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Back Buzz - March 18, 2001

[pumping heart] Coffee Lady, 16 Seaway Garden, St Mary's Bay, Kent

Although I normally write about coffeehouses I find it extremely challenging to locate them in the wilds of Kent. The situation is depressing for aficionados of decent coffee like myself, not to mention anybody travelling or residing in England who drinks coffee instead of tea. I know I sound like a broken record; but it is so difficult to find remotely tolerable coffee in this country, and it makes no sense at all.

But recently I learned about a small coffee delivery company in Kent, right out on the wonderfully unique Romney Marsh. Coffee Lady started in 1994 when coffee lover Vivien Theobold began delivering fine freshly roasted coffee to small companies. Her customers became very familiar with her little red van, and they referred to her as "the coffee lady".

The little red van evolved into today's white van emblazoned with a red Garraway's Coffee logo. Vivien and her husband Edwin now deliver coffee from Garraway's and from the Nairobi Coffee and Tea Company to customers all over Kent and Sussex. They also provided free-loan filter machines with the coffee as well as leasing a wide range of espresso machines. They plan to expand soon, offering all sorts of coffee- and espresso-related accessories.

Visiting Vivien and Edwin and their two dogs is a pleasure; you're greeted with a freshly made cappuccino accompanied by friendly conversation. They both love their coffee dearly and it shows. They'll furnish and deliver coffee to any company or small group who wants to provide their staff or members with decent quality coffee. Customers include restaurants, garages, and hairdressing salons -- the sorts of businesses which in a place like Seattle would most definitely offer espresso to their customers. But that's in Seattle, the espresso capitol of the universe; imagine finding a drinkable espresso at a barber shop or tyre centre in Ashford or Hastings! Sounds like my wildest dream...but then I pinch myself and realize I'm awake, and Coffee Lady is there providing this very service.

Believe it or not, good coffee has existed in England for a long time. The Garraway's coffee company began business back in the late 1600s as a coffeehouse. And the Nairobi Coffee and Tea Company has been around since the 1920s. Coffee Lady is proud to be Nairobi's approved distributor for Kent and Sussex. Here's hoping Coffee Lady will succeed in their effort to eradicate lousy coffee -- and perhaps even Nescafe -- from the Southeast English consciousness.

Speaking of inferior food products reminds me of a post-Thanksgiving e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend from a couple years ago when I lived in Seattle:

Just before leaving Glendale to drive back to Oakland I declined my mother's offer of a turkey sandwich -- made with leftovers of a boneless (i.e. pressed) roast, with homogenized dark and white sections in each slice -- and hit the road. Freeway traffic slowed to 10 mph as early as Saugus, 50 miles prior to the known construction/constriction at highway 138, and I began to worry that it would take me all day just to get out of the L.A. basin. Traffic did lighten up again. Still, it took nearly an hour to get through the 9 miles of congestion, and by then, with a warm cat in my lap putting pressure on my bladder, I wondered if I would have to pull over to the shoulder to take a pee, as I saw one young boy doing. But we finally got through the 2-lane section and up to the rest stop at Tejon Pass, where I parked myself for a good long time at the trough.

A couple hours later I was getting hungry, and mighty envious of the tofu turkey you enjoyed at your Thanksgiving banquet. At the food and gas stop at Buttonwillow there was no place to park, so I drove on. Sixty miles later, at Coalinga, the vehicles of would-be diners were backed up a quarter mile onto the off-ramp from I-5. Seeing that it would be quicker to walk, I parked the car at the end of the off-ramp, told my cat Ariel to stand guard, and jogged a few blocks to McDonald's. Maybe that pressed turkey sandwich would have been better.

I'm so sorry you were forced to eat at McDonald's. I certainly hope whatever you had was a hundred times better than the "fish" sandwich I forced down when my friend Celia and I drove back to Seattle from Portland. How stupid we both felt when we noticed too late the Jack In The Box just a block away, and both of us agreed we would have much preferred to stop there. I know Jack In The Box is not exactly desirable cuisine, but their fish sandwiches, although not much bigger than a bagel, are of such a higher quality than that sad McDonald's paper-pulp facsimile which sat wadded up for hours at the bottom of my stomach...

Why do people eat at McDonald's, anyway, especially when there are usually plenty of other cheap fast-food choices? Why is our own Lower Queen Anne McDonald's always full of people when there's a Kidd Valley Burgers just two blocks away (which I've been told actually has a good fish sandwich) and a Dick's Drive-In only three blocks away? And what about a taco or burrito at Taco Del Mar? Why go to McDonald's? Why, why, WHY?????