With coffee shops lining every street corner in Montreal, residents are bound to become regulars at a spot of choice. They find a cafe to lose themselves in an essay on a Sunday afternoon and acquire a signature drink. However, the greatest coffee experience of all is a simple cup of instant coffee.
As we approach the holidays, there are a number of volatile topics of conversation that are best avoided. The only thing worse than Aunt Jean drunkenly detailing her voting history over Christmas dinner is the man who yells at you on the train because someone said “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas.” However, I’ve learned that in my family, the most outrageous reactions often come around dessert, when I break out my instant coffee and giant mug, sparking a polarizing discussion. It seems that once a person establishes a go-to cup of coffee, they’re stuck for life—and will never fail to defend their cup.
Coffee habits are entrenched lifestyle practices. People vary, but, for many, how one drinks coffee quickly engrains itself into one’s personality. My overworked aunt looks me dead in the eye, hands shaking as she grips a full thermos, and professes her love for French vanillas with four shots of espresso. Someone else will sip iced coffee even as they shiver in a winter jacket with the threat of a Montreal snowfall approaching, and swear they’d never drink anything else. Then there’s the person walking out of Starbucks, holding either a Frappuccino or some convoluted holiday drink that, in either scenario, they paid way too much for.
Instant coffee is my half sweet, non-fat, extra-whip peppermint mocha. I do recognize that instant coffee is objectively bad—not since the 10th grade have I been naïve enough to believe otherwise. No matter the brand or how refined your palate is, you’ll taste the bitter, almost sour qualities of instant coffee, especially in the aftertaste. Yet, this is not the point.
Despite its flaws, nothing compares to the literally and figuratively simple joys instant coffee affords. Aside from not having to change out of your pajamas to drink it—which already gives it a serious advantage over coffee shop concoctions—it is also the cheapest cup of joe you’ll ever get. Pro tip: Buy at least six jars any time it is on sale and hoard them. They almost never go bad—or well, get any worse.
The advantages of instant coffee go above and beyond practicality. Consider, for a moment, waking up on a Saturday morning, just after midterms have ended and prior to the start of finals, knowing that for one short day, there is nothing pressing to do. Smell the overly pungent coffee granules that permeate the air, as an unmeasured—and definitely far too much—amount falls into a mug. Let the water boil while Netflix plays in the background, and you meander from one tangle of blankets in bed to another makeshift blanket cocoon at your desk. For good measure, I like to lay out some math homework that I know full well will not get done.
With cold hands, grasp that hot cup and take a sip—the first one is always too hot, so burn your mouth and wait another five minutes. There exists a 20 minute window when instant coffee is cool enough to drink, but not cold enough that it becomes literally undrinkable. Finish the cup at your leisure—but again, I stress, do not let it get cold—and then take your portable wrap of warmth, and boil the kettle again.
It is time to put an end to the pretentious coffee debate. Of course, no respectable coffee lover will ever tell you that Maxwell House Instant Dark Roast is better than the rich, full-bodied cup of joe they sipped on while traveling abroad in Barthelona. However, this self-proclaimed coffee expert will tell you that there is no better feeling in the world than bundling up, relaxing, and drinking up the slightly-too-strong scent of a hot cup of instant coffee.