Like most people I know, I started my morning off with a good cup of coffee. I am not a fancy latte man; just a nice cup of black coffee does me well. While reading with my coffee the other day, I came across an article on Asiana from the Korea Times. The article talked about a new Hand-Drip Coffee service that is only on offer onboard Asiana Airlines in first class. You might be thinking “so what? Other airlines have espresso, why go for hand-drip?” Well, for someone like me, hand-drip coffee is pretty damn great.
Before we get to far into this, I must say one thing. My name is Malcolm and I am a Coffee Addict. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s continue. Whenever I fly there is a 99.9% chance I am going to consume some type of coffee. More than likely it will be onboard a flight, where the biggest issue is not what kind of coffee is on offer, but how big that cup is. Our very own David Parker Brown can attest that when it comes to coffee, I prefer a cup that is about the size of my face. Some airlines use the smallest possible cups to make coffee (not pointing any fingers… Delta) but others use fairly average size. When you head up into the premium cabins, that is where onboard coffee takes on a whole other life.
Asiana’s new service, which they claim to be the only in the world, is a method of brewing a drip-style coffee that takes away the machine and replaces it with a human being. Rather than leaving a pot under a machine and just letting it brew, a hand-drip allows a barista to grind the coffee to their liking and then, using a special filter set up, they pour the water in slowly over the coffee and it would filter as such. This can also be called a “pour-over” method. For someone who doesn’t drink much espresso (like me, since one shot of coffee is just never enough) this method is far superior to a machine. You can adjust things like the temperature of the water, the grind of the coffee, the speed at which you have the water filter through the coffee and more. Using a pour-over method like this means that you bring a personal touch to the coffee process. No longer is coffee just a thing from a machine, but a hand-crafted offering.
Pour-over though isn’t the only way of avoiding that machine-style coffee. Some airlines use a French Press to make coffee (even down the back in economy) while others now advertise the use of espresso machines onboard so you can have that specially-tailored espresso drink that you dream of. Perhaps you want that nonfat, half-caf, no-foam latte in the air – you can get it! Singapore Airlines even gives you the choice in First Class of the type of beans that they are using. You can choose between several different types of beans from all over the world to make that perfect cup of coffee to your liking. Middle eastern airlines like Qatar, Emirates, Turkish, or Etihad all offer an Arabic coffee service during the boarding process. This coffee, served with a date, is a way of making you feel at home and is part of the traditions of the region. There is almost a ceremony that goes with the pouring of the coffee and etiquette states you should have no more than three cups.
In Japan, tea is a big thing. With so many different varieties of tea on offer, you would be surprised to know that coffee is also a big deal as well. Find a vending machine on the street and you can get yourself a nice can of coffee, hot or cold, it’s your choice. Is it suprising then that Japan has their own unique Starbucks product. A “personal drip” – or as the product is called, “Starbucks Oragami”. All you do is open up the cardboard filter pack and pour the water over top. Minutes later you have a piping hot cup of coffee, not made with instant coffee. Would you be surprised then that ANA is selling these Oragami packs online with special airline branded mugs? Sure it is duty-free, but still, when was the last time you saw coffee as a duty-free product?
With all these different coffee styles and offerings, it is hard to really say which one is best. Coffee tastes can be so personal, but suffice it to say, airlines are changing around what they do to appeal to more people. Maybe it is just in the premium cabins, but I’m not complaining. I will take a cup of coffee hot or cold, whatever the brewing method. As long as it isn’t instant.