Friday, July 17, 2009

On Coffee

I grew up hating coffee. Couldn't stand even the smell as a child.

When Amanda and I started dating, 2 "bad" habits of hers made me scoff and mock: smoking and coffee. She eventually stopped smoking, but her need for caffeine was set.

After we graduated from college, I took a 37-day trip across Western Europe. I was all of two days into my trip, sitting in a brasserie in Paris, when it occurred to me that I was denying myself a quintessential element of the Parisian lifestyle. So I ordered an espresso and drank it black. I loved it. Why hadn't anybody told me the stuff was actually good?

So for 35 days of my European adventure, I drank espresso or coffee. I kept this a secret from Amanda until one night of drinking at Avalon. She ordered a cup of coffee, and before she could muck it all up with cream & sugar, I grabbed the cup and took a sip. I had never before (and frankly never again) seen THAT expression on her face. She looked like I'd just pulled back the mask to reveal my secret lizard identity. It was priceless.

A few months later, we moved in together. She started buying coffee, or at least what the supermarkets at the time were calling coffee: Folger's. Ok, that's not coffee. But it was cheap and it got the job done. For the first time, I found myself adding milk & sugar to mask the taste. So we drank that for about a year, and one day I simply sprung for a bag of some better coffee (I don't recall what brand), and was blown away at the difference. I refused to go back to the $3 cans, and Amanda refused to pay for $6 bags. So I made my own independent grocery trips just for coffee.

Then one month after we were married I started hating coffee again. It just tasted horrible. I continued to endure it for a month before I bothered to realize why: the milk had gone quite rancid. And yet we were both drinking it. Ew. So I stopped putting milk & sugar in my coffee and became an instant coffee snob.

I drink my coffee black, and I like to try exciting new flavors. We did cold-brew. We tried burr-grinding. A couple of years ago I started hearing about pure kona. I bought a $25 bag and was astounded at how much different it tasted (it wasn't acrid at all: totally smooth), and frankly had a hard time going back to Starbuck's bags.

So that's the back-story. A year or so I read the story of the Starbuck's CEO's trip to New York. The one where he learned about Clover coffee makers. Apparently there was a local coffee shop with a line out the door. Intrigued, he got in line and had what he considered to be the best cup of coffee in his life. So Starbuck's bought Clover and began deploying what few Clover machines there are into their own stores.

Richmond has a Clover. It's not at Starbuck's: it's at Ellwood Thompson. I've put off trying it for two reasons: 1) I was not too jazzed about paying $4 for a single cup of coffee, and 2) what if it wasn't good?

Well, yesterday I decided to try it. Though the first few sips were quite intriguing, I quickly realized that I didn't like it. Was it the specific brew? I'd never had Ethiopian Yergacheffe, but somehow there was an undertone that tended more toward the brewing process. I managed to finish 75% of the cup before realizing there was heavy sediment at the bottom, which is a big turn-off for me, and one of the reasons I can't deal with permanent metal filters.

So there you have it: I don't like the fabled Clover coffee. Which is a good thing, because I don't think my budget can handle an additional $20/week habit.

And no, I will not be traveling to SE Asia to try civet coffee. I have to draw the line somewhere.


Anitra said...

Though not a coffee snob, Tripp LOVES good coffee. (I, on the other hand, can't stand it at all) For Christmas 2 years ago I got him so pure Jamaica Blue Mountain. He said it was amazing. From here - - just in case you needed to know =)

ahamos said...

Thanks, Anitra. I've done a couple of bags of Blue Mountain. Quite good, and probably the closest good thing to yesterday's bad experience. That sounds funny, but I did like the JBM quite a bit more than the Clover.

Nicole said...

I'm happy to find a fellow coffee drinker who refuses to ruin the excellent taste with cream and sugar and all that jazz. Black and strong for me, please. For "takeout" coffee, nobody here in Philadelphia can beat Wawa.

P.S. - Like you, I started drinking it later - I think my habit began at 25 or so.

ahamos said...

Nicole- Yes! Wawa coffee got us through countless nights of house-painting, and theirs is the only flavored coffee I can drink. Mmm, Wawa...