Earlier this week, the SF Chronicle ran a piece on the escalating coffee wars among area restaurants: What’s New: Restaurants brewing up gourmet blends. With the likes of the SJ Mercury News running front-page stories this week on the coffee war between McDonald’s and Starbucks, hopefully places that sell $18 hamburgers might try to outdo the quality of the coffee sold with $3 Big Macs®. (Though is it really front page “news” if the story is as old as 2006?)
The article cited a growing use of Blue Bottle coffee, which is now served in some 40 area restaurants. Even the French Laundry got a mention for their short-lived Panama Esmeralda coffee program, which was apparently 90% press release and 10% actual product.
But the article also made a regrettable mention of coffee’s greatest and most expensive novelty gag, kopi luwak, at Silks restaurant at the Mandarin Hotel. Kopi luwak is regularly cited in the media and on blogs as a premiere choice among “coffee connoisseurs” — and yet oddly we have not encountered a single one of these people in our lifetimes. That the reporter, Tara Duggan, attributed the digestive processing of this bean to lizards rather than a mammal, the Indonesian civet, we are not at all surprised.
Overall, this story is good news for restaurant coffee. But, as Blue Bottle’s James Freeman suggests at the end of the article, this may not be any better news for restaurant espresso. Hey — if it has to come out of the digestive system of a Salvadoran dishwasher named Alejandro, we’re all for it if it makes a better restaurant espresso.
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