Ah... my coffee Lenten fast is over at last!

After giving up coffee for Lent, John Arnold explains his love for the stuff, and how it has changed for him down the years
Ah... my coffee Lenten fast is over at last!

"Then, I'd say in the mid 60's, the big revolution when Maxwell House came on the scene." Picture: istock

JUST less than an hour to go now until the coffee break! The night before Ash Wednesday, pancake Tuesday seems a long time ago now, actually it's more than forty days. So since then not a sup, not a taste of coffee has passed my lips.

It's about ten years ago, I'd say, since I first started giving up coffee for Lent and I do love coffee! Sometimes a quick cup first thing in the morning is all that breaks the fast after a night's sleep - sometimes peaceful but 'oft times hours of twisting and turning and waking yawning.

The first cuppa gets the day off to a good start. Then, when we'd be started the milking, one of us would leave the Milking Parlour, come down to the kitchen and return with two steaming mugs. Tea is the drink for herself at that hour of the morning, with just a colour of milk. Mine is a mug of black hot coffee - half full.

Then, in an act of sheer bliss, pleasure and downright self-indulgence I squirt hot milk from one of the cows into my coffee mug until the frothy mixture pours out over the top. Oh the froth of it, oh the taste of it - in reality nothing compares with this pre-8am treat.

And I know my coffee from cappuccino to skinny latte and all kinds in between but the frothachino cannot be beaten!.

Sixty years ago, the only kind of coffee we had was Irel. It was a sticky black coffee/chicory mixture. It came in a tall square, narrow jar with a map of Ireland on the front of it. It was nearly as thick as treacle and barely flowed from the upturned jar. Mam used it mainly in cakes and for colouring icing, but I can recall having a cup of it with heaps of sugar and milk.

Then, I'd say in the mid 60's, the big revolution when Maxwell House came on the scene. Lovely brown powder in the glass jar with red and white writing and, hey presto, we had instant coffee. We used collect the labels from the jars - a bit like the Lyons Tea Minstrels, and when you'd have a rake of labels collected you could send away for Free Gifts - we got many.

The red and white clock which is on the wall of the Milking Parlour with nearly 30 years is a Maxwell House clock, I just thought that we never put it forward the hour last Sunday morning! I think we may have got a Maxwell House bathroom scales too but we threw it out - it always made me heavier than I was before I became the weight I am now!

You know the way on TV and in films nurses and doctors and nightwatchmen would drink strong black coffee in order for them to stay awake? Well it never had that effect on me, no I could come home from some event at midnight or after, read the paper while having a coffee and I'd sleep away mad after it.

Then, about 40 years ago, coffee making machines appeared in hotels and restaurants and with a lot of hissing and gushing you'd get a nice coffee. The whole art of coffee making and coffee tasting has taken off hugely in the last few decades, especially with people travelling to the four corners of the world and imbibing different flavours and textures.

In 2008, I spent a week in Ethiopia with Self Help. We visited many very remote rural villages and in these coffee was much more than a refreshing drink. The customs, traditions and rituals around making the brew had to be seen to be believed. Mind now, you wouldn't want to be parched with the thirst! It was an elaborate and colourful exhibition which saw the beans being roasted over an open fire, then broken up and put into a vessel like a kettle with water , back on the fire for maybe twenty minutes while various songs were sung- all praising the coffee bean. The black coffee was then poured into small white cups and drunk.

It reminded me of the thick coffee John Wayne and other cowboys used drink around the campfire by night in the Westerns long ago. In Ethiopia you daren't refuse to drink it and to ask for milk and/or sugar was nothing short of culinary sacrilege!

So, with a decade my ritual on this day has been to wait until I return from Holy Saturday Mass for the first, long, languid, lingering mouthful of that caffeine-laden drink!

Because of Covid we could go to no Mass last night so we just watched it on line from the Parish Church. It's a powerful ceremony on a very Special and Holy Night.

Of a normal year we'd be back from the mass about ten o clock so I'll wait 'til then for my cuppa. Have a Joyful, Peaceful and Holy Easter time over these few special days.

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