The first time I traveled out of the country — the country being Spain, where I lived for over 24 years, seldom going anywhere within or outside of it — I was seventeen, and I came to London for three weeks. I loved it, naturally, despite making poor food choices, staying with a family in Bounds Green, and probably straining my ankle by walking twenty minutes to the tube station in flats every day — and twenty minutes on the way back. There was a lot of sightseeing, a lot of walking, a lot of museum-going. I planned that trip to catch an exhibit of my favorite painter, John Everett Millais, at the Tate Britain. It was a good trip, and moving to Madrid for college just afterwards was a massive letdown.
The following summer, I took the same scholarship that allowed me to go to London — 1500€ to book an ESL course for at least three weeks. The UK was my only option for these things because I had no budget beyond the amount of the scholarship, and if tuition took up half of it, I had very little left for accommodation and flights. The thing is, I’ve always loved Europe, and wanted to see all of it, and been intrigued by England maybe most of all, so it wasn’t a hard choice to make. This time around, I picked Oxford.
I fell in love with Oxford. The way I feel about London is strong, but the way I felt living in Oxford was magic. The cobblestone streets, the bookshops, the colleges, the Botanic Garden — strolling around the city with my camera in hand, taking over five gigabytes of photos — and I wasn’t shooting RAW at the time. Under different circumstances, I might have tried to stay. I wanted to. I thought about it, though about finding jobs to apply for, but I was eighteen, I’d just dropped out of college, and I wasn’t ready to be on my own.
That year, I spent a lot of time at coffeehouses inside bookshops — the Starbucks inside Borders, the Costa inside Waterstones, the Caffé Nero inside Blackwell’s. Many of those places are gone, but I remember feeling home there. There’s something about chains that I actually appreciate: the familiarity, the solidness of it. I went to London one day to meet my best friend for the first time ever, and ate at a Waterstones in Piccadilly. I went to Brighton for two days to cap my trip, and had my usual coffee order at a Costa inside a Waterstones up West Street. The Waterstones is still there, according to Google Maps.
I kind of fell in love with that coffee order, and when I went back to Spain, to my hometown without coffeehouses inside bookshops or fancy drinks at the ones we did have, I set out to find a way to make it, and every time I did, it reminded me of being in England, a little bit. Eventually I also created a strawberry and ice cream shake — not quite a milkshake and not quite a smoothie — that will forever remind me of Wimbledon.
But when I was asked to share a recipe inspired by one of the countries in the Cricket World Cup, I thought it would be a lovely time to share my iced caramel coffee — no fancy machines, just whatever I could find in my little city — and the reason it ended up a part of my very small off-the-top-of-my-head recipe arsenal.
The point of this recipe is that if you move somewhere they don’t sell half the shit you need, or move to a flat where you can’t use any fancy coffee contraptions, you can still make it. I got caramel syrup — golden syrup, whatever — and madagascar vanilla extract out of a cupboard in my landlady’s kitchen (I cleared this with her before using her kitchen; better lighting for photos, you see; was actually going to make a cocktail, but time ran against me and my complete inexperience in the alcohol department). I stole the milk from my flatmate, because whenever I buy milk, it ends up going bad as I just come to Starbucks every day because it’s warmer than home (and currently, until things get sorted out — apparently a cat chewed on a cable — my only access to the Internet). The coffee, however, was mine, and so was the mug and the… idea. Look, I have good intentions.
So, without further ado, what you need:
Coffee for however way you make espresso or black coffee; I used instant like the heathen I am
Caramel syrup (sugar tastes terrible; that is one substitution I don’t recommend)
Vanilla extract (powder or on the bean or liquid; vanilla sugar is another substitution I don’t recommend)
A mug, a glass, and a machine to make hot coffee. If you have a espresso machine or a French press, use that. I just heated up water in a kettle. My beautiful mug is from Zoz Pots on Etsy.
Instructions are quick, but I swear by the order of them:
1. Heat up your water / make your espresso.
2. Add half a teaspoon of vanilla extract to your mug.
3. Get your coffee ready in the glass (or another mug, or wherever).
4. Hit the ice against the counter a bunch of times, or break it some other way if you know how to, or if you have tiny cubes, then more power to you, tell me where you get that shit. Put the ice in the mug.
5. Add milk; fill the mug to about the midway point.
6. Pour some caramel over the ice; a couple of tablespoons is usually pretty good, but not everyone has the same standards re: sweetness in their coffee. I like a caramel taste in this drink, but won’t let sugar near my normal morning coffee.
7. Finally, pour the steaming hot coffee over the ice, to fill up the rest of the cup. Let it rest for a few seconds — it will help melt the caramel syrup and ice cubes —
— and stir.
After this, I put my caramel coffee in a travel mug and took it to Starbucks. It was actually pretty good, which surprised me given the way I sourced the ingredients and considering I hadn’t made it in a while.
In fact, I hadn’t made it since before I went and packed my bags and moved to England.
Disclosure: I was asked by Betfair to take part in the Cricket World Cup Recipe challenge.