When it comes to coffee, I am something of a purist. I am a man for a single espresso. I’d rather drink two single espressos than a double. I’m also happy with a ristretto, but only in Naples, and preferably accompanied by a sfogliatella from Scatturchio. At a pinch I will drink a cappuccino, but really only enjoy them in the Tazza d’Oro in Rome, one of the few places that understand the precise texture of foam on a cappuccino (which should be just firm enough to hold your sugar before letting it slide into the coffee beneath). Macchiatos, flat whites, lattes, americanos and all the other bizarrerie of modern coffee culture I leave to others.
With rare exceptions, I always add sugar to my coffee. Unsweetened black coffee tends to be dominated by acidic and metallic notes. Just a touch of sugar rounds out the flavour, drawing out the fuller, more chocolaty notes.
Now comes the really vexing point. Sugar lumps. God, how I hate sugar lumps with coffee. It is astonishing how many restaurants, even some highly rated Italian restaurants in London, serve up sugar lumps with their coffee. Particularly odious are those white and brown Perruche lumps. You know they’re only doing this for aesthetic reasons, not because they are suitable for coffee.
If you give it a moment’s thought, you’ll know that, by the time the sugar lump has melted sufficiently to sweeten the coffee, the drink, itself, will be stone cold. It’s so bloody obvious. If you sweeten your coffee, use caster sugar. It melts right away, and you can drink your coffee hot.
PS. I will confess to a weakness for sugar crystals, which my parents were fond of. We were allowed to spoon up the semi-melted crystals from their cups, when they had finished drinking their coffee. It had a satisfying butterscotch sweetness and crunched in a very agreeable way.