A few weeks ago, I posted to say that I had been sent a travel espresso machine by Handpresso and that I had the intention of taking it on expedition. Well I have now returned and despite several bouts of torrential rain, a path to base camp that was muddy enough to absorb an entire man and a herd of voracious cows that ate their way through an array of hiking clothes, I am pleased to report that the coffee available was second to none.
Before setting off, I ordered in 70 ESE pods in a variety of flavours for the trip. Of course, most of these were drunk in the mornings over a bowl of Mornflakes, however my real intention was to take the machine underground. Immediately though, I encountered my first problem: I had forgotten to bring an espresso cup with me. This tragedy was soon averted by “temporarily borrowing” an espresso cup from the Maria Rosa cafe. Unfortunately I did not know enough Spanish to ask them directly, so this was carried out by simply slipping a cup into my pocket after a meal.
The next problem was getting the machine underground. This was done when Nick, Harvey and I left for a pushing trip to Chunder Pot, which is around -1,000m in Pozu del Xitu. This impressive Picos cave has a lot of history, and its original exploration is documented in the simultaneously fascinating and terrifying book Beneath the Mountains. To reach our destination, we had to stay at camp at around -600m. This seemed like the perfect location to sample the joys of underground espresso. In a place where the morning is not announced by the coming of the sun, there is nothing like an espresso (or three) to get things started in the morning.
Since I wanted to capture this momentous occasion on camera, I had to take my photography gear down. This took up an entire large tackle back when including a pair of dry socks and a hat for underground camp. Thus I stashed the machine in a Darren drum in Harvey’s bag. When he learnt that he had carried the coffee apparatus down 600m of tight and awkward cave, he seemed a little unimpressed. Perhaps more so because he doesn’t even like coffee.
When the final moment arrived, it was clear that this was not some insane errand. Whilst espresso tastes great on any normal occasion, espresso prepared hundreds of meters underground, days from any possible rescue and miles from the nearest civilisation tasted fantastic. Whilst I had intended to return the machine to the surface on my return, I decided to leave it at camp so that the other pushing parties could share in the experience.
Ultimately, all 70 pods were drunk in the three week period I was in the Picos, mostly by Jamie and myself. The machine attracted a lot of attention, and I dare say it has found its way on to the wish lists of many.
So after an expedition hampered by bad weather and insatiable cows, we can rest assured that we consistently drank better coffee than you’re likely to get in any UK coffee establishment, cheers Handpresso!
Oh, and to those who took exception to my theft of the espresso cup, I can assure you that I did in fact return the cup at the end of the expedition. Of course, they probably have no idea why a particularly bad smelling and muddy Brit appeared out of the clag to hand them back one of their espresso cups, and I certainly couldn’t explain using either of the two words of Spanish that I know. Perhaps someone will be able to explain next year and I can give them a print of one of the photos!