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Apr 24, 2011

Kaffeekultur

There are many things that sustain us in our lives and work: good friends, healthy food and a balanced lifestyle in general are essential for coping with the inevitable storms of a freelance life. For those who work long, crazy hours, coffee may well be part of that sustaining balance. I remember with some amusement the declaration of my friend Peter, a drug and alcohol counselor for troubled youths, who declared to me "this is a good drug!" as he presented me with a wonderful book on coffee specialties for a birthday or some other occasion. As I have experienced more refined ways of making the brew, my stomach has become less tolerant of that acid bilge that most "coffee machines" produce, and I have come to value a shared appreciation for the good stuff so much that I had to restrain myself recently from falling on my knees and proposing marriage to a colleague whose kitchen is filled with wonderful Bialetti paraphernalia. But sometimes even the best brew alone cannot give me the boost I need, and I seek the right company or atmosphere to restore my center and clear my mind for the serious work of translation.

The Viennese coffee house in the town where I lived until late last year, Morgenrot, is one such place. This charming café in a restored Jugendstil house in Hohen Neuendorf near Berlin-Frohnau is among my favorite places to relax, enjoy superb coffee or wine and excellent food with friends or alone. The competent staff and lovely proprietress and her husband make each visit a pleasant experience, a bit like a home I wouldn't mind enjoying more often. Today on this beautiful Easter morning, with nerves a bit frayed from the charged task of taking another load of stuff from my former home, I realized that returning straight to my desk at the Schloss was a non-starter, and something quick but special was needed to relax and focus on the work ahead. I stopped off at a nursery and got some strawberries for the garden as well as a few herbs I need for cooking; the garden is a very special part of my translation routine, providing a welcome break for exercise and the anticipation of delicious dividends later in the year. As I loaded a sack of rhododendron soil for the blueberries into the car, I realized that I was parked just a short way from the Kaffehaus. Übersturzter Neumann!!! I thought. Just what I need. It was a beautiful spring day, so I sat outside with Ajax to enjoy the vital restorative. The subtle mix of textures in the poured coffee played lightly across my tongue as the caffeine slowly kicked in, and small sips of water refreshed my palate to enjoy the experience fresh time and again. Another cup, and I was ready for the rest of the day.

Working with a laptop in Starbucks or other mass-market outlets for better-than average coffee and tea has almost become a cliché for mobile professionals. However, a place like Kaffeehaus Morgenrot adds a special dimension that is well worth seeking out if there is such a place near you. So take your laptop and enjoy a relaxing few hours. Or better yet, leave the damned computer in the office and just enjoy the good coffee and atmosphere.

A sitting room at the Kaffeehaus. Grab a book and enjoy the afternoon!


3 comments:

  1. Yes, where would translators be without coffee! I owe many a translation to my Bodum French press and my favorite beans (organic Mayan black onyx). Love the story about your favorite coffee place; and I agree, better to ditch the computer and really enjoy it! When Eve Bodeux and I went to Paris for work last year, we discovered this great new (to us) French trend called "café gourmand": espresso or coffee with tiny versions of your favorite French desserts (think chocolate mousse in a shotglass). I think we had it 4 times in a week. Truly an idea that needs to be exported!

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  2. Chocolate mousse in a shotglass? COOL. Now I finally have something to do with my tiny cups beside fill them with miserably inadequate quantities of espresso. Count me in to do microcustards. I've always been fond of a little piece of bitter chocolate to dissolve on the tongue with a good espresso or glass of red wine too :-)

    The Bodum presses have been my mainstay for some 14 or 15 years now, but I've found the coffee from the air press I wrote about recently is cleaner and tastier. But neither it nor those little Italian steam pots make the quantities I want for Thai iced coffee in the evenings, so the one liter Bodum still sees plenty of use. And then, of course, there's the delight of Turkish/Greek/Balkan coffee full of those lovely, lethal grounds! Ah... time to hit the kitchen.

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  3. I have to admit, I don't drink coffee to keep me awake; I drink it because it puts me in the mood to work, and in some ways I feel I cannot work without it. Thanks for sharing this post. In the United States, I don't know what working professionals would do without coffee, whether their favorite from Starbucks or a cup of stale Folgers.

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