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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

But, I just want a cup of coffee...

I've been trying to remember where this all started - turning everything food related into a reinvented science project...artisan breads, organic milks, private label wines, hand conched chocolates, salt from every sea on the planet, and now, specialty coffee, again.

Food deconstruction is huge in restaurant cooking right now, and certainly, Alton Brown's "Good Eats" and "America's Test Kitchen" have paved the way for home cooks to join in the fun.  But there's something about all this that has finally gotten to me. It happened when I tried to order a cup of coffee.

Coffee was a huge part of the food renaissance/revolution a few years back - Tully's, Peet's, Starbucks, etc...we all traded in our Folger's for a double-half-caf-extra-foamy-latte a while back.  I remember the coffee scenes in Steve Martin's "LA Story" and in "You've Got Mail", making fun of our beverage fetishes.

I just didn't expect it to be happening again, so soon, coffee taken to ANOTHER level, after all, where is the limit or IS there a limit or SHOULD there be a limit?.  How much reinvention of one's favorite beverage can one take in a single lifetime?

This is all about Blue Bottle Coffee...BBC started quietly a couple of years ago, being sold at a few Farmer's Markets.  Not all FM, just a few of them scattered about San Francisco and the East Bay.  Then BBC opened a cafe in SF, and then another and another - but just a few.  When they opened at the SF Ferry Building Market, I finally saw them.  Dozens of 20 something's standing patiently in a line, pecking away at their phones, while they wait for DRIP coffee, yes, I mean good old fashioned coffee filters drip, drip, dripping coffee into a cup...and it takes what seems like FOREVER to get your coffee.

So, BBC roasts their own beans and creates their own blends.  One of their claims to fame is that no bean is sold more than 48 hours after roasting.  After all, who wants 3 day old coffee beans.  Bags are sold in 1/2 pound portions, beans only...and each bean has its very own grind and use instructions.  Apparently, your house will explode if you dare put a bean meant for a french press in your Mr. Coffee. Each bean or blend has been given names that only the people at BBC understand.  The rest of us just go along...

I was given the task of bringing specific beans with me to friends in Marin.  Marin County is one of the wealthiest places on earth, but they are light years behind us poor folks in the East Bay when it comes to food.   BBC does not have a store there - yet.  So, at around 2 pm on Wednesday, I ventured to the heart of BBC, their roaster/cafe headquarters in Oakland.  Only 5 people in line in front of me, okay.  Finally my turn, "I need 2 pounds of 17 Foot Ceiling and 2 pounds Giant Steps, and I'd like to try a cup of Giant Steps".  The coffee doctor behind the counter blinked at me and quietly whispered, "ah, we don't have any more of either of those beans today and we don't make Giant Steps here."  I was taken so by surprise at this news... "well, when will you have these beans?"  "We have them almost every morning, but you have to buy them by 9am - 10 at the latest." I leaned in closer to whisper, "but I have to work in the morning - don't tell anyone - they'll know I am not an animator at Pixar, or a software developer at Apple, and I so love to pretend I belong here."

So sorry, but I'm in a coffee shop and there's no coffee.    Why don't they make Giant Steps?  Because GS needs to made in French Press and alas, they only make drip, drip, drip coffee in Oakland and you can only have what they happen to be dripping that day.  But I didn't get that info until my second visit the next day, when I rescheduled a client so I could be at BBC by 9am. I got the Giant Steps beans, but alas, no 17 Food Ceiling - I had to settle for Hayes Valley Espresso beans instead.  And I felt brave enough to order a decaf latte for myself.

I took a sip, hmmm... this latte is... almost cold.  I took another sip, yep, definitely on the tepid side.  I left the cafe, and then I turned around and went back in to face the coffee doctor.  "Uhmmm.... this latte is rather, ah, lukewarm..."

"Yes, we believe that the beans respond best to milk that is not more than 140 degrees."

"Well, I respond best to hot coffee, so what do we do here?"

He made me another latte, and it was borderline hot, but I decided not to push this any further.    

And, so, you are wondering - how good is this stuff?  Well, damn good actually.  Smooth, not bitter, no coffee aftertaste, I could even drink it without sugar.  I can hardly wait to go back and do it all over again...

1 comment:

  1. WOW, sounds like a 'grinding' experience to me! LOL LOL


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