What Constitutes Good Coffee?
I recently attended a local art gallery opening. They had the usual hodge-podge of food: a few dips here and there, some healthy stuff to quiet the health freaks, and of course, COFFEE. I watched as everyone hovered around the coffee bar, one guy nervously spilling it all over the counter top. I approached the bar, poured a little coffee for myself, and waited for it to cool down. When I finally got the chance to drink some, the only thought in my mind was that it tasted like brewed cardboard water. Everyone else was seemingly enjoying it, constantly revisiting the coffee bar for a warm up.
I pretended to sip on so as not to “be rude,” and as my eyes wandered the room, I caught a glimpse of a woman in a gold party dress that was over-adorned with sequins and glitter – way too much for her petite frame. At that moment, I thought to myself: “Is this what coffee has become? Over-adorned with a mess of ‘stuff’ we think looks good, but actually tarnishes the beauty of what’s underneath?”
This brought me to a question, which has been toiled over for years: What constitutes good coffee? Is it good for only satisfying our morning jolt? Or is it only good for awakening us to break us from the afternoon’s robotic work patterns?
We yearn for good food, to be cultured, artistic, entertained, and to be “in the know…” But has our taste for good coffee fallen by the wayside? Why do we even drink it? To socialize with friends? To talk about how many espresso shots we had stuffed into one drink (that ended up giving us the JITTERZ for the next two days straight)?
Or is it only good by a coffee connoisseur’s suggestive dialogue? Terminology and recommendations forced upon us, and we – like human nature – rebel and do exactly what we want anyway, too afraid to try something new.
Coffee doesn’t have to be crammed with unnatural flavor for it to be enjoyed; and it doesn’t have to be sans milk and sugar or “under-brewed” either. But shouldn’t it have its own character and elegant flavor, not something we’ve forced it to be? Example – Ethiopia: Naturally sweet coffee, it can have honeyed tastes, chocolate undertones, and may even be loaded with berries. Sometimes I take it black, sometimes with a little sugar. Example – Café au lait: historically prepared with steamed milk, mostly tastes like toasted nuts, the coffee most likely from Brazil or Nicaragua, somewhere conducive of a great espresso blend.
We are feel good people and some brands of coffee know how to tap into that human element. SBUX… As people, we have always demanded better coffee, but without knowing the true element of “better coffee,” it was defined for us and excited us enough to buy fancy machines and syrups, host parties, collect art, all in good efforts to make it good just like SBUX taught us. Coffee can still induce good friendships, family, conversations, fun… The cup itself can truly be a lively experience that complements our relationships, conversations and friends, but it doesn’t have to be completely empty or over-adorned with postiche beauty.
And while Starbucks isn’t exactly the devil, we as consumers have managed to demand a beautifully wrapped package. Some “uber cool” coffee shops have answered the call and have assessed our aesthetic needs by dazzling us with tasty syrups and whipped cream. We’ve allowed ourselves to become drawn to the package without appreciating the beauty of the cup underneath all the wrapping…
BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL…