Coffee (an OFP)

This is the first in a possible series of OFPs, truly random posts related to life changes in later years. I won’t offer the expansion of the initialism just yet, but “get offa my lawn” might enter in…

The Early Days

My credentials as a Proper Northern California Coffee Drinker are pretty solid. I started buying coffee beans at Peet’s original Vine Street store (Berkeley) shortly after it opened in 1966–it wasn’t that far away from my Northside residence. One grinder, one Melitta porcelain cone, filters, and shazam: “pour over coffee.”

(I also drank a lot of coffee at Caffe Espresso just across from the north edge of the UC campus; I believe the place is gone. My introduction to Ronald Reagan’s regard for free speech and assembly came when I was on my way down to have some coffee and faced lots of people coming my way, then realized why: cops with batons held firmly between hands were shoving us along as martial law was declared. But that’s another story…)

I don’t believe I ever cared for Starbuck’s, which seemed like a Peet’s wannabe. I probably purchased Peet’s beans for 20 years or more… I even had my own blend (not on Peet’s menu; I purchased half-pound bags of different beans to make it).

The Middle Years

When we got married, we had two coffee grinders and two Melitta cones and carafes. And purchased our beans at Peet’s.

Later, though, I learned to like Kona coffee–except Peet’s (and knew that Peet’s denigrated Kona as being too weak). Finally figured out that I really wasn’t wild about what seemed like over-roasted coffee. Started buying beans elsewhere. Kona got to be too expensive and pure Kona too hard to find, and moved on to a range of coffees.

Much more recently–a few years ago–I moved from beans to ground coffee; not that I couldn’t detect a difference, but that the difference didn’t matter to me. (My wife mostly gave up coffee because it started giving her problems.) I usually purchased one of a group of good-quality ground coffees, either Costa Rica or Colombia or Tanzania Peaberry or possibly a Kauai coffee, always medium-roast, the way I liked it.

When I say “coffee” I mean black coffee, for what that’s worth.

Recently

For years, I had one cup of coffee with breakfast, and that was it–except when dining out or on a cruise.

More recently, I wanted a second cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up. But for that, I didn’t feel like the whole pour-over route. I tried some instant coffees and found them acceptable as an alternative hot caffeinated beverage, not really coffee but OK.

And then…

Trader Joe’s 100% Colombian Instant Coffee. The only instant I’ve seen that’s from a single country rather than the usual “wherever we can get beans the cheapest” laundry list on instant-coffee labels. The label also claims that it tastes amazingly close to freshly brewed coffee. It’s not wildly expensive ($3.99 for a 3.5-oz. jar).

As an afternoon coffee it was great–much, much better than any instant I’d had before. It was, well, coffee.

Then one morning I didn’t feel like doing the pour-over ritual and instead made a cup of TJ’s. And liked it a lot–not as a coffee substitute but as coffee. I went back and forth between ground & this, and have now pretty much settled on the TJ. (I suspect I would be able to tell the difference between it and pour-over Colombian, if I could somehow make both to the same strength, but I doubt that I would care. I might try it some day: there’s 50+ filters sitting in the cupboard…)

Oh, when my wife does have half a cup of coffee, she likes the TJ’s instant just fine.

The bottle suggests a heaping teaspoon for a reasonably strong cup. I suspect if you’re a dark-roast devotee, that’s probably right. I use a scant teaspoon–actually about two-thirds in an 8oz. mug–which makes a good medium-body cup.

Conclusions?

If you love the coffee you drink, I wouldn’t suggest changing it for a minute.

But for some of you, this might be an interesting alternative. (I’ve noticed that some TJ cashiers make a point of saying how good the 100% Colombian Instant is, and they rarely talk up products.)

Or maybe I’m just getting old and my taste buds are shot. I can live with that.

Keurig? Not gonna happen…not in this household.

The next OFP, if and when it happens, will be very different–about audio and some surprises.

 

 

 

One Response to “Coffee (an OFP)”

  1. Walt Crawford says:

    [From Simon P J Batterbury via email]:

    I was 8 years in the US drinking coffee that looked like it had sat in one of those glass flasks under a percolator for hours. Pretty nasty for the most part. Then 13 years spent in Australia, during which we only drank expresso machine coffee. Melbourne was colonized by Italians after WWII and they, before and after that date, are largely responsible for the wine industry and coffee houses – the first imports of the machines were from Italy. In the inner city, there are coffee places everywhere. people are extremely fussy. Even Europeans are impressed. Now I live in a small town in the UK, Lancaster, and there is an equivalent place in this rather unlikely venue for ‘proper’ coffee.

    I run and OA journal and we published a paper on fair trade coffee in the US – Peets gets an important mention and aparently Starbucks stole a key employee from them http://jpe.library.arizona.edu/volume_20/Bacon.pdf

    “The roots of the specialty coffee revolution in California and the US.
    In a related series of events, Northern California became an epicenter for the birth and growth of the specialty coffee industry, including pioneer specialty coffee roasters like Peets Coffee in Berkeley, and Thanksgiving Coffee in Fort Bragg. This industry was small throughout the 1980s before the rapid
    Expansion of Starbucks and Peets Coffee brought it into the mainstream by the late 1990s. In fact, Starbucks’ first roastmaster was hired away from Peet’s coffee. The San Francisco Bay Area was an important node for both the specialty coffee industry and the Central American Peace and Solidarity Movement (CAPSM). Many international solidarity delegations, led by organizations like Witness for Peace, traveled to Nicaragua, and picked coffee in war zones (Burbach 2009). These experiences changed the perspectives and awakened the Bacon Fair Trade coffee networks political consciousness among thousands of people that later returned to their Western countries to become academics, business leaders and politicians. They often returned home with several bags of terrible tasting
    coffee (product quality was not an issue among those interested in politics at the time) and attempted to sell solidarity-based coffee to their friends, church congregations, and political allies. Others would go on to build businesses and certification agencies (e.g. Paul Rice, CEO of TransFair USA).
    Some people, like Paul Katzeff, would dramatically influence the structure of the coffee industry. Originally from New York, Paul Katzeff is a self-described 1960s radical who claims to have once run Hunter S. Thompson’s campaign for Sheriff in Aspen, Colorado, before moving to Northern California to
    found one of the earlier artisan coffee roasting companies in 1972. Katzeff’s life and work tell the story that connects the Central American Peace and Solidarity Movement with sustainability innovations, and Fair Trade coffee more than anybody else. After studying agronomy at Cornell University and later employment as a social worker, he returned to New York City to work in his father’s grocery store. He also became active in tenant housing organizing efforts. The combination of a broken heart, Beatnik poets and the ocean were enough to inspire Katzeff’s continued Westward migration. He eventually moved to Mendocino, California, co-founded Thanksgiving Coffee Company (TCC) with Joan Katzeff and spent plenty of time in the Bay Area. “

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