Coffee now and then

Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.  – Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American author

Coffee, someone says, and the eyes of its enthusiasts sparkle with excitement.

This may be a typical scene in workplaces, especially for us in the media fraternity — many of whom are likely sleepy or dreaming in front of our PCs. 

Many also think that the drink can boost your vision and energy, thus keeping you awake.

As a coffee believer myself, the thought or sight, especially pertaining to strong enticing smell of the hot drink, is a keen reminder of various encounters, experience and stories of the past, though my memory recollections are not necessarily in chronological order.

Perhaps my earliest coffee memory dates back to my days as a toddler who was still bottle-fed with sweetened cheap ‘Kopi O’.

One peculiar aspect of Iban hospitality is serving black coffee to our guests both during the day and in the evening.

It is for the evening episode that coffee plays its vital role to augment the Iban community’s hospitable appeal. 

This is where guests who stay overnight would find themselves feted to a coffee reception by their hosts where a few adults, both men and women, would gather at the ruai of the hosting family after dinner — an event that could last until the wee hours. 

Two hilarious encounters with coffee are worth mentioning here. One involved this writer during a hill paddy dribbling or nugal session in 1971.

During our interval, coffee was served but this time, a few of us teenagers and men decided to hold a coffee contest — to see who could drink the most and fastest the newly boiled drink.

I won on the former category but ended up getting mabuk due to the strong caffeine content plus the very hot nature of the drink drank during hot weather.

Later, since 1999 — when our Kedap longhouse started to enjoy 24-hour power supply — almost every Gawai Dayak featured a very hot coffee drinking contest.

That year, my nephew Igat @ Julian Narang Jon won and was given a small towel as top prize but it took almost a week before he could eat properly due to an almost burnt tongue.

He couldn’t even laugh at the hilarity unlike the others who totally enjoyed the fun.

About a year earlier, namely when I first landed in BSB Brunei, I discovered and subsequently frequented a place called Coffee Zone in the sultanate’s capital.

That was where all the coffee beans and powders of the world could be found.

Most if not all countries with coffee products in the world were featured with such coffee powders available at BND5.50 (black coffee) served with a miniature cup plus two pieces of miniature cookies — I would bring an item to read to enjoy the ambience and to give a justifiable worth of its cost. 

I remember my more preferred coffee was from Jamaica, Columbia, Brazil, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and a few others.

Among the most recommended coffee mix at the joint then (according to my diary) were Koa Coffee — Hawaiian Kona coffee beans; Blue Mountain Coffee from Jamaica; Volcanica Coffee Kenyan AA Coffee Beans; Peaberry beans from Tanzania and Sumatra Mandheling Beans from Indonesia.

In fact, after noting Malaysia was off the list, I did ask the sweet lady in her tudung who used to serve me: “Malaysia endak ada kopi sinek kah?”

“Endak ada; hajek orang Malaysia?”

I replied in the affirmative though I didn’t bother to tell her I wasn’t a ‘haji’ — this is Bruneian courtesy of addressing an adult male, as most males in the sultanate have performed their haj to the Holy Land.

Another hilarious episode involving coffee was featured in P Ramlee’s movie Nujum Pak Belalang. This was when the hero (P Ramlee) received a visit from a friend. He asked his son young Belalang to serve coffee when the household had no coffee powder at all or sugar for that matter.

Being a resourceful individual, the boy gathered the soot from their frying pan and mixed it with water, poured it into two cups and the so-called coffee was served.

The funny faces of his dad and guest truly hilariously state the ‘tasty’ coffee out of soot.