Tuesday

CDR - the promised coffee post. The baseline of the abudhablist.com coffee list.

This happened to me, I own the experience, it has become part of my very being (as all dramatic experiences have a tendency to do). It was months ago, but the memory still lingers and sometimes I wake in the wee small hours, screaming... screaming ...



..oh the horror.

For those who might be late to the party may I suggest you head on over to the contents page and scan through the coffee adventures to date.

For long-time (and patient) readers, this is the post I have been threatening to write since the outset of the quest for the best cup in Abu Dhabi.

It has taken this long to get down, because I was blocking alot of the memory - apparently this happens after severe trauma, but the therapist says I am ready now.

I have decided NOT to directly name the cafe in question (for reasons that will be come obvious) but there are enough posts already that rank this place as last. It is denoted at the bottom of the list as being called CDR. It's a cafe in a Mall here in Abu Dhabi.

Those NOT from Abu Dhabi: Just know that this place exists - and if you ever find yourself here, email me - I'll tell you. I promise. It is my duty.

CDR was not on my list for coffee shops to throw myself at, but I found myself in this particular  mall  waiting for my wife to get done with a work meeting and stride purposefully along the shiny (very slippery when wet) tiles and into the fabulously appointed food court for our lunch date.

A brief aside:
One of the things I find hysterical - primarily due to my not falling victim to it - is that all the floor tiles in just about any commercial space, if made wet, acquire the grippy texture of an ice skating rink. I guess due to there being no legal mechanism here to sue anyone should things go aggressively horizontal.

That means the building's designer/owner/dude-who-has-an-opinion-about-floor-coverings can literally choose whatever the hell they like for their floor tiling needs, he or she only need concern themselves with colour.

"I want 3,000 square metres of this blue tile"
"Ummm...ookay... these are wall tiles though...so..."
"I don't care - I want them"
"But they are reeeally slippery when wet... you don't want an ice-rink in your shopping mall do you?...hah ha ha.."
"........"
"........"
"I don't understand the question. Deliver the tiles I ordered."

Super slippery - even more fun when the same tiles are used OUTSIDE. Yup. Smooth, unsealed, slick as glass tiles. Thankfully it doesn't rain here alot. When it does though...

Anyway.. back to the point.
The meeting was running late, so I figured as I was about to undertake my first coffee review at The One after lunch, I'd do a test run with a coffee shop in the mall  where my bride and I were to meet.

Fate led me to CDR.

I'd walked past this particular cafe alot and while it was never SUPER busy, it seemed to do a fairly brisk trade.

In short, it appeared that it was a pretty safe bet. It also had the bonus aspect of being 7 feet away from where I was when the text message came through informing me of the new proposed time for the lunch date.
I strode in past the smokers grimacing through wisps of exhaled cigarette smoke and sat down, feeling a little too self important, but nonetheless excited about the clandestine aspect of my "reviewing project".

I envisaged the fear my blindingly successful blog would strike upon cafe owners island wide. How all would worship me and DESPAIR...

...yes, well, abudhabilist.com hasn't had THAT much of an impact on the cafe community thus far. It's a slow burner this blog- but when it flares - THEN the coffee landscape will change oh yes my pretties.. yeeessssssss... precioooousss... *cough* ummm...

Here....be distracted by another ADist aside:

Smoking is prohibited in most malls here in Abu Dhabi, or at least in the walkway and main areas of the mall, BUT cafes all have a smoking section. Yes. A smoking section. Usually these sections adjoin the slippery goodness of the walkways - but provided the table is within the boundary of the cafe, it's perfectly within the rules.
Frankly, as was mentioned in an email that was getting around the place earlier this week: Having a smoking section in an public space is as useful as having a urinating section in a public pool.

Aaaand we're back:
I ordered a latte, doing my best to keep my identity a secret and settled in to trying out various seating positions and practising being nonchalant. I had even brought a book along to read, thus concealing the real reason a large bald westerner might sail in and order a latte.

I tried:
The 'Lounger'- a kind of side saddle position, that one hopes offers a look of carefree sophistication. High degree of difficulty - can come off looking manufactured and kind of tool-ish.

The 'Lounger + leg cross' - as above with an added leg cross. Result? I suspect I looked like a poorly shaped man-pretzel.

The 'meet the parents' - seated bolt upright, rear end as far back into the seat as you can, hands (book optional) clasped in lap. Good for core strength, makes you stick out in a crowd like dogs.. umm.. you know.

The 'Slouch' - As it sounds, but hard to achieve in cafe bucket style chairs, arms don't have anywhere to naturally fall, hard to reach cup, think I looked like I had passed out given the concerned looks of table near by.

I settled on a partial 'Lounger with leg cross', with a weight distribution that allowed reasonable access to the coffee table.

The cup of stuff was placed in front of me, and the waiter scampered off.

I put the cup to my lips and sipped, but the beverage was SO hot I simply couldn't get any in my mouth. My concern though was rising. Not at the temperature (although that ain't a great start) but there was an aroma of something I had vowed never to suffer again; years ago a 5 day camping trip ended in a shouting match with the guy who had recommended the stuff as an easy to carry coffee substitute.

Coffee Mate.

The stink of it was strong.

I went back to my book, but every paragraph or so I looked from page to cup, for what reason I don't know specifically... I just had the feeling that whatever was in that cup needed an eye kept on it.

A suitable amount of time went by, so I tried again.

It was at this point I should have got up and left. Got away from the thing.

Why?

The previously lead-smelter hot fluid had developed a skin on it. Not a slight milk separation that can sometimes happen with full or double cream milk, oh no, this was a good honest skin.

A baked-rice-pudding style skin (sans lumps).
A holiday-camp-too-much-gravy-helper-not-enough-water style skin
A skin that was akin in appearance to lightly grilled processed cheese slice on toast.
A skin that actually attached so effectively to the insides of the cup it created a seal that took a significant swirling action AND help from a spoon to detach.

I should have left.. I should have..

Taking my reviewing gig way too seriously, I again raised the cup to my lips and, while it was STILL hot, it had cooled enough so that I might actually taste what was festering away in there.

One sip confirmed my fear - coffee helper had been used.

It was at this point that the aforementioned skin made its presence known again by attaching itself to my bottom lip, so that when I pulled the cup away a blisteringly hot circular flap moved from it's birthplace in the cup and attached itself with the tenacity of wallpaper to my stubbly chin.

The cup was noisily placed back on the table, followed by a low moaning sound (that I suspect was coming from me), while on reflex I slapped at my chin which effectively dispersed what was under my lip to my shirt, and pants, and part of the chair. Thankfully my frantic actions did not send any glutinous shrapnel toward the couple sitting at the next table over, who were by now staring and offering their napkins.

Interestingly the waiters at that moment found a whole lot of important stuff to do in the kitchen area, so I resorted to stealing the napkins from the surrounding tables along with those offered by my neighbours.

I left my cup and out of habit staggered, red chinned and bewildered, to the cash register where I paid and then left while barely hearing the forced cheerful tone as the waiter called after me:

"Thankyousirpleasecomeagain".

My wife found me sitting in the food court amongst a whole hotchpotch of nationalities - all eating McDonalds and KFC - with a stunned look on my face as I gently stroked my still slightly stinging chin.

"Sorry about the delay", she said. "Got some times messed up. You looking forward to your big 'coffee expose' this afternoon? Hey, what have you done to your chin?"
****
I'm actually grateful that I went to CDR first off - I mean who could ask for a better baseline for a study?
Let this blog stand as testimony, and bow our heads for a moment to remember those that gave up coffee as a result of this establishment, and hope that one day they will come back to the caffeine fold...

Let it also remind cafe owners that coffee is NOT rocket science - whoever opens a cafe here that employs really good baristas is going to make a KILLING!
Makes the little more sense of the list below..
  • ADNOC - ('big cups crisis' over)
  • Zyara,
    Cafe De La Paix "Marina Mall",
    Idioms
  • The One
  • Le Brioche "Marina Mall"
  • Starbucks
  • Anything else, including but not limited to, licking tarmac
  • CDR - Worst coffee ever.

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Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

For more information click the "Erasure" book cover on the left side of this site, or simply go to www.athwebber.com

Thanks for visiting.