Friday, April 18, 2008
Good to the Last Drop
I grew up on Folger's coffee, first pouring it into a saucer from my father's cup and sipping it or dunking my toast into it while I sat on his lap during breakfast. I always liked it light and sweet, as did everyone else in my family; two spoons of sugar and creamer. Mmmm.
When I grew up, I decided to rebel and start buying Maxwell House. Okay, you can stop laughing now! Honestly, I can't really tell the difference, but I wanted to try things my parents didn't. I was pretty fond of Maxwell House. Good to the last drop, indeed.
No doctor has ever been able to talk me out of drinking coffee, the hypocrites! Coffee is a part of our culture. Not even just American culture but human culture. Coffee wakes us up, provides the backdrop for a chat with friends, calms us, warms us, and reassures us that we are still alive.
A couple of years ago, my son took a job at Starbucks, the giant of coffee culture in America. My daughter worked for Starbucks briefly when she was younger, but my son became steeped in the culture, percolated in the body of knowledge. For quite a while, he was so happy with his job that he practically skipped out the door to his car (if you can imagine a 6'5" 240-ish kid skipping!).
Part of the benefits he enjoyed included a weekly "check-out" of a pound of coffee. He brought home all manner of decaf for his dad and regular for me: Brazil, Sumatra, Komodo Dragon, and so on. We tried most every blend they had, particularly enjoying the new ones that were introduced now and then. Sometimes I had to ask him not to bring home a pound that week, because we didn't go through them fast enough. (He told me that this was because I didn't use enough coffee when I brewed it...but I tend to like it on the milder side).
A month ago, he wrapped up his job at Starbucks and went to work for a start-up tech company as a software tester. It's really up his alley, and he's very happy. Back to skipping again ;-) But I certainly do miss my free coffee. Not only do I pay full-price for my lattes now, but I also have to buy my roast coffee myself.
Aside from gasoline (which isn't really a luxury), coffee is one of the most expensive things I buy. I popped in to Starbucks the other day to get some more roast coffee and decided to try the Pike's Place blend (named after their first location in the Pike's Market area of downtown Seattle where we actually drank coffee when we lived there in 1993-4). I had been looking at the organic Latin blend, but my jaw dropped when I saw the price: $13.95 a pound!!! So I opted to try a half-pound of the Pike's for $5.45. It's pretty good, but I don't think it's my favorite.
Each of these coffees from Starbucks is unique. Unless you are tasting them side-by-side, it's hard to tell the difference, but the baristas are trained (like wine enthusiasts) to detect and describe the unique qualities of a good coffee. One thing I learned from my son is that the "Bold" coffees have a lower caffeine content than the "Mild" coffees. None of the coffees is a Maxwell House or Folger's. The bite of the coffee is stronger and richer, and the bite in the wallet is even more significant.
Coffee is important to me. It plays a huge role in my life, a life in which I'm allowed so few vices. I suppose paying a premium price for good coffee is a small thing compared to what it gives me back. Sorry, Maxwell House. Sorry, Folger's. I think I'm going to have to stick with the queen of coffee for keeping my cupboard stocked. Maybe it will hold up its end of the bargain and will actually help me wake up today. I have a busy one on the agenda, but with the help of my delicious, tawny liquid, I think I'll be able to accomplish the things I need to do.