Steve Braunias collects, samples and rates the most important product in New Zealand hotel rooms
Hotel and motel rooms have everything I could ever want out of life – bed, towels, Bibles, maids and, best of all, little delightful sachets of instant coffee. I only ever drink instant coffee and won't even go near espresso slop. Instant coffee is a great drink, ready in a flash and black as night, the cup that revives, hot and steaming and as richly scented as a garden for the blind. Espresso slop is a stupid drink.
Just as nothing tastes as good as a free meal - I filched a left-over sausage someone left lying on their plate at a cafe the other day, God it was good - instant coffee tastes best when it's contained in free little delightful sachets in hotel and motel rooms. I always ask for more and I always take a bunch home. Everybody does.
But which are the most aromatic, the classiest, the richest of bean as freeze-dried and shovelled inside a 1.5g sachet with tearable edge? I gathered eight different brands and put them to the test one recent Sunday night, standing in the kitchen. I cleansed my palate between each cup with cold water, brushed my teeth three times and took notes - detailed and increasingly incoherent as the caffeine took control of my central nervous system. Good times!
Cafe De Sol Supreme: A shy coffee. It slips in through the door, covers its face behind its hands, stands in the corner; it really doesn't want to make a scene. It's pleasant company but there's a boniness to this drink – when you get up close, you can feel its ribcage. 6/10.
Gregg's Decaf Roast: An AI coffee. The absence of caffeine robs it of its soul. It's a butterfly net without a butterfly, a pair of pants with one leg, the sound of one hand clapping. And yet it's a really good imitation of the real thing, and it's hard to tell the difference. Clones are cool. But they're still phoney and literally gutless. 6/10.
Robert Harris Swiss Gold: A coffee of two halves. It has a confused taste on the tongue, as if it's lost its memory and is wandering the streets in a daze; it lacks identity. But when the drink is swallowed, it bursts into life, is confident, assured, the life of the party. 7/10.
Moccona Classic: A sexy coffee. The aroma and taste are so thoroughly sensual. It turns out the light, puts on some soft music, lies down. It whispers sweet nothings in your ear. But it's also deeply spiritual and may even be a religious fanatic. Does it believe in God or Satan? Probably both. 9/10.
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Douwe Egberts: Douwe Egberts! What a name. You'll probably find it in the pages of Burke's Peerage. It's an elite coffee and tastes of wealth. It's aristocratic, loaded. It's a coffee that is different to you and me. It's Jay Gatsby, it's Princess Di. 10/10.
Cafe de Sol Colombian: It shoots, it scores. It strides on to the field and passes it short, passes it long, all the while advancing on goal. This is beautiful coffee, coffee in sunlight and shadow, the fruit of heaven freeze-dried and turned into coffee. 10/10.
Robert Harris Italian Roast: A professorial coffee. It's a scholar in the library, translating ancient texts, a student of the history and meaning of coffee. It's the most knowledgeable and intelligent of all the eight freeze-dried sachets; every granule has a PhD. 10/10.
Coffee Master Brazilian: It's coffee - but not as we know it. It's like an alien life form, an ET weighing 1.5g, a visitor from outer space. It tastes like nothing else, has a luminous, radiant presence. It comes in peace. It's amazing. 11/10.
There you have it. Cut out and keep; by all means take it with you next time you book a hotel or motel. You can thank me later – and, if you come across that rarest of all instant coffee sachets, Royale Brazilian, please filch a sample and get in touch, I'd love to add that to my collection.
Next column: Ashleigh Young