We’ve ranted against the Medical Infotainment industrial complex more than enough times here on this blog. You know the weekly stream of pop medical news headlines: alternating manic depressive cycles of “coffee kills”, then “coffee gives you immortality”, then lather, rinse, repeat. Billions of dollars wasted on decades of coffee medical research, and all we have to show for it is a see-saw of paranoid news bites and the sneaking suspicion that, after a millenium of epidemiological evidence, coffee really doesn’t matter to your health.
This week we witnessed media coverage of a New England Journal of Medicine study that suggested a “lower risk of death for coffee lovers.” Misleading false conclusions aside, no sooner did this news fill media columns and airtime than we were bombarded by press releases emailed from Big Coffee — with various purveyors citing this study as a rationale to sell more of their product.
In other words: drink our coffee, or you will die. Call it ultimatum marketing.
When did coffee become so horrible that its consumption had to be driven by death threats? Instead of appealing to a sensory enjoyment of coffee, we’ve reduced it to the utility (and sexiness) of cod liver oil. Rather than treat coffee as a reward, it is now a self-inflicted punishment. Do these coffee companies really want customers who think, “I don’t like coffee and would never drink it before, but since I don’t want to die…”
Meanwhile, the wine industry can only look on in wonder at just how badly the coffee industry can screw itself over.
Now is that rare time of year where being way out in the Avenues doesn’t feel like being a political prisoner living in exile. For a few weeks out of the year — before the blanket of cold fog transforms the western half of San Francisco into nature’s largest refrigerator — tourists and locals alike experience a brief hallucination where places like SF’s Richmond District seem like attractive, undervalued beachfront property.
Just above the ruins of the old Sutro Baths, the recently opened Lands End Lookout may serve the always-frightful Peerless Coffee in its mini café. But don’t let this neighborhood’s lack of Third Wave self-congratulation get your coffee taste buds down. Even if a bit of the Old West still seems alive here, it boasts some interesting — if not also eclectic — coffee bars.
Take Simple Pleasures Cafe. Its name might suggest a sex toy store if it were in some SF neighborhood a few miles East. Here it is a coffeehouse that claims to be the oldest in the Richmond District, in operation since 1978. Two doors down is their roasting facilities. It’s a social place that serves as an active community center. On these rare fair-weather days, the sidewalk out front can be populated with many of the eclectic local characters conversing on café tables and chairs.
Inside they have the typical colored chalkboard menus that characterized SF cafes in the 1980s. Seating is among big wooden tables in front on numerous odd chairs in back. They offer live music, beer on tap, and espresso shots pulled from a two-group La San Marco machine. The pour is a bit large with a dark to medium brown, healthy crema. Yet the body is robust, with a bold, body-forward flavor of earthiness, chocolate, and tobacco. It’s a flavor profile that practically says, “Screw you and your hipster coffee.” We like that once in a while.
The experience here may feel a bit like you transported yourself to an SF café circa 1987, but that’s not always such a bad thing. Especially when you come to expect a little bit of weird when hanging out near San Francisco’s normally tourist-repellant oceanfront.
Read the review of Simple Pleasures Cafe.