My earliest memory of coffee was my father’s large ceramic cup with Chinese inscriptions, an unlikely choice for a coffee mug. Before he retired a decade ago, my Dad was a freelance illustrator for a handful of local newspapers in Hong Kong. For four decades, he worked his paintbrushes and black ink every day at home in his snug corner, stealing noisy slurps from his signature coffee cup buried somewhere on his perennially cluttered desk. Every day I would hear the familiar noise of the rattling teaspoon as he stirred granulated instant coffee with powdered creamer and condensed milk. This explained why growing up we always had a sticky jar of yellowish curd in the fridge.
It wasn’t until many years later that I found out instant coffee was something coffee drinkers scoff at because the powder is made from the lowest quality beans. Indeed, instant coffee has lost much of its popularity in Hong Kong since my early childhood. These days discerning consumers demand authenticity and opt for a fresh brew. Unwilling to sacrifice precious countertop space in their kitchen for a bulky coffee machine, drinkers have all but given up preparing their own coffee at home. It also seems far more debonair to walk into a Starbucks and walk out with a decaf double venti non-fat latte macchiato. All of that has all but sealed the fate of the decidedly unsophisticated instant coffee.