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.


Shrinky said...

I'm not much of a coffee drinker (unless it's Irish) but I could happily be hooked up to an intravenus drip for my tea. Mornings, I need at least two pots before I can function. But I'm weird, I don't even like chocolate (smile).

Daryl E said...

I am a real coffee lover/drinker... Husband only drinks Maxwell House Instant .. what a joke.

I am in love with FreshDirect's Sinful Blend, I buy the beans and grind enough for a few pots at a time. I only started this a few months ago .. I was stopping at Starbucks twice a day until I realized I was spending nearly $70 a week on coffee .. INSANE .. so now I spend $8 every 2 weeks for a pound of coffee and make it myself. What I should do now is take that $62 and put it in a savings account ..

kelly ann said...

I have always consider myself a coffee snob. So your post made me laugh. Though Starbucks is not bad there are a lot of places better. And here in Portland there is a place called Stump Town coffee that sells pounds of coffee for as much as $45.00!! no I do not buy that mine goes for about $9.00. Drink On!

Jennifer H said...

I depend on my coffee, too. I really like the Seattle's Best brand, but every day after I drop the kids at school, I go through the drive-thru at Starbucks for my venti nonfat latte with sugar-free hazelnut and 3 Splenda.

Momma said...

Shrinky - I was into tea for awhile, but never as much so as those of you on the other side of the pond. I do enjoy a Darjeeling now and then, though.

Daryl E - I know all about the hit to the wallet for those lattes. I try to not do that every single day, but it's difficult. Coffee time and taking the dogs for a walk are the two times of day my husband and I get to just chat and relax. Hard to give that up.

Kelly Ann - There were some really good roasters in the Raleigh/Durham area of NC that I bought from. There is a place in downtown Frederick here, too, that I've yet to try. Starbucks is so doggone convenient! And $45 a pound? Gulp! I might have to try a cup of that, but the per-pound cost is too rich for my blood!

Jennifer - You know what? Starbucks bought Seattle's Best last year. So whereas they used to be rivals (and I happen to agree with you that Seattle's Best is ... well... BEST) they are under the same company now. The lattes are an expensive habit, as Daryl pointed out, but oh so GOOD!


Not Afraid to Use It said...

I was CMGD's coffee mule when we were in Tahoe. They have a blend there specific to the lake.

I have been dismayed to learn that there are no drive-thru Starbucks in NewTown. None. I guess it is better for my budget because when I have two crabby kids in tow I just cannot muster the strength to get them out of the car. That being said, I would probably be a much nicer driver if I could have my caffeine fix. :)

CrazyCath said...

Coffee is my treat to myself. Too much and I'm ill. Too much caffeine. I prefer the caffeinated variety. But I love my tea - I need tea in a morning, tea when I'm thirsty, tea when I need warming up and coffee when I need cheering up or a treat!

You write this really well - "percolated in the body of knowledge" - good play on words.

And I love the picture at the end. That's me after only 3 coffees! Never been to Starbucks... :(