Lalgudi to Limerick – A tryst with Coffee

Kailash, an international student here in the University of Limerick takes you through his encounter with not just any normal cup of coffee, but an Irish Coffee. What’s the difference you ask? Read this descriptive and witty blog to find out!

What keeps most writers going? I would say, Coffee. I might take another sip, think for a few more seconds and reaffirm, it’s Coffee, without doubt. A poet who hasn’t loved and a writer who isn’t addicted to coffee are not real. I have often wondered how this magic fluid instantly relieves me of a certain unique kind of a headache that I’m accustomed to. Somehow, in my life so far, I have always had the time to make one for myself and drink, irrespective of the situation, place and time zone that I’m in. Whether it’s americano, espresso, cappuccino or filter coffee, it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s some form of coffee, magic is constant and is certainly bound to happen. Words flow like a knife through butter when I sit down to write, be it academic, personal or fictional.

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A 6600-mile journey, crossing deep blue oceans and lands where I haven’t stepped foot, lay ahead of me, as I start from Lalgudi, my hometown. Right on top of my list of priorities, was a Coffee Filter that had been safely packed. The Indian version, particularly regarded as the trademark South Indian version is ‘Filter Coffee’. You cannot make one, without the ‘Filter’, hence the name. Four more cups of coffee, hugs and wishes from friends and family, 2 flights and 23 hours later, I find myself in Dublin Airport sipping the fifth. But, this one tasted different. Divine and kicking. In popular fiction, I have read instances when the protagonist takes time to think on his next move. For reasons unknown, I have visualized him with a cup in his hand and a strong odour emanating out of it. May be, he had this one, out of all other versions that I have had so far – The Irish Coffee.

As I took on the 200-km ride in Dublin Coach to Limerick, the magic was unfolding within me. That feeling of landing in a new country for the first ever time in life, the scenic countryside through the glass windows all the way down to Limerick and the excitement about what lies ahead of me, incrementally added up. The levels of Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins inside my brain had reached an optimum. I preferred and purposefully delayed my dinner plans as much as I could, because certainly I didn’t want to disturb the sensation. Happiness is, very much an understatement. Not forgetting to mention, that the UL Accommodation Service warmly received me.

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The orientation week happened. I settled down at my own pace in my new surroundings and was lucky enough to find help from all corners. To my horror, the Coffee Filter that I had brought with, didn’t work the way it was expected to. The powder was too fine and there was no way I could make decoction out of it. It rained almost every day of the week and as I walked with bated breath to be on time for my lectures and laboratory sessions, I received popular advice from one of my lecturers. “Don’t ever complain of the Irish weather. It isn’t as bad as you presume. Dress accordingly, keep yourself warm, make good Coffee and you will actually find yourself appreciating the weather.”

Weekends flew away as I made short trips to Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Aran islands and Dingle Peninsula. One such fine Sunday as I was enjoying my boat trip at Killaloe, I had my second rendezvous with Irish Coffee. In addition, I came to know the story behind the origin of Irish Coffee. Weather had, in fact, played a crucial role. At a time when land-based planes lacked sufficient flying range for Atlantic crossings, Foynes was a busy civilian airport for sea planes, on the eastern shore. In the winter of 1943, one of the flights that had left to New York from Foynes had to return back after flying for several hours due to bad weather. That’s when the staff at Foynes was tasked to prepare something warm and special for the weary passengers.

Chef Joe Sheridan put a good measure of Irish Whiskey in Coffee, added cream on top and served. To the delight of passengers, when one of them prompted if he used Brazilian Coffee, the Chef jokingly answered, “No, it was Irish Coffee.”

In no time, Irish Coffee became the traditional welcoming drink at the airport and continues to impress passengers the world over. As I read through history, I couldn’t resist cracking a smile. My belief that circumstances bring the best out of a person, make them perform beyond their potential was strengthened further. Interestingly enough, the prodigy Joe Sheridan, when he applied for the job of Chef at the airport in Foynes, had concisely written:

“Dear Sir, I’m the man for the job. Yours sincerely, Joe Sheridan.”

~ Kailash

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