The coffee at the quiet, somehow reassuring McDonalds across the street from the train state in Yueyang is an impostor at best. To all external appearances, it is the plain cup of black coffee you can purchase at probably any McDonalds around the world. It is served in the standard tan McCafe cup with a black plastic lid. Two creams and two sugars are presented to you on the tray as well, along with a stir stick and quite possibly a napkin. But upon opening the lid to indulge in the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee (since it was just brewed specifically for you), you will discover that the coffee is indeed posing.
While it does have its traditional dark brown-black color, the aroma somehow doesn’t quite match the cherished memories of sipping coffee with friends in a coffee shop. Its just not as rich and flavorful as it should be. If undeterred by the disappointment of the aroma, a sip of black coffee actually touches your tongue, be prepared for a bitter, burned, acrid taste that vaguely reminds you of cardboard. Despite all expectations that the all-American restaurant McDonalds would have something resembling real genuine coffee in the Chinese world dominated by tea and barely tolerant of weak, flavorless, dilluted instant coffee, the cup of coffee disappoints. The addition of the two creams and two sugars barely masks the atrocity that assaults the tastebuds and offends any sensible notion of a good cup of coffee.
In the States this cup wouldn’t even be served at the shadiest, most dilapidated gas station in existence. Yet somehow its warmth and vague familiarity pushes aside all repulsion. Disgust can and should be saved for living in a country that offers decent, good, and fantastic cups of coffee along with a wide assortment of coffee beverage creations. In the land were a box of instant coffee is more expensive than a bottle of red wine, any coffee, regardless of how insufferable its first impression maybe, is to be enjoyed for what its is. A drink that is comforting because of its warmth and vague familiarity and that is tolerated because it is better than the alternative, as well as being a reminder that it is only temporary. Delicious coffee awaits at the other end of a very long flight home.