For thirty consecutive nights in September, every man, woman, and child in the Raven King's kingdom dreamt the same dream. In their sleep, they were gathered together upon a dark street beneath the midnight sky and given a task. Every night they worked, waking up completely exhausted, and still having to go to work and to school in the morning. Many decried that this was unfair, that the king should pay them for this work, or at least, their lost productivity at their normal jobs, but the king did not deign to notice. Those who worked the night shift congratulated themselves on their good fortune and advance planning. This, the king noticed, and the night workers labored during the day, and so joined the rest of the king's subjects in bemoaning this unfairness.
But thirty nights it lasted, and at the end of September, the work was finished, and they were free to enjoy the fruit and/or refreshing beverages of their labors.
For in this dream, they built a coffee shop.
The Bird And Book opened on Halloween. Gilbert Norrell has been looking forward to having a new place where he could go and purposely not purchase coffee. Eight a.m. found him arriving promptly at the shop and laughed to itself, for, as Gilbert Norrell saw, the shop was firmly closed. Worse, there were no opening hours posted. Eight a.m. resolved to tell the dawn all about it.
Enraged, Gilbert Norrell went home and gave it a terrible review on Yelp. He dreamt of ravens for weeks until, finally, he cast a few spells, after which he merely dreamt of flying books. He was satisfied with this alternative.
John Childermass was always disappointed that he never saw the shop's owner. He made polite conversation with William and Catherine without fail, but he always looked so forlorn when he couldn't catch a glimpse of the Raven King. Even Catherine's prettiest latte art spells weren't enough to cheer Childermass up, even the ones that sang to him of spring dew.
"You should stop teasing him," William said sternly. The answer wasn't repeatable, mostly because it was expressed through the language of coffee beans and so was more fragrant than verbal. William rolled his eyes.
"I have banished winter and the moon," John Uskglass said. "I can banish you, too, if I like."
"Then no one will do the accounting," said William of Lanchester, the king's seneschal, one of the most important men in England, "and you will have deserved it."
John Uskglass frowned thoughtfully. "That is true." But he quickly turned petulant, as he often did when corrected, and William had coffee grinds weaving in and out of his hair for the rest of the day. It wasn't even worth it; Childermass left with his memory erased once again.
After Emma Wintertown-Pole made her much-storied return from her undercover mission in Faerie, she and Arabella Strange took over a corner table every Monday for a coffee date. They talked of politics and magic and, after a few months of this, Catherine started taking her breaks at the same time and joining them.
"They're going to take over the kingdom," Martin Pale confided to Thomas of Dundale, who shrugged. "I'm serious, Catherine is having me draw diagrams and make machines. Rube Goldberg machines."
"William can handle it until the king is back from his trip," Thomas said. He listened to the winds for a moment and nodded in agreement with the north wind's expert assessment and the east wind's snarky wisdom. "But, hey, if that's what it takes to get his head back in the game."
Henry Barbatus came back from clearing the tables at this most inopportune time. "You guys are going to get me speaking in tongues again," he said. "Please stop."
But according to the blog post on the Extraordinary Revival of English Baristas, we have no business even to wonder about such things. According to Mr. Norrell and Lord Portishead, the modern barista ought not to meddle with beverages only half-understood. But I say that it is precisely because these beverages are only half-understood that we must brew them!
English coffee is the strange house we baristas inhabit. It is built upon the foundations that John Uskglass made and we ignore those foundations at our peril. They should be studied and their nature understood so we can learn what ingredients they will support and which they will not. Otherwise, cracks will appear, letting in tastes from God-knows-where. The terroir will lead us to places we never intended to go.
In conclusion, Portishead's post -- though containing many excellent coffee recommendations -- is a fine example of the mad contradiction at the heart of Modern English Coffee Brewing: our foremost baristas continually declare their intention of erasing every hint and trace of John Uskglass from English Coffee, but how is this even possible?
It is John Uskglass's coffee that we drink!
tags: I can't even with Gilbert Norrell anymore, it's just UGH, and did you know he has a stockpile of the raven king's coffee?, HE DOES, AND HE WON'T LET ANYONE ELSE DRINK IT, not even me!, even though I ask!, even though my wife tried to outbid him on some of it and IT'S ONLY POLITE TO SHARE, GILBERT NORRELL, WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN KINDERGARTEN? WAS IT NOTHING? I THINK IT WAS NOTHING, why have an auction if you're just going to be an asshole about it, ugh Gilbert Norrell, and his labyrinth is stupidly easy to get through just so you know, didn't take me very long to crack it, and not to mention you can get in through the King's Roads because idiot has mirrors up, what kind of idiot has mirrors up in his secret hideaway, Gilbert Norrell that's who, ugh I am so done, why doesn't he ever listen to me?, he should listen to me!, I have lots of good thoughts!, I defeated France and everything!, why??????, oh wait I forget this is meant to be anon
John Uskglass returned in his usual chaos of ravens. "There's a new human king in Faerie," the Raven King announced.
"Yes, I know, but good luck finding out his name." William put down his newspaper, which had served to keep his face free from feathers. "Welcome back. You're needed to convince the cappuccino machine to stop turning milk into soy milk, and the register keys are refusing to work until you tell them the answer to a riddle. We already know the answer," he added, "but they're insisting that only you are worthy of telling it to them. Wear a snorkel and tell them the bears flee to bars at midnight. Catherine has begun an insurrection. Thomas has gone back to the brugh; he left a note about wage slavery for you. Our best customer wants you to teach him how to read his husband like a book, because it seems you turned his husband into a book, or his father did, I'm not quite clear on the details. Someone is a book, and Mr. Childermass is quite insistent on learning how to read your prophesies. I told him it's likely just your scone recipe, and now he's even more eager. And--"
But John Uskglass had already disappeared.
William sighed. "Typical."