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Coffee Obsessed: The Ritual of Cupping

This is what amazes me about San Francisco: The fact that when I meet people for the first time, more often than not they know more about food or drink than I do. On the food obsession radar, it turns out, I score shockingly low. One of my neighbors regularly helps his friend to throw 12 person, nine-course meals. Another of my friends hunts for morels and has made his own cheese. Another one hauled a sate grill back from Thailand in his suitcase.

Such is the case with technology writer Mat Honan, a contributing editor for Wired. I commissioned Mat to write a story on Foursquare for us at 7x7. (Click to see him in a ridiculous mayoral getup that he gamely sported.) When we first met in person to hash out a plan for the piece (over—mon dieu!—Peet's coffee), the conversation kept veering back to the bean, of which he knows a hell of a lot about. Here's some proof from an article he recently wrote for The Bold Italic about the process of "cupping" at Ritual Roasters—the only place, barring Mexico, I know of that houses so many mustaches.

I present to you some key quotes:

"In 2003, while a barista at the Blue Bottle kiosk on Linden, he created an espresso drink called the Gibraltar, a mix of espresso and frothed milk, served slightly cool in its eponymous Gibraltar glass. Ford has largely disowned the drink (he refused to even talk about it with me) and yet it has developed a cult following around the world." [I love how seriously coffee is taken that the origin of the Gibraltar can't even be discussed. Scandal. There should be an US Weekly for coffee.]

"But when you hear coffee people talk, they often sound like wine snobs. You'll hear about grace notes of boysenberry and vanilla finishes. Um. I don't have that kind of vocabulary. I just like stuff that tastes good." [Oh, common Matt. This isn't true.]

"Quite honestly, I didn't pay enough attention in chemistry class to get this, nor do I typically care to drink decaf coffee. I want to get high."

"Coffee is an agricultural product, just like avocados or kale or Sarah Palin's brain." [This is my favorite quote, even though I'm not sure I understand it completely. Maybe Matt was high.]

"Despite my skepticism, I was definitely picking up on particular odors. They weren't just earthy, or fruity. I was getting citrus and vanilla, and, by God, was that a grace note of boysenberry?"

"And, really, that's the bottom line for experiencing coffee on any level. It isn't about doing it right, or being trendy, or having the latest equipment and best beans. (Oh, but I do!)"

Oh, but he does. Check out the above photo.