Four years ago we posted about our disappointment over high-end restaurants that offered plenty of options for tea but only one for coffee. It’s as if these celebrated houses of distinguished taste decided that coffee had all the nuance and variety of unleaded gasoline — and it showed in the product they served. And when we are buying unleaded gasoline, we at least get the typical options of regular, plus, premium, and/or ultra. So establishments known for their shotgun-wielding maître d’s and their counter displays of beef jerky actually beat out our nation’s finest restaurants in this regard.
Fast forward to today, and our finest restaurants have evolved little. However, this week we did have an experience that suggested at least some improvements are coming from retail coffeeshops. While seeking out some roasted beans at the Blue Bottle Cafe to share for pour-over this weekend, their Ethiopian Amaro Gayo caught my eye enough to purchase a half pound. Their response to my purchase request: “Washed or natural?”
Washed or natural!? What delightful music to this coffee lover’s ears. Now there will be those inevitable coffee consumers who will react to such a question with we-all-drank-Maxwell-House-in-my-day-and-that-was-good-enough-for-us uppity disdain. Not unlike the way some have made a hobby out of ranting over drink sizes named grande or venti — or being asked whether they liked a dry or wet cappuccino. But I was pleasantly surprised with the option to purchase essentially the same coffee with two different forms of processing (prior to roasting).
Which isn’t to suggest that there aren’t reasonable limits to the amount of preciousness we pour into our coffees. Reading the descriptors on Blue Bottle Coffee Web site (washed, natural), we can’t be sure whether we’re buying coffee or hallucinogens that provide us with a gateway to Total Recall. Reading the coffee’s descriptors from NY’s Gimme! Coffee (washed, sun-dried/natural) or Denver’s Novo Coffee (washed, sun-dried/natural), we get the impression that gender politics must taste better than the coffee itself.
Even with all that over-earnest prose, we’ll take the lump sum as an improvement.
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