Today I bought a giant can of Nescafé just to get the free sugar bowl that came with it. We already have a whole set of Nescafe mugs I acquired the same way. My husband thinks I’m crazy and he keeps hiding the mugs in the deepest recess of the kitchen cupboard. But I like the Nescafé mugs. I am genuinely thrilled by our new sugar bowl. It’s a cheery red and says Nescafe across the top. I like the Nescafe stuff and I like Nescafe.
You all think I’m crazy now. I mean, Nescafé’s not just instant coffee, it’s mediocre instant coffee made by a giant conglomerate. Some people will argue it’s the most disgusting coffee on earth. Why, exactly, would I want it to decorate my kitchen?
The thing is, Nescafé is a symbol for me. When I started my aid career, I didn’t drink coffee at all. It was bitter and unpleasant and I usually got enough sleep that I didn’t need the caffeine. Then I moved overseas for my first aid job, and now I don’t just drink coffee. I drink Nescafé. And I like it. (1) It might be the most disgusting coffee on earth, but it’s available everywhere. You’re never without caffeine if you can tolerate Nescafé. (2)
Every single time a health official, a nurse, a community member or a colleague breaks out the coffee to welcome their American guest, I can pick up my cup and keep a smile on my face. Every cold morning in a guesthouse with no heat, Nescafé can keep me warm and alert. In the beginning I needed cream and sugar. Now I can drink it black. Because I learned to do that. Because this is my life now.
I don’t drag coffee beans around in my suitcase. I don’t grind my own anything. I drink Nescafé, because I’ve spent 12 of the last 15 years in places where the water gives you giardia. Because I wanted this career so badly I took an internship that left me too poor for Coca-Cola or tomatoes. I’m not a visitor. I can’t be carrying all my creature comforts with me. I live here – in Ashgabat, in Tashkent, in Cairo, in Dushanbe. I’m an aid worker. So I drink Nescafé.
(1) For a given definition of like
(2) Think I should pitch that to nestle as a new marketing slogan?