Too hot. Too cold. Not enough foam. Too much foam. The coffee is bitter.
Yes, I admit, I have become a coffee snob. Many, many moons ago when I moved to the US, Starbucks was the best coffee ever to me. Or at least very close; nothing could, even back then, beat Italian cappuccinos and French espressos. And small Parisian cafés have always been the one and only place to get properly made Café au lait.
Then came along Tully’s, Peet’s, and Seattle’s Best, latter becoming Starbucks’ subsidiary over a decade ago. But all chains. Over the years, Starbucks has become my overpriced emergency coffee provider. You know, those late evenings when you arrive to a new city and the only place open is a Starbucks at the airport, or even worse, a Starbucks at Target or any other large store. But somehow the girl gotta get her caffeine fix.
Earlier this week, I was coming home from a trail run when an instant coffee craving hit me on the highway. It was of course the rush hour so getting into one of the quality coffee shops in Nashville would have meant quite a detour so I chose an easy solution: swing by the Starbucks that has drive-thru. And oh boy, what a disappointment! The coffee tasted so burned. While driving and drinking my coffee from the paper cup, another piece of reality hit me (don’t forget that there is a little treehugger in me). Why on earth do I drink low quality coffee from the paper cup instead of sitting down in a coffee shop, supporting local business and sipping the coffee from a real mug? Why is the life so hectic that I wouldn’t have time to sit down and enjoy the coffee, not to treat it as a consumable? It really is not but drive-thru is kinda convenient sometimes.
Anyways, back to the coffee. Do you know why some coffees have the burned taste? Because coffee beans used are low quality, and by burning them, it is impossible to tell what quality they were originally. Burned beans tastes always burned – even if it is the best of the best bean, or total junk. At the same time the medium roast, high quality coffee has balanced, soft taste, and aftertaste that lasts and stays good, doesn’t “burn” in the mouth. Lower quality coffees often are a little acidic, which why the aftertaste can be pretty yucky.
So, once again, the chain, fast coffee shops have made it to my no-go list, and sit-down coffee culture is back. Maybe, after all these American years, there is still a little European in me, too? And don’t even get me started about teas, at least not today …. one day I will write about my adventures in the world of Darjeelings, Oolongs, and so on.
How about you? Do you care where you get coffee, or drink whatever you can as long as the caffeine content is high?