On the continuing theme of New Yorkers being years behind on their coffee trends, yesterday the New York Times published an article on the improving quality of decaffeinated coffees: New Breed of Brewers of No Buzz – NYTimes.com. It is a slightly updated and expanded version of an L.A. Times piece we wrote about in November 2006: Demand is growing for rich decaf coffee. Of particular relevance here is the article’s emphasis on Bay Area roasters.
Caffeine is clearly a drug, as it makes people say and do stupid things. We don’t just mean all the people who give up caffeine “cold turkey” and, like Born Again preachers, feel obligated to tell everyone how much better their life is and how they too should forgo their sinful caffeinated ways.
In fact, most of the stupid things said about coffee usually have something to do with caffeine. But while we never understood the point of a vegetarian restaurant that fashioned non-meat to look and taste like chicken, consumers who don’t get the point of decaffeinated coffee always struck us as fake coffee lovers.
The article quotes Peter Giuliano of Counter Culture Coffee as saying, “Those guys are the true believers. They’re not drinking coffee because they need to wake up. They’re only drinking coffee because they like the taste.” Last summer, this sentiment was echoed by Starbucks co-founder Jerry Baldwin in The Atlantic: In Defense of Decaf – Food – The Atlantic. Decaf coffee drinkers may be much maligned and considered traitors to their kind, but we’ve always considered them among the beverage’s truest fans.
The one main drawback to decaf for us, however, has always been flavor. The sub-optimal sourcing of beans and the effects of the decaffeination process aside, caffeine does play a direct role in flavor enhancement. The nation’s chocolate cake mix manufacturers — who rank among some of the biggest purchasers of purified caffeine in the world — learned this lesson many decades ago.
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