Promising news for anyone who takes the gamble of ordering prepared coffee in restaurants: the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has recently announced a partnership with Durham, NC’s Counter Culture Coffee to develop a coffee curriculum: newsobserver.com | Coffee partnership forms. (Press release from last week.)

Unlike the closer-to-home CCA (California Culinary Academy) — which has made overtures to become the “Draw Tippy the Turtle” of cooking schools by reportedly whoring itself out to every Food TV watcher/wannabe chef with a checking account — the CIA is held in the highest esteem among America’s top culinary pros. We still feel that many notable chefs suffer a kind of hubris: that demonstrating a mastery in cuisine naturally confers an equivalent expertise with anything put into your mouth (i.e., coffee — let’s keep it clean here, folks!). The fact that the CIA is giving it serious treatment is a real step forward given how far coffee quality standards at restaurants have to improve.

Now we’ve expressed our ambivalence over some of Counter Culture’s Fair-Trade-club-to-the-head marketing, even if their heart is in the right place. (And the next simpleton who says that an argument against Fair Trade is an argument for poverty should be clubbed in the head.) We have even questioned their habit of shoehorning “coffee cupping” into some perverse wine-tasting proxy; even Peet’s has the sense to offer “Comparative Tastings” instead. But by all accounts, they sure do know their beans. Unfortunately they didn’t exist when I lived in Durham briefly back in 1991. (Time to hit my Linden Terrace crew up on my ghettro for a kilo, yo.)