The Great Coffee Debate
I was having dinner at Eos last night with five friends, all of whom I admire for their taste and intelligence. One of them mentioned that a barista at Ritual Coffee Roasters (ritualcoffeeroasters.com) had been quite unhelpful as my friend struggled to find the correct lingo for a cappuccino (known as a “short single cap” at Ritual, pictured below in a photo taken by our photo editor, Stefanie Michejda).
“That is taking coffee way too seriously,” I said.
“I disagree,” said the most sophisticated and knowledgeable person at the table. “Now that I’ve become used to Blue Bottle coffee (bluebottlecoffee.net), I can’t drink anything else. Why would I?”
On one level, her logic is understandable. If the best is available, why not choose it? On the other hand, if you’re capable of enjoying only the best, then your range of pleasure has narrowed considerably, and, I would argue, dangerously. Yes, coffee from Ritual or Blue Bottle is the most delicious in town—I drink it several times a week. But there’s also pleasure in a cup of Peet’s (peetscoffee.com), Martha’s (marthabros.com), Starbucks (starbucks.com) and … are you sitting down? … Folgers (folgers.com). Hear me out. Folgers might suck compared to Ritual, but it doesn’t suck compared to waking up on a Saturday morning foggy and tired. Then, when you scoop out some ground-up, raggedy-ass robusta beans into your white plastic Mr. Coffee, and get a whiff as the first blast of hot water hits them—I classify that as pleasure.
I’ll go back to the sex analogy. If you need Ritual every morning, it’s like needing a five-star candlelit hotel room with Marvin Gaye on the iPod and George Clooney naked in order to have an orgasm. While that would be thrilling, there is nothing at all wrong with a quickie in a drafty studio apartment before rushing off to work. And with every range of experience in between.
And that’s how food—and coffee—is. Good. Simple. All of it.
(For another perspective on the Bay Area coffee scene, check out Sara Deseran's recent feature, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.)