CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Porter's Coffee House
In small villages all over England you fully expect to run into plenty of tearooms, but coffeehouses and cafes selling espresso drinks are rare indeed. You might expect a place like Tenterden, one of the most picturesque towns in Kent, to have some sort of coffeehouse hiding in one of the Elizabethan or Georgian buildings lying along its broad tree-lined High Street. Considering tourists come from miles around to take a ride out of Tenterden on the Kent & East Sussex Railway, not all of them want refreshment in one of the local pubs, especially if they're about to drive home. So a coffeehouse makes sense, non?
Recently I went with a friend to Tenterden to meet his cousin for a pub lunch. Since the cousin was accompanied by his eight-year-old daughter, who happens to be a big Thomas the Tank Engine fan, it was only natural we should stroll over to the railway station and watch the steam trains pull in from Bodiam Castle and Northiam. Many of the cars on the Kent & East Sussex Railway are painted up to look like characters from the children's classic. (For my possibly confused American readers, the Thomas the Tank Engine stories were created 50 years ago by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry for his son Christopher and have been recreated on PBS.) As we watched Thomas the Tank Engine himself chugging his way slowly up the hill, belching steam as he struggled along and doing a more accurate representation of The Little Engine That Couldn't, a light snow began to fall. Since I was surrounded by a bounteous profusion of photogenic images and my digital camera had suddenly gone on the blink, we made our way back to the High Street, Yours Truly skipping hand in hand with little Chica. Yes, this was definitely a coffee moment as opposed to a pint moment. And Porter's Coffee House offered a warm retreat.
As the four of us entered the coffee house the proprietor was a bit pompous and unfriendly, undoubtedly suspicious of the young one amongst us. But Chica is an extremely well-behaved eight-year-old and there was no need for this man's attitude. I suppose this is simply another form of age-ism, where adults expect children to be obnoxious and unruly. Certainly no adult wants a screaming kid to invade his or her sanctuary. But in the case of a child who acts like an adult, why complain? There are a few well-behaved children in the world who deserve a little respect. (And this coming from a childless woman who relishes my child-free hours.)
Anyway, back to the coffee. I was happily surprised to see "macchiato" on the espresso menu; usually when I'm anywhere in the UK other than in central London I have to explain to the barista just what a macchiato is. And when we ordered our macchiatos the proprietor immediately asked if we wanted doubles. Yes, I thought to myself -- I'm finally going to have a real macchiato! As it turned out our macchiatos were okay, made with just the right amount of perfectly textured milk foam, but they simply weren't brilliant. They tasted as if the espresso machine needed a little cleaning and the shots needed a little firmer tamping. But I shouldn't complain too much; I'll admit I'm a caffeine perfectionist.
Speaking of bringing children into coffeehouses -- and pubs, for that matter -- reminds me of an e-mail exchange from six months ago with my Bay Area friend about dogs in pubs:
And on the subject of English children, here's another e-mail exchange complete with e-mailed graphics: