Pokka Coffee — "Honesty Demitasse"

by Laila Lalami

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The idea of coffee in a can seemed as incongruous to me as cheese in a tube or meat in a bottle, but I’m nothing if not adventurous when it comes to food — I will try anything. And so I eagerly expected the package, which finally arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago. I opened it to find a small, blue can, the size of those cans you get on an airplane.

The can bore the name “Polska Coffee,” contributing to the weirdness of the experience. Polish coffee from Japan? What next? Peruvian meat from Germany? It took me a second to figure out that the words were actually “Pokka Coffee,” Pokka being a brand, I imagined. Below that, two more words in English, above several lines of Japanese characters: “Honesty Demitasse.” I figure if I'm going to have a cup of coffee, I might as well make it an honest one.

I popped open the can and had a taste. It was strong, a little sweet, with an odd aftertaste that I couldn’t quite trace. My gustatory powers needed a little help, so I poured the coffee into a mug and heated it up.


Now the taste seemed immediately more familiar, so familiar in fact that memories of drinking coffee in Morocco came back in a flood.

If you walk into any one of the ubiquitous cafés on a major street in any Moroccan town, and you ask for a cup of qehwa ble-hlib, it will come in a glass, with a tiny little bit of foam on top. It will taste just like this: strong, a little sweet, but not too much, with a bold aftertaste.

In my homeland, though, coffee, like tea, is usually consumed in short glasses. My Pokka-but-not-Polish coffee needed one more migration before it could find a home. I moved it from its mug to a glass, and sat down to enjoy it. My honest cup of coffee, it turns out, is a glass of café-au-lait straight from that little patisserie in Rabat.

Laila Lalami is the author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and the editor of the book and culture blog Moorishgirl.com.

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