee brewed just like it used to be is pure happiness. Its particular smell is all it takes to recall special moments shared with friends and family or on holiday. A certain insouciance too.
Still in the US, in 2005 entrepreneur Alan Adler designed a new mechanism for brewing coffee that he called the Aeropress. Consisting of two cylinders which slide one inside the other, the object (almost pocket-sized) more or less replicates the principle of piston coffee makers, combining brewing time and filtering under pressure to enhance the aromas. But don’t let us forget that this great little invention comes from the New World, which is always striving to do things better, bigger and faster... So since 2008, Aeropress championships have been held, during which participants compete to make the best coffee under timed conditions. It’s all still a question of minutes and seconds and probably always will be.
Text: Frédéric Martin-Bernard
Photo: karl-fredrickson Unsplash