One of the cool items we seem to have in the kitchen of our tres chic St. Germaine des Pres apartment is a Nespresso machine.
Nespresso machines, I’ve come to learn, are all the rage in Paris. They are the latest advancement in the art of making l’espresso magnifique. It is quite easy to make a lovely espresso using this machine, I must say – simply ensure there’s water in the water reservoir, press the “on” button, insert one of the convenient Nespresso coffee pods into the pod holder, snap shut, and when the “on” button blinks on and off, press firmly on either the button emblazoned with a demitasse (to make an espresso) or a small cup and saucer (to make a cafe au lait or similar). A minute later, the dark, creamy liquid pours silkily from the spout, and you’ve got coffee.
Because guests at the apartment are asked to replace whatever staples they use (quite rightly), and because we are going through a number of these coffee pods, I went with our friends Jean-Pierre and Francoise yesterday to visit the Nespresso Store in our neighborhood.
The atmosphere inside the store is quiet – people who speak to each other are whispering.
On one side of the store, there were shelves displaying the latest models of Le Machine – many sizes and prices, starting at around 200 euros.
There were multiple cashiers working in two different areas, and customers lined up politely and waited for their turn to be served, like waiting to check bags at an airport.
While waiting in line, one could browse through a brochure that explained the different types of coffee pods available for purchase – Ristretto (regular espresso), Roma, Livanto, Cosi, etc.
You can also read all about the history of Nespresso, and the advantages of joining the Nespresso Club (membership has its privileges, to coin a phrase).
At last, one cashier became available and gestured to me. I paid for my two sleeves of coffee pods, 6.50 euros, and we left.
Late last night, as some of my clothes hummed in the washing machine in the kitchen, and Len slept in the bedroom, I indulged in some Internet shopping for, among other items, Nespresso machines; I was curious and admittedly on the verge of being seduced by the delicious ease and, well, modernity of it all. I was on the verge of joining the Nespresso Club.
No more grinding espresso beans with my little Krups coffee grinder (so old now that the white exterior has turned a sort of yellowy cream color). No stuffing the ground coffee into the holder and smoothing it down with the back of a spoon or your index finger before carefully snapping it into position. No unscrewing the lid to pour water in, no watching nervously as the little machine starts making ominous noises and trembling as steam builds up dangerously inside the magma chamber. And after making the espresso, no emptying the coffee grounds from the holder by banging it against the side of a bowl and occasionally having the grounds go flying out to decorate one of your kitchen walls, etc.
With a Nespresso Machine, I could stand in the kitchen in a pale, silk Dior gown, daintily touch a few little buttons, tap the counter for a minute with bored insouciance, and voila, I’d magically have my cafe au lait.
But somehow, in the midst of flirting with the idea of joining the international Nespresso Club … there’s something about the whole thing that, well, just doesn’t seem to work for me.
What if Nepresso suddenly fell out of favor with the stylish set, declared bankrupcy, and you couldn’t buy the pods anymore? Or worse, what if the company were taken over by an American conglomerate like PepsiCo or Kraft Foods; the new corporate owner would start stuffing those little pods with Maxwell House and raise the price as well, n’est pas?
In the end, Consumer Reports recommends a little Krups espresso maker as a good buy for the money ($60) – it’s the same model of espresso maker I’ve owned on and off for 20+ years, and the price is around the same, too.
I’ll need to go to a coffee store and talk to the clerk about the type of beans to buy – go home and grind it with my little warrior Krups grinder (which I may have to will to my niece someday), stuff it into the little coffee holder, the whole mess.
I won’t get to join the Nespresso Club and stand in lines of elegantly dressed shoppers, sipping complimentary espresso offered by girls holding round trays loaded with steaming demitasses.
I won’t ever be one of the Pod People.
But, you never know … I might just go into that Dior shop across the street today … if they let me in.