For the last in my series of stories featuring food and drink magic, we finally reach coffee, which I’m sure we can all agree is an inherently magical substance!
When it comes to ghosts, my grandmother has one solution: brew a pot of coffee. Like today, in Sadie Lancaster’s kitchen.
Sadie clutches her hands beneath her chin and stares at our percolator, her eyes huge. The thing gurgles and hisses as if it resents being pressed into service. My own reflection in its side is distorted. When I was younger, I thought this was how ghosts see our world.
In places with bad infestations, they swirl around the percolator. I can reach out, touch hot moist air with one hand and the icy patch of dry with the other. One time, a ghost slipped inside. It rattled around until the percolator sprang from the table and hit the floor, splashing scalding water everywhere.
I still wear the scars of that across my shins.
Katy’s family has always caught ghosts with coffee, but business is threatened when an out-of-towner shows up and starts up in competition… using tea. Wherever Katy turns, work seems to be going to the handsome stranger who’s offering free trials of his services and undercutting her at every opportunity.
This is a short story rather than a novel, and as the introductory episode to Tahmaseb’s Coffee & Ghosts series, it is primarily focused on setting the scene, introducing Katy herself and the deceased grandmother from whom she learnt the family trade. The plot follows Katy’s struggle to keep her business afloat, her search for work in mundane coffee shops, and the eventual crisis that causes her to step up and collaborate with her rival.
I enjoyed the conceit of well-brewed coffee as a ghost hunting prop, and the way that Katy’s whole life is entwined with her magic and her business and her family heritage. When she goes in search of barista work, she thinks she’ll be a natural, but her powers get in the way and she proves sadly (but entertainingly) unsuited to the task. Little touches like this kept my interest, and although the differences between coffee-based and tea-based exorcism aren’t well developed yet, this feels like a fruitful area for the series to explore. There’s also a hint of romance between the two professional rivals, which I expect will unfold over the following episodes.