Bali’s best coffee

The two things I hate most in life are sweating and lying around and unfortunately, in SE Asia at least, escaping either of these necessitates willingly participating in the other. To go to Bali, a place most people visit for relaxation and comfort, was to make myself entirely uncomfortable and had I not had a specific purpose for being in Bali, I doubt I would’ve ever gone.

Once that purpose – a study tour – had been fulfilled, I found myself with two spare days to fill so I travelled to Sanur, a laidback beach town and my worst nightmare, a place conducive not to my wellbeing but to both sweating and lying around. Once I arrived I realised that I needed a purpose. Not just a purpose for being in Sanur, but a purpose for being at all, otherwise an entire two days of my life would be wasted.

Being from Melbourne, kind of, I decided to search for Sanur’s best coffee and, as a result of the results, went off in search of Sanur’s best coffee. It could be found, I was told, at a place called Simply Brew, some 4km from my hostel. It had a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor and was referred to in a review as not only the best coffee in Sanur, but also the best coffee in Bali – I simply had to sample Simply Brew. I finally had a purpose, and though achieving it would involve a long walk and copious amounts of sweat, at least I was sweating on my own terms. Besides, even lying down – a total absence of movement – was enough movement to cause beads of sweat to drip down my body so there was no escaping both my sweat and my destiny – to sample Simply Brew.

There’s a small path that follows the coastline from one side of Sanur to the other so the walk would at least be scenic. I also knew there would be plenty of opportunities for a swim, but I was wrong. The tide was low and then so was I, unable to swim in anything but my own sweat. I had three choices: the first, to simply continue to Simply Brew. The second, to return to my hostel where earlier I had drunk an OK coffee, or the third, to stop at one of the beachfront coffee shops.

One of these beachfront cafés had a respectable 4.7 rating on TripAdvisor and would, I imagined, do a pretty good coffee. The difference between 4.7 and 5.0, however, is more than just a few decimal points, just like a ‘pretty good coffee’ will differ depending on the context in which it is drunk. At Simply Brew, where perfection is promised, a ‘pretty good coffee’ is almost always going to be satisfactory, whereas a ‘pretty good coffee’ at any of the other coffee shops will be laced with disappointment. The promise of a perfect coffee at Simply Brew means anything less than perfect at another café is disgusting, no matter how good it actually is. I persevered in my pursuit of perfection.

I continued on the coastal path, along which Russians, Brits and Australians sat on plastic chairs drinking morning beers, drinking the antithesis of my quest for purpose. A morning beer is the liquid defiance of purpose, a signalling to the world that for the drinker, purpose no longer exists. Neither does morning, for that matter. A morning beer may as well just be a beer for once a morning beer is drunk, time as we know it ceases to exist except, of course, for when it’s time for the next one.
Morning beers weren’t the only things on offer. The locals greeted my presence with calls of transport! Massage! Sunglasses! One nefarious character even offered a ‘special massage with young girls,’ but to have my flesh kneaded without my flesh needed would do nothing but accentuate the complete lack of purpose I was trying so desperately to avoid.

Upon reaching Simply Brew I realised that it was in almost exactly the same spot I had been dropped off the previous day, just down the road from where I had had a horrible coffee, unaware that the perfect coffee even existed. By the time I made it I was so hot and tired that a hot coffee was both the last and only thing I felt like, so tired that I would need two coffees before even thinking about the return journey, making it all the more important that the coffee lived up to its reputation. One disappointing coffee would be manageable, two bad coffees an unmitigated disaster.

It was a pretty good coffee.

So good, in fact, that to have two coffees would be too much. Two coffees would normalise the taste and instead of having a purpose, I would have an addiction. I would be enslaved and have no purpose but to trudge through the heat to this coffee shop for a pretty good coffee by the main road, and forever, or at least for the last day of my trip, be unable to enjoy a pretty good coffee by the beach.

After leaving Simply Brew I walked past the café where I had not enjoyed the horrid coffee the previous day. A horrid coffee, of that there’s no doubt, but perhaps also the best coffee too. Not the best tasting coffee, but the best coffee for providing me with a purpose, a purpose that I had hoped Bali’s best coffee would provide. ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ had been playing when all I wanted was a decent coffee, and the young Balinese man timed his delivery perfectly, whispering ‘all I want for Christmas is you’ as he placed the horrid coffee on the table. It was as if my presence was his present and that, at the present time, was at least some kind of purpose. Or maybe he didn’t. Maybe I imagined it because I wanted so badly to be in Love, Actually, in love with a person or a purpose or even just a coffee because each had the potential to make my heart beat just that little bit faster.

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