Everything Is Harder When You Can’t Read

Worst Cup of Coffee

Grocery store shopping in Denmark is quite the adventure. First I can’t read anything on the shelves. This matters less than you might think for most items but there are a few where this information is just clutch. More on that in a second. In the meantime let me set the scene.

Danish grocery stores vary in size like they do in the US, but there are some pretty critical differences. First there’s a lot less pre-made stuff. Most of that space is dedicated to a bakery where you can get your rolls for breakfast. Second meat and dairy in coolers takes up the majority of the store. It conveys that this is a country that lives off of yogurt, sausages, bread and cheese.

For most things I’m fine. However coffee has been, to put it nicely, a struggle. The cost of a coffee from a coffee shop is extremely high and not something i can justify on a regular basis. So I got a drip coffee pot from a local electronics store and went out to get a bag of coffee.

Finding the coffee was easy. Telling the quality was not. There are almost none of the brands I’m used to here and it is difficult to tell what is the bad coffee vs the good coffee. Forget the long line of locally roasted coffee you might see in Chicago or New York. Here it’s like generic coffee sounding names like caffe light and Italian espresso.

The taste is also super different. Coffee in the US is very much like water in terms of how it flows. Here it’s almost thicker, with a strange film it leaves on the coffee pot and coffee cup. The taste is somewhat similar but the flavor is much more bitter. Forget artificial sweeteners, you can get yourself a bag of sugar and that’s about it. It didn’t matter though, I was on a goddamn mission.

So I grabbed the coffee, sack of sugar and went to the milk aisle. This was a serious problem. Milk in Denmark and milk in the US is not the same. First they intermix milk and yogurt. They come in very similar containers but they are not the same thing. So you need to be on alert for that.

Then there’s no half or half looking containers. Instead it’s the word milk with a percentage and another word. The words aren’t what I’ve come to expect from US daily. Like whole milk or skim or whipping cream. Instead Google translate was saying things like complete milk and .5% milk. I don’t know what a complete milk is and honestly google translate was not helping me. So I pondered it for a bit and bought something that seemed well stocked (from my time working in a grocery store milk and eggs sell fast so you stock them deep) and went on my way.

I got home from my bike ride a little giddy. It had been days since I as much coffee as I wanted and I was so excited to just sit there and really enjoy it. The brewing goes fine, leaving behind this weird film. I pour in…sugar and mix in my milk.

It is instantly the most disgusting thing I have ever had. I spit it up into the sink immediately and have to fight the urge to vomit onto my brand new floor. I call my wife to tell her what had happened and she, between gasps of laughter, tells me I just drank buttermilk. The taste is just so disgusting. But I’m determined. So after a cup of coffee with just sugar (after tasting the sugar to make sure it’s actually fucking sugar and not salt) I head back to the store.

But I’m back at the same problem I was before. Nobody seems to be grabbing any milk at all, mostly getting yogurt. So my plan of basically creeping by the dairy section and seeing what people are buying isn’t working. I got back and stare at the options. I’ve ruled out one but maybe this other one? I grab it and bike home. Bear in mind, it’s a 20 minute bike ride every time so I really want this goddamn coffee.

I get home. Messed it up again. It’s milk but it’s skim milk without enough fat to really cut the bitter taste of the coffee. Whatever. I stand in my kitchen and hate drink the rest of the pot. Denmark had a lot of perks but it’s coffee game is not my jam yet.