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Thread by @FrogCroakley: "In this thread I will be gradually reviewing these flavoured coffees I just found in lidl (which i suspect are basically fart powder), and t […]"

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In this thread I will be gradually reviewing these flavoured coffees I just found in lidl (which i suspect are basically fart powder), and then comparing each to one of the 12 labours of Hercules.
Going by the same logic that dictates you should immediately punch the hardest man in prison, I started with this disaster. Would've been ace if it wasn't a mix of mint choc flavour & shit instant coffee, but it was that, so it was shite. Like pine needles in ashtray water. 2/10

Much like Herc, I overcame my 1st labour with a mix of tenacity & gargantuan strength. Unlike the big man himself, I won't wear the skin of this enemy, but I hope an early exposure to something so rancid will armour me against the rest of my foes.
Ok the metaphor is really holding. Hercules spent ages trying to skin the lion because it had an impenetrable hide, and now I'm taking forever to gulp down this coffee, as it tastes increasingly like some kind of medicine for animals who have committed crimes as it cools down.
Alright let's go. Coffee #2 - 'amaretto almond'. A close sniff of the granules in this one brought to mind Maoam & poppers with faint undertones of sunday roast, but the actual brew wasn't too ghastly. It was a bit like trying to suck a cherry drop through a wizard's beard. 6/10?
That may seem like an overly generous score, but considering the first one tasted like an after eight that had been dropped during a charge on the Somme, I was glad of the reprieve.
But what of fair Heracles, of the line of Alcaeus? I guess I'd compare this to labour 11, the Apples of the Hesperides, where his taskmaster Eurystheus had basically run out of shit for him to do and so he just dicked about doing a bunch of sidequests before nicking some fruit.
(Best 11th labour sidequest was Antaeus, a total git whose name just meant 'opponent', & who insisted on wrestling *everyone* who walked past. Knowing Antaeus was invincible when touching the earth - which was his mum btw - Hercules just picked him up & crushed him like a crisp.)
(And for anyone worried I have completely lost my mind, please be reassured I'm not going to nail a dozen shit instant coffees in a row. Having just slurped down the last, defeated-bakewell-tasting dregs of this one I reckon I'll put down my club and lionskin until tomorrow.)
Here's coffee #3: 'ginger bread', and I gotta take a moment here - like Hercules taking a deep draught of peloponnesian sea breeze - to take in its smell. And you know what? It smells like a fucking pet shop on the hottest day of summer.
For a moment, the smell hit me as that of a rich northern chinese stew of some kind, which is still nice even if it's not what coffee should smell like. But then the illusion collapsed and there it was: cheap dog pellets and sawdust soaked with guinea pig piss.
Let's have a slug of this then
Pretty hercu-pleased with that actually. If I ignore the associations of the smell it's almost something I'd choose to drink. 5/10? I have also found this totally sweet plastic club which will now be by my side for every one of the remaining coffees.
Gonna compare this to labour 4, the Erymathian Boar, where hercs beats up a pig & carries it into town, but a bloke gets freaked out by it and he hurls it in the sea. That's because this was an easy drink, but after 3 gulps I was thinking pet shop again & tipped it in the sink.
As ever with the 4th labour, it's the sidequests that really shine - on the way to his rumble with the pig, Hercules hangs out with his old friend Pholus - meaning caveman - a centaur who eats raw meat. (Don't stop to consider centaur digestive mechanics here by the way.)
Anyway, Pholus begs some wine, and when he starts smashing it back it brings all the other centaurs to the yard. Hercules realises too late that centaurs literally cannot comprehend wine, as they all get endgame shitfaced and start wailing on him, and he has to batter them all.
(On revisiting herculean mythology, I'm struck by how depressingly often the guy walks into seemingly reasonable encounters, which then escalate with horrifying speed into needless, chaotic brawls. Hercules was either really unlucky or just had terrible social skills.)
Ok, time for coffee #4, 'chocolate orange'. This one could really go either way, I reckon - that seems like a lot of things to go on in one coffee. I've also tinged this picture green to show my solidarity with the incredible hulk.
Ok I don't want to get my hopes up here but the smell wafting off the little coffee rocks on this one is genuinely promising. There's actually something like genuine citrus somewhere deep down in this thing. Let's boil.
Ok, either I'm developing stockholm syndrome or these are improving. I can't honestly find a way to call this an aberration - 7/10. Pls bear in mind that on this scale, a score of 10 equates to 'I would consider drinking this for pleasure, rather than as a hercules-themed ordeal'
Speaking of Hercules, I'm assigning this coffee the 7th labour, the Cretan Bull, as it was arguably the easiest. All Hercules did was creep up behind the bull (which was the minotaur's dad btw), and choke it until it passed out. That was the story. He strangled a farm animal.
Since that's a bit thin, here's some cattle themed trivia: one of the Large Boy's many surnames was Buphagus - or bull eater - earned when he ate a bull in one sitting. I guess that's like a hardcore version of getting your photo on a restaurant wall for eating a massive burger.
(Although on checking this, a webpage states hercules 'ate a whole bull at once', which lends the scene a monstrous sense of urgency. I'm now imagining him just unhinging his jaw to the width of a paddling pool and just inhaling a cow like a big snake with muscly arms.)
Ah fuck, it had to be this one next. For some reason I have been inexplicably dreading this one. Time to herc up.
Ok, the smell of the powder is making me a bit wary, but it's not flat-out horrible. I guess it's the sort of smell you might imagine being overwhelmed by if some sort of agate-eyed american coin matriarch leaned over you and whispered a slightly sexy threat?
The taste of coffee #5 is sinister in a different way. It's hard to put a finger on. Bland, like the face of a crowd-glimpsed man who later transpires to be your assassin. Perfectly regular, almost pleasant, until a skulking sickliness begins to gather in the roof of the mouth.
Unsettling. ?/10.
Hercwise, this is definitely labour 2, the Lernaean Hydra. When the Beef Greek squared up to this monster he had to spend ages walloping off its various heads until he found the one that was mortal, and that's a bit how it feels trying to work out what this drink tastes like.
The other reason this was reminiscent of the hydra battle is because - like Hercules - I had help in defeating it. While H-man's nephew Iolaus showed up to cauterise the heads as he hacked, I had my mate @jazz_banjo show up to gamely finish the mug when I decided it was too cack.
(Mythnote: the single best bit of the hydra fight is when Hera - who hates herc's guts - gets pissed off at how well he is doing and straight up sends a giant crab to distract him, like the space witch off of power rangers. He stamps on the crab; it is a jester to him.)
Ok then, it's time for coffee #6, 'double chocolate', and I've been so fascinated by taking in the smell of it that I've accidentally snorted a bit. Feel like a bloody demigod. Also, can't stop wondering what separates this from single chocolate?
Lemme tell you though, this aroma is *astonishing*. It perfectly encapsulates the waxy, slightly nauseous honk of an easter egg that has been left in a warm car for six months until it goes white. It might be a facsimile of something worthless, but it's a bloody accomplished one.
The joke is, however, that the coffee tastes of bugger all. It's like a lacklustre caravan holiday, but as a drink. Like a fifteen minute conversation with a leasing software salesman at a conference centre in nottingham. A nothing drink, for nobodies and bad men.
Because this coffee was a case of mistaken identity (and a solid 4/10), I'm comparing this to labour 11, the Belt of Hippolyta, in which Hercules sets out to steal a lady's belt. Turns out she is happy to give it to him but... guess what?
Yep, that's right. There is a drastic misunderstanding, and Hercules ends up slaughtering everyone. Honestly, the labours of Hercules read more and more like a sort of ultraviolent reboot of Curb Your Enthusiasm the more I look into them.
Right. I am back home in Walsall at last, but the penance of Herakles has followed me home, and I cannot neglect the fact that the Labours are only half complete. Better boil the fackin' kettle then, eh?
Coffee #7 informs me it is 'coconut delight', and hammers this home with the weird branding association between coconuts and pale blue. Also, I'm faintly angry at being told this will be a 'delight', as this would be a first for this series of powdered insults.
Coconut smell is pretty easy to render. But alas, this sachet's innards smell like the prised-open palm of a child who has just spent an entire summer clenching their fist around a handful of sweaty peanuts. Once again, there's a strong element of 'pet shop storeroom' to it.
Oh dear, oh bloody dear. This coffee could be described as 'delight' in the same way as the rictus of crimson ecstasy on the face of a 9th Century warlord as he caves in a bloke's sinuses with an axe could be described as 'a fun smile'. I am not delighted.
Somehow this tastes of neither coconuts nor coffee. It has a phantom oleaginous quality, while remaining dry as an Atacaman tomb. It's faintly and meanly acidic, but also dull as water. It's like trying to remember the taste of a bounty bar while being force fed bong water. 2/10.
Labours of Berkules, more like.
This coffee clearly matches with the 8th Labour, the Mares of Diomedes. Because just as this was meant to be a delight, so are horses. But these horses were not delightful, as King Diomedes was a maniac who fed them human meat nonstop until they became uncontrollably hench.
Like with all the labours, there are multiple accounts of how shit went down with the Meat Horses, but most note that Hercules' eromenos (meaning sex lad, or 'good friend' according to the Victorians) Abderus got beasted by the horses, prompting one of Herc's classic rampages.
Some versions of the tale have hercules trapping the horses on a peninsula & casually turning it into an island with a bit of axework, but pretty much all of them end up with King Diomedes being fed to his own horses as a penalty for being so naughty.
Anyhow. I could still use a bit more caffeine in my system so let's crack open another labour.
Coffee #8: 'very vanilla'. How bad can this be, right? I mean, 'vanilla' is used to denote things that are familiar and baseline, and the weirdly assurative quality of 'very' only further underlines that this should be the shit flavoured coffee equivalent of a tutorial level.
Then I smelled it. And look, I'm going to have to grasp for memories of working in a pet shop again here, and not in a good way. Steel yourselves.
This is Tenebrio Molitor, the flour beetle. Its larvae, often known as mealworms, are kept in vast numbers as food stock for reptiles, birds and other insectivores in captivity. They are omnivorous and voracious, and have even recently been found to happily consume polystyrene.
When I was 15 & working at a pet shop, I had a secret bucket of these lads at the back of the storeroom. When an interesting fish or a reptile died, I would sneak the body into the secret bucket, as mealworms will pick a skeleton clean in a day or two, leaving a cool specimen.
(I know this sounds properly Dexter but don't judge me, I learned this off the natural history museum. And pet shops get handed sick lizards all the time, so corpses were more common than I would have liked.)
But what has this got to do with coffee? Well. Imagine prising the lid off a tub of seething beetle larvae on a hot day, hoping they've finished getting the meat off a gecko, and finding out they're not quite done. That's what Beanies' 'very vanilla' flavour coffee smells like.
Ironically, it tastes alright. 6/10, I reckon.
I guess labourwise, this equates well to #3, the Ceryneian Hind (arguably a bit of a filler labour). After Herc bins the Nemean Lion & the Lernaean Hydra, Eurystheus realises he can solve any problem that involves punching, & so sets him an unpunchable problem: a Very Fast Deer.
The story of the Ceryneian Hind: Hercules chases a deer across the whole world for a year, like a sort of T-1000 made of burger mince. Then he catches it. He has a bit of a barney with Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, but for once he manages some conflict resolution. The end.
(There is however a great postscript in some tellings: H brings the hind to King Eurystheus & says he can have it, but the deer legs it at Mach 3 before the king can grab it, so Hercules just laughs in his face like someone who's just performed the 'ur too slow' high five trick.)
Good morning to you all. Perhaps of all the heroes of myth, it was Hercules who was most famed for his love of starting the day with a hearty pull at a bottle of Bailey's. And so, as I tackle the 9th flavoured coffee in the box, it's pleasing to know that I walk in his footsteps.
You know what? This one smells *great*. I mean, at this point my perception of coffee is totally fucked; I'm like a man imprisoned without reason in a shipping container, crooning to himself & capering with emaciated glee whenever his captor deigns to offer him a bowl of winalot.
But then, I bring the mug to my lips and the mirage is shattered. The water recedes in the barrel of Tantalus, and the bland, bitter emptiness of Beanies Flavoured Coffee is lingering behind my tongue once again. Why did I get my hopes up, when I knew deep down this would happen?
Let me be clear - there is flavour here. But it's flickering, indistinct; it snaps out of focus the moment I concentrate on it, like a hypnagogic hallucination. Honestly, the nearest experience I can compare this coffee to is *sleep paralysis*.
At this point, I wonder if I'm losing the plot. I'm reaching back to try and recall how the other coffees tasted; to see if there's any meaningful distinction between them, but it's like rifling through endless photos of a dog's arse. Was this how Hercules felt, towards the end?
Anyway, I give this coffee 10/10. Or 1/10. I don't even know any more. This journey has LONG since ceased to have anything to do with coffee reviews, it's more of a pilgrimage into the darkness at the core of man's heart. But it's still important to leave ratings.
Labourwise, I can only ground the experience of this coffee in Herc's 10th outing, the Cattle of Geryon, where he travelled to North Africa to steal yet more farm animals off of a bloke with three heads. Because that makes about as much sense as this fucking beverage.
Actually, I say Geryon had three heads. But according to Aeschylus he had three bodies, which doesn't make any bloody sense. I mean, if you've got three bodies you're just three different blokes, aren't you? Or are we now counting trios of people as single monsters?
Also, Geryon's nan was Medusa and his uncle was Pegasus. Because the ancient Greeks couldn't so much as tell an anecdote about popping to the shops for milk without proclaiming that the milk was actually related to the milk in ALL OTHER ANECDOTES EVER TOLD ABOUT MILK.
Seriously, people complain that enjoying a marvel film increasingly involves having to have watched a bunch of other marvel films to know about the characters, but at least we don't have to memorise who everyone's grandad is. In Greek myth, *everything* comes with genealogy.
Anyway, I've just had the last bit of the irish cream coffee and it really grew on me in the end. So that's nice. There's only three more to go, and I'm feeling the golden tinge of glory on the edge of vision, might monster them all this morning and end this journey today.
Bottled out of doing any more labours this morning. Might round it out to an even ten with an early afternoon cuppa in a bit and then finish my journey tomorrow.
A Grecian cliff path. The drone of flies drifts in and out on the salt breeze; heavy leather sandals slap against dust and dry goat shit. Even after so many triumphs, he walks with a growing weight of defeat. The lionskin festers; the club blisters his bin lid of a hand.
The last directions he got - he forgets who from - said it would be around here. The labour. What was he meant to fight, again? A cow with fists? A pig that ate crisps? An old man, by accident? Or maybe he was meant to steal a belt again? It's all starting to become blurry.
Herakles shields his eyes from the fierce bronze of the sun and squints ahead. There is something on the path, a few yards distant, quivering in the haze. A battered electric kettle, and a small sachet. His heart sinks.
Tearing the miserable pouch open with blood-crusted fingers, he breathes deeply, trying to separate its scent from the stale reek of goat dung. He can, faintly. Once, maybe, he would have said it was vanilla. Now, however, it is just the bland, unanimous stink of work.
Herakles lifts the mug's rim to cracked lips & lets a little warmth spill over his teeth. He rolls it around his mouth, trying to spark memories of heroism. He strains to remember the crunch of vertebrae, the wet hiss of bronze through flesh, but can only recall synthetic caramel
He stands there for a long time, taking measured swallows as the waves crash far below, and the gulls cackle on the wind. As he tips the last of the shit instant coffee down his trunklike neck, he tastes nothing at all. The sound of the birds becomes closer; more raucous.
"Here we fucking go" mutters Herakles, as the distant silhouettes of the birds align themselves into an aggressive wedge and begin flapping towards him. He tosses his mug into the sea, smacks his lips, and draws his bow with a mirthless smile.
These are the Stymphalian birds. For reasons nobody has bothered to explain to Herakles, they have bronze beaks, and metal feathers which they can launch at people. Frankly, they seem like they belong in an unlovable platform game from 1994. But alas, they are his next labour.
Herakles casually noscopes a few of the flock from 100 yards, then rummages in his bag. Athena, in her wisdom, has given him a tool specifically for the job - a rattle, assembled by the forge god Hephaestus himself, specifically to scare off these very birds.
Like a really buff jester, Herakles brandishes the rattle (which we may imagine being cast from red iron and covered in spikes and chains), and... just shakes it at the birds. They wheel in panic and fly away, never to be seen again. Seriously, that's all that happened.
Sorry, went a bit 3rd person there. Anyway, that was coffee #10 & labour #6, which are honestly both the dullest of the lot. I give the coffee 5/10. As for the birds, it's worth noting they show up again in the story of the Argonauts, in an early example of a crossover episode.
But there's no time to stop now. This ends today.
Ah shit. I was wondering when this would show its face. See, unlike many people, I really despise hazelnuts. But at this point, does it matter? It's the difference between being hit in the face with a hammer with a flower engraved on it, and one with a butt drawn on in crayon.
The answer is: yes it does matter. The SMELL of this stuff. There's hazelnuts, yes, but also something petrochemical. It's like a sack of potato peelings smeared in expired nutella, discovered at the back of the car deck on a cross channel ferry. Guess I'd better drink it.
Of course, I always knew what labour this coffee would correspond to: #5, the Augean Stables. Intended as a humiliation rather than a feat of strength, this challenge saw Herc tasked with tidying up a stable complex where 1,000 cattle had been shitting with abandon for 30 years.
I mean, I would try to cobble together an outrageous simile for how much this coffee displeased me, but it's right there in the description: a third of a century's worth of bullshit. Which, now I come to think about it, is also a fair description of my life. Sobering.
But much like Herc, when faced with this harrowing job, I took the smartest route to success - cheating. Just as he diverted mighty rivers to rinse the squalor, so too did I call on a force of nature: @Glitter_brawl, who loves hazelnuts, and who declared the drink "quite nice".
So, with the last of the hazelnut coffee palmed off, I am left with just one last challenge. Just one mug left to drink; one story left to tell. But readers, there is a twist in the ending of this tale.
You know when you think you've beaten the final boss in a game, but then it comes back in a new form with a whole new set of attacks? Yeah, that. CINNAMON HAZELNUT.
What does this coffee smell like? It smells of war, and burning orchards. It smells of beast-slaver and swamp fumes; of the crash of oars in the wine-dark sea. It is sweat and iron, arterial spillage on sun-baked rock. It is penance, and it is victory. It smells bloody awful.
For his final labour, Hercules embarked on a katabasis - a journey into the darkness of the underworld. Before he did so, he was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, a set of ancient rites derived from the abduction of Persephone by Hades, and her eventual return to light.
Having received these holy visions, Hercules walked into the dark, with the gods Athena and Hermes themselves as his guides. He was tasked with capturing the tricephalic hound Cerberus, which Hades permitted him to do - so long as he could subdue the beast with his bare hands.
Now, I don't have a three-headed hound at home, but I do know of a fierce beast which I reckon I could possibly capture if I can channel the strength of the son of Zeus...
Job done. Coffee wasn't even that bad - probably a 4/10. My labours are complete.
And so ends the tale. When Herc returned Cerberus to King Eurystheus, the guy shat a brick, and agreed to release him from liability for any further labours, if he would only take the hound back to the underworld. And so it was that Hercules scared a man with a dog, and was free.
I am now free too, and will celebrate this with an incredibly ordinary tea. Hope you all enjoyed yourselves and managed to learn something about both shit flavoured coffee, and nihilistic bronze age strongmen xx

PS, if you enjoyed this story, you might like to know that I write books too. Here are two which you might enjoy:……)
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