By David Hochman
I’ve been known to go the extra mile for a great cup of coffee. This week, I went to the farthest ends of the earth for one. Onboard Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Explorer and with an assist from the folks at Tonx Coffee in Los Angeles, I enjoyed the finest cup of coffee ever brewed in Antarctica, and I brewed it myself.
Here’s the story.
For ten days, I’ve been part of National Geographic Explorer’s expedition through the Antarctic peninsula. It’s one of the company’s most remote trips and delivers all the iconic Antarctic elements: towering icebergs, adorable penguins, whales, seals, mountains, lonely research stations. The facilities onboard Explorer are first rate (an early polar explorer like Shackleton would have wept at the sight of the ship’s sauna, gym and 190-bottle wine cellar), and the food – and coffee – are superb.
Still, I wanted to try an experiment. Tonx coffee just launched a travel brew kit that lets you grind and brew Tonx beans “anywhere on earth,” and I decided to put it to the ultimate test. One afternoon, with the Explorer docked in gorgeous Orne Harbor at the northern end of the Errera Chanel, with ice covered peaks and penguins all around, I unpacked my Tonx bag and started brewing.
Tonx believes great coffee shouldn’t be dictated by geography. Based in Los Angeles, the company sources top-quality beans from around the world, roasts them to perfection and ships them out in silver bags within 24 hours to coffee nerds around the USA. The travel kit lets you take great coffee anywhere. Inside the cool Swrve Mussette messenger bag, I found a Porlex mini grinder, an Aeropress coffee press, paper filters, a stirrer, a scoop and a bag of Tonx Ethiopian Wottuna Boltuma fresh roasted beans.
It was a sunny day in Antarctica but chilly as always. My wife and I had just returned from a hike up the ridge of Spigot Peak on the peninsula proper, and therefore part of the Antarctic continent itself. A few dozen passengers had taken Zodiac boats from the ship to the landing spot on the icy shore, and we walked past a colony of chinstrap penguins before making the thousand-foot climb to the summit. Stunning, amazing, marvelous, and more than a little exhausting. Tonx coffee was our reward.
With the Explorer’s crew looking on curiously, I started grinding and brewing on a deck overlooking the glaciered cove. I let the coffee steep a minute or two, then poured, then savored. The wind picked up a little, I cupped two hands around my steaming mug and laughed: Ethiopian beans from a Los Angeles roaster at the far ends of the planet. Now, that’s my kind of global warming.