February 3, 2017 - Willie Weir blogs for Adventure Cycling every other Friday.
My apologies to all you tea and hot cocoa drinking cyclists out there, but there is nothing like a hot cup of coffee to warm the hands, the heart, and the soul of a bike traveler.
I’ve sipped gourmet coffee at cafes, bargain coffee at roadside stores, and cowboy coffee off the grid ... and it’s ALL good ... even when it’s bad. And sometimes, it’s really, really bad. When my wife Kat and I cycled in Cuba almost 20 years ago, one of our hosts made us coffee and put down a huge bowl of sugar. I told her I drank my coffee black.
“Not here,” she replied, “you NEED sugar.”
I politely refused, took one sip, and regretted my decision immediately. It was the single most bitter experience my taste buds have encountered anywhere on Earth.
“I told you to use sugar. We grow great coffee here, but all of it is exported. A, B, C, and D grades all leave the island. What is left is what you are drinking now.”
With apologies, I asked her to pass the sugar.
In Laos, coffee came strong and dark — hot water poured over grounds in a long filter that resembled a gym sock. Sweetened not with sugar, but with a thick pour of sweetened, condensed milk that sunk to the bottom of your clear glass, making your drink look like a two-toned parfait. After pedaling the steep mountains of Northern Laos, it was perfect!
Sometimes, a hot cup of coffee is the perfect excuse to rub elbows with locals at a diner or bakery — or truck stop. Sometimes it accompanies a long overdue session of updating your travel journal.
Our bike journey in Colombia was a lesson in coffee production ... from harvesting the coffee cherries ...
to processing the cherries to remove the pulp from the bean ...
to drying the beans, often on little used portions of the road or in the middle of a town square.
Those of us who worship the caffeine bean each have our fantasies. Kat had a dream to wake up in a tent on a bike trip with a beautiful view of the sea, then stroll the beach with a hot cup of coffee while the waves lapped at her toes.
Dreams do come true.
How many more miles ’til coffee?
Photos by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday.
Willie Weir is a contributor for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can also find him at WillieWeir.com, Facebook, and Instagram.