Thoughts on Instant Coffee

My parents drank Folgers instant coffee every day of their lives. Several cups a day. Growing up, it was my only experience with coffee, which explains why I hated coffee and only began drinking it a few years ago. Instant coffee does the job of actual brewed coffee, but it’s just not tasty, no matter what you mix into it. If one were in a cold, muddy, wartime trench somewhere, hoping to not be killed by enemy gunfire at any moment, I suppose one would be thankful for it, and I’m certain that’s where my dad’s affection for it was derived, but if one lives indoors with the most basic of modern amenities, one can do better than instant coffee. I’m feeling somewhat confident I will never find myself in such dire wartime circumstances (though in this day and age, who knows), so I really don’t ever need to drink war trench coffee.

So why do I have Folgers instant coffee in my house? Well … three days a week, the husband goes into the office. This happens at an excruciatingly early hour (for me), and occasionally, I don’t manage to get out of bed to make morning coffee and get the husband moving. This leads to him waking up later than he should, and then he doesn’t have time to make actual coffee. Instant coffee to the rescue! That’s his excuse, anyway. I can neither confirm nor deny its accuracy, as on those mornings, I am completely oblivious to everything but the inside of my eyelids and the comfortable warmth of the bed. Therefore, we have instant coffee in the pantry, so he can have something resembling coffee while he commutes to work. When he requested I buy instant coffee to cover these random occasions, naturally I bought Folgers, because what do I know of instant coffee? It’s the only one I’ve had experience with!

But now we have two brands of instant coffee in the house! The last time he stopped at the liquor store, in addition to the monthly booze supply, he brought home a container of Nescafé Taster’s Choice. I rolled my eyes and put it in the pantry. What brand of instant coffee is in the pantry matters little to me. I try to plan my life in such a way that I always have time to make actual coffee, though on very rare occasions, when I am beyond lazy, I do have a cup of instant, but I know damn well in advance I’m going to hate it, so this happens perhaps once every three months (generally during late afternoons). So I’ve not thought about the two varieties of instant coffee sitting in the pantry beyond being annoyed that they make it more difficult to reach my box of tasty granola. Then yesterday happened.

My morning coffee carried me through until late afternoon, and then I needed a little kick in the butt to keep moving. A nap would have been preferable, but I know better than to attempt to take a short nap after 4:30 pm. It’s never short, and we almost always end up eating supper at midnight. So coffee was the only reasonable choice, if I were going to make it through our evening activities of cooking, eating, and tv watching. Alas, I was legitimately tired and also feeling quite lazy, and the French press was sitting in the sink needing washing, so I decided to torture myself with a cup of instant coffee. Instead of the Folgers, I grabbed the Nescafé. Having now experienced two brands of instant coffee, I have formed a slightly more educated opinion on the subject.

Folgers is just terrible. Nescafé is not so bad. It’s not great. I mean, it’s not freshly brewed coffee, and unlike Folgers, which dissolves instantly upon contact with liquids, the Nescafé takes forever to dissolve. Some bits never did. Yuck. But … it had a reasonably decent flavor. I was pleasantly surprised. Ok, “pleasantly” is probably too kind a word, but I didn’t entirely mind drinking it. And now, having experienced a somewhat better variety of instant coffee, I’m left wondering if there exists … somewhere on this planet … an instant coffee that actually tastes great? I’m not interested enough to buy a variety of them and then drink them to find out, but I am a little curious.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter if there is a tasty instant coffee somewhere out there. No one should ever have to drink instant coffee. Except my husband on those mornings when I don’t wake up. It’s his punishment for being too lazy to brew his own morning coffee (and for being too chicken to to wake up me).