weee, another one

Sep 5, 2010|

I'm going to "out" the industry as well as coffee snobs who do more harm than good when it comes to bringing the joys of great coffee to people around the globe.

One of the biggest myths around is that coffee connoisseurs only drink the stuff black that is minus cream, sweeteners or, for that matter, any flavor you can mention.

Let me tell you a little story. I was cupping once with someone who's well known in the industry.  He represents upscale coffees from farms where I bet they vacuum the employees to keep dust off the precious coffee plants. I know they carefully cut the weeds rather than use any solvents to clear the fields.

Let's call him Michael. Michael and I were cupping that is, rating various coffee samples. Cupping is the coffee equivalent to taking carpet swatches and testing them in your living room, only instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, the cupper wants wall-to-wall flavor. It is necessary to brew it very consistently and to drink it straight, nothing added, and at several temperatures. (Believe it or not, coffee flavor is most revealing as it cools. Try it yourself some time – take a few sips of some cold coffee.)

Michael and I finished our work (yes, it is considered work) and he made notes as to which coffees were going to be purchased in big lots, then we left to take a break a coffee break. Michael broke out some rolls he'd bought from his favorite French baker that morning, put on some music and brewed a pot of coffee with some of his firm's latest blends featuring a beautiful aged Colombian in the formula. He weighed the beans, ground them in his $1200 commercial grinder and brewed a full pot. You might think we were caffeinated enough, but, most coffee that is cupped is expelled (spit out) so there is little if any caffeine absorbed.

As we sat down to enjoy, Michael just naturally reached into one of those little dorm-room refrigerators and took out some 18% cream. Without skipping a beat, he poured it into his cup to achieve whatever learned degree of lightness to which he's grown accustomed, then scooted it across the table to me. I must have broken out in a smile, because he looked suddenly perplexed and asked if something was wrong.

I guess I didn't expect you to use cream, I said.

Oh, well, we're relaxing, he responded matter-of-factly.

Ah, yes, relaxing. In other words, we're drinking for pleasure.

To some degree, this comes down to the reason why you drink coffee at all. I know there are people who say they drink coffee to stay awake. I've suggested to actors that they drink coffee in a scene in order to give them what's known as "business" to do. Alcoholics drink coffee as a substitute. The list goes on.


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