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Eric: I could use some lattes and abuse, right now.

419.png(From Questionable Content. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... forgive the phrasing... snarkiness!)

It's another full on nuts day. We're doing a firewall switchover, I was here at 10:30 last night, back before seven this morning, I'm sick and under medication and have had too much coffee. And we've had significant issues leading up to 'now,' including wholesale failures and troubles and licensing issues and junk.

I am totally adrenalin based right now, as a result. YAY! I'm also buried so far down I'm being compressed into coal. Blue Coal. The finest Pennsylvania anthracite!

Jeph noted I've had encounters like this, which is very true. The thing is, though, you end up loving it. A terse barista cutting you down to size makes coffee and espresso taste better, I swear. Having her do it in a tank top and tight jeans is better than having a flavor shot. I know people who disagree (apparently, those people prefer smiling baristas -- that's a concept alien to me), but to me, it's a part of the experience. It's like BDSM for your taste buds -- first, you're cut down to size, and then you have good tasting caffeine. And the next day you're back and you're dropping money in the tip jar.

I have to go back to work now. For many, many hours. Pray for me. Pray for Bobo.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 5, 2005 9:51 AM

Comments

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank posted at August 5, 2005 1:26 PM

I want to work at that coffee shop, or even just drink there, and I don't drink coffee.

I loathe the pretension of the Starbucks names.

Comment from: Stan posted at August 5, 2005 1:28 PM

Anything is better than getting a fake smile from an employee drained of real emotion.

re: Vienti etc. I hate that stuff. Especially when it's used inconsistently - some times grande is large, some times it's medium. Or places that have sizes like regular, large, and extra large, no small, and they get all confused if you ask for a medium. The amounts are not magically enhanced by label changes.

when I go to a coffe shop, I just ask for a large no matter what the sign says. If they can't figure it out, there's always another place that can.

And don't get me started on "chai."

Comment from: Lyndon W posted at August 5, 2005 1:49 PM

Chai is served at many great Indian restaurants. All the ones I've been to, anyway. And they have been serving it much longer then starbucks has.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 5, 2005 1:58 PM

See, I don't care about the pretension of Starbucks' names. I'm the cynical sort who finds the only place that serves coffee around me that isn't pretentious about it is Dunkin' Donuts. Seems pretty hypocritical to act pretentious while making fun of how pretentious Starbucks is.

'Course, I generally don't get service industry people acting snippy towards me. Maybe it's how I approach them: I worked in a college dining hall, so I remember well which customers I preferred to deal with.

As for chai... that's what I get when I don't care to taste what I'm drinking. For whatever reason, I'm completely incapable of tasting tea (but yet I can smell it just fine). So all I taste are the odds and ends thrown in with chai, which usually includes just enough pepper that my taste buds shut off completely. When done well, it sure smells good, though.

Comment from: Montykins posted at August 5, 2005 2:13 PM

There are baristas who smile now? When did that happen? Here in Seattle, I'm convinced that baristas get the Bizarro Disneyland training ("Never smile. The customer is not your friend") and part of their first paycheck has to go for a tattoo or facial piercing.

And that's the way it should be.

Comment from: Sam Logan posted at August 5, 2005 2:18 PM

I think that the Starbucks terms are about more than just pretensiousness. It's mental branding; taking a cue from the fast food industry. They create their own lexicon and then force you to use it until it becomes unconcious. Eventually you don't even need to conciously translate your order, because you start thinking in their made-up names. It's like getting a craving for a Big Mac instead of a burger. You can get a large coffee anywhere, but there's only one place where you can get a Venti Mocha Supremo Fuel-injected whatever.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 5, 2005 2:30 PM

I knew Eric was going to snark this, as soon as I saw him mentioned in the comments.

Also, if I remember correctly, in a previous comment thread Eric talked about the reasoning behind the size names. The impression I got was that these names were not invented by Starbucks per say, but slightly adapted.

Personally, I hit Starbucks every morning before work, to the point that a couple of the normal cash register kids know my order before I say it (grande coffee) The reason for going to Starbucks is two fold. First, it is right on my way to work. This means less time for my commute, which means more time for sleep. And every second of sleep counts. The second reason is that Starbucks coffee is light years better then the alternative, which is gas station/convience store coffee. *yuck*

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 5, 2005 2:33 PM

Fear my google powers.

comment thread I mentioned is here

http://www.websnark.com/archives/2005/01/views_of_the_ql.html

Quote from Eric is,

"Back in Seattle, the sizes were "Short," "Tall" and "Grande." Starbucks dropped the Short, made Tall the smallest size, and added "Venti" because it's pretentious."

Comment from: Daemonic posted at August 5, 2005 2:39 PM

What's funny is that the same thing has happened in Canada with Tim Hortons.

Double Double anyone? :D

Comment from: Nat Lanza posted at August 5, 2005 2:42 PM

My barista is a little old Italian guy. I'm pretty sure I don't want to see him in tight jeans and a tank top.

He does make a damn good macchiato, though, and I imagine he'd be a little confused if I asked for a venti anything.

Also: it's a *real* macchiato, not the bizarre Starbucks abomination with caramel vomited all over it.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 5, 2005 2:45 PM

A double-double should only be one thing, and it should be a burger with two patties, two slices of cheese, thousand island dressing, and optional grilled onions.

A double-double is a yearly tradition for me in May. I sometimes wonder if I leave New England just to have one.

And I know I'm in the minority here, but I can't stand the flavor of Starbucks coffee. It tastes like cinders to me. So I would prefer to get the gas station coffee - if I'm going to get something disgusting no matter what, I want to spend as little money as possible on it.

And to be brutally honest, mental branding is just pretentiousness for profit. Which, in a way, is more respectable, because at least there's some material gain for somebody involved.

Comment from: Black Dove posted at August 5, 2005 2:46 PM

Snakes (with spiders)

'nuff said.

-D

Comment from: Stan posted at August 5, 2005 2:48 PM

"And I know I'm in the minority here, but I can't stand the flavor of Starbucks coffee. It tastes like cinders to me."

That's actually the main reason I don't go to Starbucks. It just tastes bitter to me, not much complexity or flavor.

But I like strong coffee and like most other coffee shop coffee.

Comment from: The Weasel King posted at August 5, 2005 3:02 PM

My favourite trick is to find the Starbucks employee with the "Be Patient, I'm New" badge and ask them for a Decapitated Al Pacino.

Comment from: quiller posted at August 5, 2005 3:02 PM

Personally I drink diet soda and tea for my caffeine fixes. I've never been able to stand coffee unless it was a candy or ice cream. I've been in a Starbucks twice, I think. Biscotti and Chai, neither of which was that impressive. It does make me sad to see Spider Robinson discuss perfect Irish Coffees and think that I'd probably hate them, but they sure sound good when he describes them.

So yeah, my opinion is "Coffee, bleah!"

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at August 5, 2005 3:07 PM

Can I just get some spiders, hold the snakes? I'm in a hurry.

Comment from: Michael Nehora posted at August 5, 2005 3:21 PM

Diet Coke and Red Bull are cold. Coffee is piping hot, burning the mouth unless you go "pfoo" five times with every sip.

Diet Coke and Red Bull are ready-to-drink. Coffee has to be brewed by yourself or a barrista. Either way, you have to sweeten it to make it at all palatable.

Advantage: Diet Coke and Red Bull (though not to be consumed at the same time unless you're desperate).

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 5, 2005 3:24 PM

But Diet Coke tastes worse than Starbucks Coffee, black (especially if it's with aspartame). And there are some days when you want something hot (like those famous New England winters which lasted until sometime in April or May this year).

And Dave, how could you want to hold the snakes? Those are the best part. They're high in protein, too.

Comment from: Sean M posted at August 5, 2005 3:32 PM

"Chai is served at many great Indian restaurants. All the ones I've been to, anyway. And they have been serving it much longer then starbucks has."

That's because chai is just the Hindi word for tea. Also, the Swahili word for tea with milk, hence the form of chai we get in Starbucks.

Comment from: Robotech_Master posted at August 5, 2005 3:33 PM

This editorial might be of interest to folks, if they want to sit through the SalonMag day-pass advertisement to get in: Mocchiato Morons, a rant about Starbucks's 22-page instruction manual on how to figure out what size drink to order. There's also some amusing snarkiness at this Everything2 node about it.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 5, 2005 3:54 PM

"And I know I'm in the minority here, but I can't stand the flavor of Starbucks coffee. It tastes like cinders to me. So I would prefer to get the gas station coffee - if I'm going to get something disgusting no matter what, I want to spend as little money as possible on it."

The gas stations around you obviously make better coffee then the ones around here. Typical gas station coffee in the DC area is little more then brown water, with the equivalent amount of caffeine. And while a "perfect" cup of coffee is divine, though rare where ever you go, my main purpose for drinking coffee is caffeine.

I also need to voice my distaste for diet coke. Plus, you forgot that the chances of coffee being discovered to cause cancer, heart problems, or some such ailment, is minimal at best. On the other hand, it is only a matter of time before they find out that the artificial sweeteners in diet coke will kill ya. (says the guy who smokes almost a pack a day)

Oh, and I just need to voice this. I find it highly creepy that Jeph not only grew up about 20 minutes away from where I grew up (he's from Rockville, MD; I'm from Olney) but his birthday is exactly five years after mine, right down to the very same day. That's just freaking weird.

Comment from: lucastds posted at August 5, 2005 3:55 PM

Someone mentioned Tim Horton's without mentioning their Iced Cappuccinos. Mm. Half the price of Starbucks', served with not thought at all as to how hip they are or not, and all the taste that summer needs to be summer.

(In other news:

OOh... I just committed the immoral sin:

QUOTE:

Starbucks'

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 5, 2005 3:58 PM

I just noticed that Dora is smiling during the entire encounter with the customer. I guess she isn't that great of a barrista.

Comment from: Aerin posted at August 5, 2005 4:13 PM

I just ate, and now I want a double-double. A REAL double-double. One of the joys of living in Southern California; there's an In-n-Out every mile or two.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 5, 2005 4:17 PM

Aerin, you think that's bad? I'm sitting in Boston and I want a double-double right now. At least you're in a position to get one. The nearest In-N-Out is at least 2000 miles off (I believe Phoenix, AZ has the one closest to me).

Actually, I'm just expressing my distaste for Starbucks. I don't even know of a gas station in the Boston Metro area that sells coffee (probably because all of the gas stations I know are within three buildings of a Dunkin' Donuts). "Gas station coffee" is mostly a theoretical to me.

And Robotech, thanks for those links. Highly amusing.

Comment from: Bequita posted at August 5, 2005 4:22 PM

"And I know I'm in the minority here, but I can't stand the flavor of Starbucks coffee. It tastes like cinders to me."

Starbucks coffee is cinders, it's no wonder that it tastes like it. They roast it WAY too far past 2nd crack and burn up all the varietal flavors.

There's an independent roaster near my apartment that I go to every Saturday for my weekly supply of coffee, they have the smoothest medium roasted Monsoon Malabar AA that you'll find anywhere.

Now, the coffee in the hospital cafeteria is made from some disgusting sort of coffee gel dissolved in hot water. Just the smell turns my stomach. However they have absolutely divine bread pudding on Fridays, so I guess I can forgive them.

Comment from: jpcardier posted at August 5, 2005 4:23 PM

From Michael Nehora:

"Diet Coke and Red Bull are ready-to-drink. Coffee has to be brewed by yourself or a barrista. Either way, you have to sweeten it to make it at all palatable.

Advantage: Diet Coke and Red Bull (though not to be consumed at the same time unless you're desperate)."

Where do I begin? Start at the top, I suppose:

Brewing coffee is not a black art, though when done correctly black it can be art. It's not hard, though some research will be helpful.

Second, "Either way, you have to sweeten it to make it at all palatable....

The idea that everyone has to sweeten their coffee to drink it is just plain wrong. The idea that any beverage *needs* sweetness to be drinkable is wrong. That thought leads to wine coolers, which as we know from Yoda, leads to the dark side.

There are other flavor receptors than sweet. There are other combos of flavors than sweet. Insisting on sweet in all beverages really does lead to a cheapening of your taste experience. Guinness is wonderful. It is not sweet. Cabernet is wonderful, but not sweet.

What does this have to do with coffee? There are 200-someodd flavors in your average Cabernet or Merlot. There are over 700 in a proper cup of black coffee.

I only drink my coffee black. If I want a froo-froo coffee drink, I will drink it, but it is not coffee. The flavor has been heavily diluted and damaged by additives. It is a froo-froo coffee drink, a different animal in the same genus.

Black coffee does take getting used to. It is not sweet, except perhaps in an aftertaste. The big thing is that people do not understand the difference between Gas station coffee, coffee house coffee, and coffee enthusiast coffee.

Coffee is inherently fragile. Realise that what you are drinking is an infusion, not a dilution or a compound. Coffee beans are actually seeds of the coffee tree "cherries". They have been harvested, dried, pulped, washed and split before coming to the coffee roaster. The roaster applies heat to expand the coffee bean cells, and create the oils that figure majorly in the flavor. You then grind that bean into a powder, flow hot water over it through a strainer and you have coffee.

Needless to say, many things can go wrong at any point. But most of the wrongness happens at the roasting, grinding, brewing and storing stages.

The main thing to remember is that fresh coffee = better coffee. Do not buy preground coffee. It is stale in the package. Do not buy 15 lbs of whole coffee for yourself. It will stale. Do not leave the coffee on the burner after brewing. It will burn. After an hour in a thermos, it is fit only for drinking for caffeine consumption, rather than enjoying the taste.

If possible, buy from a microroaster who can get you the beans within a week of roasting. Alternatively, roast your own. But that is the coffee snob / hobbyist in me.

The coffee I drink at home is incredible. But I can't get that quality at your average coffee house, because they dump their old coffee after several hours. They grind fresh, but use stale beans bought in bulk.

You can do what you wish, but I personally find the idea of giving up the rich taste experiences in fine coffee for Red Bull and Diet Coke distasteful. If you will forgive the pun....

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at August 5, 2005 4:23 PM

Diet Coke? Red Bull? No, no, no.

People drink coffee to wake up in the morning. What do you put in coffee to make it drinkable? Milk, cream and sugar. Sometimes? LOTS of milk and sugar.

So cut out the middleman and take it cold: ice cream is the breakfast of champions. Even in January. In January you just add hot fudge.

I did this in high school--not often, but enough--and by noon I was freakin' wired. It was great.

Comment from: Merus posted at August 5, 2005 4:30 PM

I've never understood the desire for a grouchy female grad student barista. When I think 'barista', for some reason the image that comes into my head is either just regular cafe staff, or a young-to-middle-aged Italian guy who loves what he does and wins discreet but prestigious awards. While I'm sure the grouchy baristas do fine work trying to make people be less pretentious about coffee, it seems odd from the point of view of a person who does their own ridiculing of coffee pretentiousness in a country which is hardly reverant in the first place.

There's plenty of reasons for this image - I'm solidly a tea man, having had only one worthwhile cup of coffee in my life, I've only ever seen one Starbucks in my life, and I've been to the US, and Italians seem to make the best coffee, with the craftsmanship and attention to detail that they put into all their work.

Comment from: Daemonic posted at August 5, 2005 4:32 PM

A double double is not a burger. Stay away from our codewords!!!! :D

(Its double sugar and double cream and has become sort of a Tim Horton's staple for many people -- yes, including mine).

And Ice Caps. Blech. Give me a coffee any day. :)

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 5, 2005 4:35 PM

The iced cappucinos or the frozen frappucinolikes, lucastds? I had one of the latter while Eric and I were making our pilgrimage up to Tim Hortons in June, and was flabbergasted to discover that the blasted things taste like coffee instead of vaguely coffeeish slushies. I was so upset that I couldn't bring them home.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 5, 2005 4:51 PM

"The idea that everyone has to sweeten their coffee to drink it is just plain wrong."

Flash back to college. Girl I knew drank her coffee black. A guy walked up to her, noticed this fact, and deadpaned, 'so you like to drink asphault?' To his credit though, this was cafateria coffee, so it did resemble asphault.

All this chatter has really got me wondering. I'm one of those people that started out on stuff like Folgers and Maxwell House, then Starbucks opened in Olney (our first coffee shop of any kind) and I switched to Starbucks for home brewing.

While I promise to go look up and see if there is a local roaster near me, assuming there isn't, what is a 'good' brand of coffee that I may be able to find at a super market?

*waits for the angry barage from the coffee snobs over this comment to end*

Also, anyone want to point to a good site for research into how to do coffee right?

BTW, for the record, and to redeem myself after the supermarket question, for strong coffee I take it with just enough sugar to take the edge off, but not enough to make it sweet. (I hate sweet coffee) If it is weak coffee (like I'm forced to drink in the office) then I just drink it black. And I never drink either with milk/creme. For some reason putting milk/cream in my coffee produces a warm milk effect that counters the coffee's natural caffiene delivery system. The only time I drink the pansy drinks (mocha, late, whatever) is if it is to late for me to enjoy a proper cup of coffee with out having trouble sleeping.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 5, 2005 4:55 PM

Not that I have all that much experience with the chain, but from what I gather, the In-N-Out double-double has been around at least 20 years. Has Tim Horton's been serving theirs as long? Or is the Canadian chain, in fact, the ones with the linguistic thieves? ;)

I'll have to say, though, Bequita's post has me craving coffee in a way I haven't felt since I graduated high school. There, I knew a real coffee place, that had anything from a boring blend to the richest roasts you could find. And its three sizes were small, medium, and large. And that post took me back there for just a second.

Comment from: Bequita posted at August 5, 2005 4:57 PM

"Diet Coke and Red Bull are ready-to-drink. Coffee has to be brewed by yourself or a barrista. Either way, you have to sweeten it to make it at all palatable."

Untrue. Properly roasted and ground coffee does not require sugar. Sugar in good coffee hides the varietal flavors. In fact, the popularity of excessive sugar and cream is why you can't get good espresso. You can't taste good espresso through all that cream and sugar, so they roast it darker, and brew it stronger - this makes it bitter and unpleasant to drink without the sugar and cream. It's a vicious circle.

Comment from: Lyndon W posted at August 5, 2005 4:58 PM

I hate coffee. Sarsaparilla cordial for me!

Comment from: jjacques posted at August 5, 2005 4:59 PM

I do milk and sugar, in varying amounts depending on mood/how much attention I'm paying while I pour. Basically I try not to take it too seriously- I'm OCD about enough things that I don't need to be about my beverage of choice.

My favorite cup of coffee is always the sludgy one at the bottom of the pot- burned to hell and with little bits of coffee grounds in it. It may taste like crude oil but damn if I don't feel alive while I'm chewin' on it.

Comment from: jjacques posted at August 5, 2005 5:00 PM

Fun Fact: The average QC strip requires 1 pot of coffee to draw. Sometimes a pot and a couple Red Bulls if there's a lot of background work to be done.

Comment from: Bequita posted at August 5, 2005 5:13 PM

Matt, I'm a nice coffee snob, I don't berate people. :-) But you won't find a good grocery store coffee. And here's why.

Roasted coffee beans are only fresh for about a month (and by the end of a month, I think they taste distinctly stale). GROUND coffee stales overnight. Even with specialty coffee in grocery stores - who knows HOW long it's been since it was roasted? You don't. You only know that if you buy from the roaster.

Now, you can buy coffee from some reputable roasters online... but it's expensive. It's much cheaper to buy green coffee beans online and roast them yourself (you can do this in a stovetop popcorn popper) but this is not a good idea for apartments, it's smokey, dangerous, and it's a fire hazard.

Ultimately, the best thing to do is buy from a local roaster. They usually are desparate for business, anyway, so you'd be doing a good deed!

A good journey through learning the art of espresso can be found here:

http://home.surewest.net/frcn/Coffee/Coffee17.html

It's primarily about espresso, but he talks about different ways to make coffee as well, and is generally very informative.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 5, 2005 5:14 PM

I prefer my caffeine cold, carbonated and caramel-colored.

(I like saying that for the alliteration.) (But also cuz it's true.)

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at August 5, 2005 5:29 PM

An In-n-Out opened on the south side of Lansing in 2001, so they're closer to Boston than Arizona.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 5, 2005 6:39 PM

Not that I have all that much experience with the chain, but from what I gather, the In-N-Out double-double has been around at least 20 years. Has Tim Horton's been serving theirs as long?

Tim Hortons (no apostrophe) started in 1964.

Comment from: Ms Saint posted at August 5, 2005 6:42 PM

I'm a bit behind in the conversation but, since I'm very new to commenting here, I'll use my NewbiePass to get around having to keep up with the pace of topics. =P

(And, hi, I'm new.)

First of all, I just moved to Phoenix, and the possibility that there's an In-N-Out somewhere around here fills me with great joy. Thank you so much for this information! Yay!

Second, as to whether or not Starbucks sizes are pretentious.... Considering them to be pretentious always strikes me as more pretentious than the actual size names. I think this is because I spent the entire coffee-drinking portion of my life in Starbucks-saturated Northern California. Complaining about Starbucks's system seems like complaining about how Google works: it's everywhere, it's going to be everywhere, so best to just live with it.

It's an attitude that'll make it quite easy for them to take over the world, I'm sure, but it means I always get to order an iced venti decaf mint mocha without feeling far, far too yuppy.

Comment from: Ms Saint posted at August 5, 2005 6:44 PM

"The menu-burgers, fries and drinks-is still the same basic menu customers have enjoyed since 1948." http://www.in-n-out.com/history.asp

In-N-Out for the win!

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 5, 2005 8:00 PM

"But you won't find a good grocery store coffee."

I realize that. Makes perfect sense. What I was wondering is, which brand sucks the least?

Re: all this talk about hamburgers.

You guys don't know what you're talking about. Come on out to Small Press Expo next month and I'll personnally introduct you to Five Guys. Where you can feel your heart sputter with every bite.

"It's like playing russian rolette with your heart."

Comment from: Quellan posted at August 5, 2005 8:19 PM

Chai is also the word for tea in Russian, and I believe in at least one of Mandarin and Cantonese (and quite possibly both).

Also, as far as I know, the astringency and at least some of the subtle flavours found in tea, coffee and red wine are all due to tannins. Not really relevant, but slightly interesting.

Personally I drink no caffiene, except in order to stay up late, in which case I'll either have black coffee or caffeine pills. And I far prefer Rieslings to all other varietals of wine.

Comment from: Grumblin posted at August 5, 2005 9:06 PM

Matt,

most coffe brands don't suck, as long as theyre sold vacuum-wrapped when ground, or under inert atmosphere when whole.

Storing either in a closed container is essential.. the old clothespeg up the package method does not work.

As mentioned above, most of the coffee flavours are caused by the oils and tannins in the beans. oils are volatile, tannins are susceptible to oxidation.

But given that a 250 gram pack will last you about a week, that coffee hardly has any time to go stale, really.

Frankly, going as far as roasting your own is a waste of money, unless you're building up to be able to detect whether the coffee you're drinking is grown on the lower or upper half of mount iznogood in nowherania. talk about "pretentious"....

a filterholder, filter, a tablespoon of coarse grind per cup, boiling water, and a suitable container cost far less, and give the same enjoyment and therapeutic morning-ritualness to the affair.

And Starbucks sells "coffee" only by US-american definition.. anywhere else in the world what they sell is referred to as equine excrement.

Comment from: Ms Saint posted at August 5, 2005 9:16 PM

Iced venti decaf mint equine excrement, to be precise.

Comment from: Sundre posted at August 5, 2005 9:27 PM

I prefer tea. But the only reason I get away with not drinking coffee is that I live with people who make and drink it for me. I can't abide the taste, but the smell is heavenly and cannot be done without.

The aroma of a Diet Coke can't hope to compete.

Comment from: Lyndon W posted at August 5, 2005 9:32 PM

I too enjoy the smell, but not the taste, of coffee. Just put some beans in the oven, if necessary.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at August 5, 2005 9:34 PM

I feel obliged to note that while "venti" might be pretentious - I make no claims to or fro that - it is, at least, legitimately-derived pretension. "Venti" is the Italian for "twenty"; a venti coffee at Starbucks is, as I am told (by the lovely and talented Teleri, a 20-ounce drink.

(This does not, apparently, always hold true for non-coffee drinks, or even non-hot-coffee drinks. But the point remains.)

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at August 5, 2005 10:12 PM

You guys don't know what you're talking about. Come on out to Small Press Expo next month and I'll personnally introduct you to Five Guys. Where you can feel your heart sputter with every bite.

Dude, my area just got Zerged by a flood of Five Guys a couple months ago. Never head of them until then. Is this bigger than I think it is?

Comment from: larksilver posted at August 5, 2005 10:15 PM

mmmm. Chai. I read somewhere, ages ago, that spiced Chai with milk is actually a traditional drink, and read a recipe for it which sounded waaaaaay too complicated and timeconsuming.

It pains me. Totally pains me, to pay several dollars for that cup of chai. So much so that it's a rare treat, when I'm in a place that serves good chai.. and Starbucks? is not good chai. Not enough cinnamon, bland as hell, and extraordinarily expensive to boot.

I have a friend who's addicted to Starbucks, not because of the taste but because Starbucks' coffee has something like 2 1/2 times as much caffeine in it as a cup of Folgers or something equivalent would. Me? Coffee=blech. Not even in tiramisu, which I should like, but don't. Cause coffee liquor.. ICK.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 5, 2005 10:36 PM

Actually, Matt, I wouldn't go far as to say that In-N-Out makes the best burger anywhere. But it's a great burger, distinctive in flavor, and one I only get once or twice a year. In terms of restaurant burgers, nothing compares to the Pour House's Pennsylvania burger, with some Heinz 57 snuck in from home. Found right near the Prudential center in Boston, that's the best burger for my dollar. And on Saturdays, it only costs two of them, which makes it all the sweeter.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 5, 2005 10:40 PM

So I have a copy of this erotica anthology, Switch Hitters? It came out a couplefew years before the mainstream North American chai vogue, so the relevant story's a touch dated, but:

There's this one piece set in a Portland, OR movie theater's adjacent independent cafe. Without fail, every last granola lesbian approaching the punkette barista protagonist's counter asks for chai; she comes to associate chai with an undesirable potential partner.

Then she gets double-teamed by a hot (butch/femme, I think?) couple in the cafe restroom.

Afterwords, they ask for chai.

This story has been at the back of my mind every single time I've gone looking for ginger-free chai in the past few years. Stuck.

Comment from: Lyndon W posted at August 6, 2005 12:13 AM

I'm addicted to chai. Homemade chai, that is.

Comment from: quiller posted at August 6, 2005 1:03 AM

If you want a cheap Chai, Stash does a Chai teabag. So you can just brew it like a normal tea and just add sugar and milk to it. It may not be real Chai but it is quick and easy. Better than the instant Chai anyways, that's just for when I go camping. Both courtesy of local Trader Joes.

Now personally, I have developed a preference for a nice English breakfast tea with sugar and milk, but my ex liked Chai a lot, so she got her steamy mug of Chai in bed. It also amused me to bring in mugs of Moroccan mint tea with sprigs of fresh spearmint from the plant outside our door. I got way too into the domestic thing sometimes...

Comment from: Lyndon W posted at August 6, 2005 1:09 AM

I get headaches when I don't have my chai...

Comment from: larksilver posted at August 6, 2005 2:43 AM

oh, aye, Stash's chai isn't too shabby, even by itself. I prefer it with a wee bit of milk, but no sugar. In fact, it's not unheard of for me to add a bit more cinnamon to it.

I didn't even know about the instant, though.. the only place around that I've found that sells the Stash is the local Rice Epicurean market, and I only get there once in a blue moon. Hrm. maybe, once this new job thing starts paying, I'll go have myself a gourmet shopping trip.... of course, if I'm going to do that, I'll buy a small package of their (very expensive) own special blend of chai.

Of course.. they have See's candies, so now I must go there soon. See what you made me do? Made me think of yummy stuff. heheh

Comment from: Zaq posted at August 6, 2005 3:26 AM

Personally? I just can't stand hot beverages. I hate having to measure my sips (for lack of a better term) lest I burn my mouth, and by the time it's cool enough to drink "normally" (or at least more than 3.5 drops per sip), not only do I feel cheated out of the time I spent waiting for it to cool down, but the taste has perceptibly changed for the worse. Ironic? Contradictory? I wouldn't deny it, but the fact remains that so far as I'm concerned, it's better when it's hot, but it's far harder to drink when it's hot, so hard as to make it not worth it.

Maybe I'm just too picky, but I find a nice Coke, Dr Pepper (no period, of course. Dr Pepper has no period. Check the can.), or what have you is enough for me a good 95% of the time. None of that high-octane stuff, be it Red Bull or even Mountain Dew; the key is to limit your caffeine intake enough that even the small amount of it in a can of "ordinary" pop is sufficient to either wake you up or keep you up as required.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 6, 2005 6:31 AM

1. Red Bull = Dr Pepper = Mountain Dew = Yuck.

2. Chai is okay, although personally I really been digging green tea of late. When I was in Portland there is fairly decent authetic Japanese restaurant called Bush Gardens. They had fabulous green tea, and I finally learned to love sushi (which was on my You Had Me and Then You Lost Me food list since I was eight). And we ate in the authentic Japanese section where they had very low tables, we sat on the floor with cushions indian style, and I wowed everyone with my mad chopsticks skills! Happy Days.

3. As for Starbucks, my college town has a hideous secret about Starbucks. There's not full-fledged starbucks in town, but there are these mini-starbucks at Barnes and Noble, and they run the coffeehouses at my University. They've even set up shop on the first floor of the University Library...but they're "officially" located in Memorial Union (they just provide the training & supplies in the other coffeehouse locations). It might as well be the University of Starbucks.

Comment from: SeanH posted at August 6, 2005 7:08 AM

Way I see it, coffee is like steak. If you've got a really good cut of steak, quality stuff, then it's criminal to put anything other than salt on it. Like Scott Kurtz's dad said, it'll obscure the flavour of the meat. But if you've just got a regular supermarket-quality steak, nothing special, then some sauce might be in order.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 6, 2005 10:34 AM

A very small quantity of pepper is acceptable in the early stages of preparing a proper steak, I think.

Comment from: Bequita posted at August 6, 2005 10:37 AM

It doesn't matter whether it's vacuum wrapped after ground, it's still stale 24 hours later. You can actually taste the difference. You can taste difference between different types of coffee when they're fresh, but grocery store coffee all tastes the same (unless it's been chemically flavored, bleh).

So in that case, Matt, I don't think it matters which grocery store brand you buy.

Comment from: SeanH posted at August 6, 2005 10:49 AM

Weds: yeah, probably so. I'm not a fan of pepper on red meat myself, but it's not blasphemy or anything. Unlike, say, "steak sauce".

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 6, 2005 1:05 PM

"Steak sauce," yes. Sauce which goes on steak needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

And there's a definite case to be made for marinating a well-aged, well-hung t-bone or porterhouse in a small quantity of oaked French or Italian cabsav for thirty-six hours before dusting with garlic and herbed salt, then grilling over charcoal.

Comment from: Kendra Kirai posted at August 6, 2005 1:27 PM

I'm amazed that I didn't see anybody mention the 'Small, Medium, Large' cartoon here http://www.illwillpress.com/vault.html

(Foamy is your lord and master! Fear his squirrely wrath! *ahem* It's not work safe, for language reasons)

Also, a Tim Hortons Double Double has been around a long time, and it means two milk/cream, two sugars, I believe. Otherwise, it's just your regular coffee. Tim Hortons is the Dunkin Donuts of the North.

Comment from: Doug posted at August 6, 2005 1:39 PM

Hmmph. Coffee isn't a beverage, it's a precision tool used to control the level of your brain's alertness - or a sledgehammer used to punt it into full consciousness.

Any added milk and/or sugar is strictly for nutrition.

Comment from: Bequita posted at August 6, 2005 1:41 PM

Larksilver, if you're in Houston, (the only place I know of that has a Rice Epicurean market) you could try The House of Coffee Beans in the Rice Village - in addition to great fresh roasted coffee, they have a nice selection of interesting teas.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 6, 2005 2:01 PM

The advantage of steak sauce is that it can take a two dollar cut of meat cooked on a George Foreman grill (I admit, I love my George Foreman grill) and make it taste like an eight dollar pan seared cut of meat. This is not inconsiderable.

The problem is, it can take a twenty dollar cut of mignon cooked to perfection by people in white coats at restaurants and make it taste like... well, a two dollar cut of meat cooked on a foreman grill but dressed up to taste like an eight dollar pan seared steak. Put A-1 on it, and it's all the same.

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 6, 2005 3:06 PM

Equating Dr. Pepper with Red Bull is heresy, miyaa. I just want you to know that. Dr. Pepper is good (and has much less caffeine than thew other drinks you listed), while Red Bull tastes like fizzy, watered-down Pepto-Bismol.

I don't drink my coffee black. I drink it white, when I drink it at all. It has to be a latte or a Vietnamese, or otherwise filled with milk, or I'll feel sick to my stomach in a matter of minutes. I'm more of a tea man. Assam Golden Tip forever!

I hate Foamy. He's like an animated Andy Rooney drawn by a Jhonen Vasquez wannabe.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 6, 2005 5:11 PM

The advantage of steak sauce is that it can take a two dollar cut of meat cooked on a George Foreman grill (I admit, I love my George Foreman grill) and make it taste like an eight dollar pan seared cut of meat. This is not inconsiderable.

You want your eight dollar meat pan-seared? Seriously?!

In the wake of alternatives?

Like two dollars' worth of brisket at gas mark 1/4 (slightly lower if at all possible) for three to four hours, basted hourly, gently layered with Montreal seasoning, having soaked overnight in a tablespoon of red wine and a quarter cup of reduced-sodium bouillon beforehand? Maybe with a slice of lime squeezed over it 20 minutes before serving?

Aie.

Comment from: Montykins posted at August 6, 2005 5:18 PM

Practically the only way I ever cook steak is pan-seared ribeye. Dee-licious.

Although sometimes I grind up some steak into hamburger, hwich is also mighty tasty. I understand there are ways to cook that *aren't* directly out of Alton Brown's Good Eats, but I regard that with suspicion.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 6, 2005 5:42 PM

Say, has anyone besides me ever noticed that the melody progression of the motif whose repetition is Alton Brown's theme is the same progression as that of the repeated motif of The Simpsons' theme?

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 6, 2005 6:39 PM

Every quarter, Gwalla, my parents go to this Vietnamese restaurant in Kansas City's Farmers Market just so they can have Vietnamese Ice Coffee, which worth the trip alone. I mean their Vietnamese food is good, but everyone comes for the ice coffee.

(And as an aside, there's nothing more fun than to go into a Chinese/Asian supermarket. They're usually small, and they tend to try to cram everything they could possible think asians will want to buy in there, from fresh fish to buddhas to strawberry pocky to thrice-taped South Korean movies with Chinese sub-titles.)

Comment from: Aerin posted at August 6, 2005 9:06 PM

I'm not a coffee person. But caramel frappuccinos are my LIFEBLOOD. For that matter, so are In-n-Out #3 combos. I practically live on these two items during finals.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 6, 2005 9:53 PM

"Dude, my area just got Zerged by a flood of Five Guys a couple months ago. Never head of them until then. Is this bigger than I think it is?"

They've been going bonkers expanding the franchise recently. Until two or three years ago, there were only a couple, all run by the family that started the first one. Now, they're springing up all over Northern VA. (I assume you live in NoVA?)

Hopefully the expanding won't dimish the quality, but we'll see. Five Guys is routinely voted the best hamburger joint in the DC area, by the Washington Post. So, it makes sense that they'd expand.

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at August 6, 2005 10:06 PM

Now, they're springing up all over Northern VA. (I assume you live in NoVA?)

SoVA, more like. Richmond area. There's three here that I know of--two are within five, ten minutes of one another, and the other is built under the new dormitory at VCU (the one that went all flamey last year).

My parents love the place. I, for one, am not much of a burger person, so I haven't checked it out yet. It just seems odd that they'd all spring up at once.

Comment from: jpcardier posted at August 8, 2005 1:21 AM

From Grumblin:

"As mentioned above, most of the coffee flavours are caused by the oils and tannins in the beans. oils are volatile, tannins are susceptible to oxidation.

But given that a 250 gram pack will last you about a week, that coffee hardly has any time to go stale, really.

Frankly, going as far as roasting your own is a waste of money, unless you're building up to be able to detect whether the coffee you're drinking is grown on the lower or upper half of mount iznogood in nowherania. talk about "pretentious"...."

A. Regardless of vacuum packing, preground goes stale, rapidly. And by rapidly, I mean within days to a week. The reasons for this are simple:

Beans contain oxygen. As time goes by, they outgass oxygen. This is the reason why the plug exists in vacuum packing. Otherwise, it would eventually look like a blimp rather than a bag. So while it starts with no free oxygen, this does not mean it finishes there.

This is not as much of a deal when dealing with whole beans, but with grounds....

Why do we grind coffee? Because whole beans do not have enough surface area to properly brew coffee. Grinding beans increases the surface area a thousandfold. Necessary for brewing. However, when you increase surface area by a thousand, it's speeds up the oxidation by a like amount. Bad.

B. "Frankly, going as far as roasting your own is a waste of money". This is obviously said by someone who has never roasted. It's not hard. It's doesn't take a huge amount of equipment. It's not especially expensive. And the results are worth it.

Talking of pretense.... Coffee has over 700 flavors, as I spoke of above. The varietals grown in different parts of the world are just that, varieties. Costa Rican does not taste the same as Yemen! Kenyan Coffee and Columbian are different.

The flavor is further complicated by the degree and roast method of the roast master. Are you telling me that a La Minita Tarraza Cinnamon Roast and a Yemen French Roast taste the same? That isn't pretense. That's logic.

From Matt:

"While I promise to go look up and see if there is a local roaster near me, assuming there isn't, what is a 'good' brand of coffee that I may be able to find at a super market?

*waits for the angry barage from the coffee snobs over this comment to end*

Also, anyone want to point to a good site for research into how to do coffee right?"

Matt, if you do not have a local roaster and do not feel up to roasting your own, I would recommend a Trader Joes if you have one near you.

The roastmasters are competent, and they do turn over their stock faster than mainstream grocery companies.

I would *highly* recommend buying whole bean and grinding your own right before you make a pot. That will give you a very big bang for about $10 for a blade grinder.

As for coffee sites, here are a few I have frequented:

www.coffeekid.com

A great place to read about espresso, vacuum brewing and other things as well.

http://coffeegeek.com/

Reviews of just about every piece of coffee equipment.

http://www.sweetmarias.com/

Home roasting, from green beans to popcorn poppers, dedicated roasters et al. Also burr grinders, vac pots and lots of cool other stuff. Finally, they have tutorials on most of it.

It's a bizarre hobby, but it can be wonderful. Good luck Matt!

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 8, 2005 11:39 AM

See, I look at coffe like I look at any food. Sure, the expensive stuff can be quite good when done well. But sometimes, it's nice to appreciate a lower-priced alternative, which can still be tasty and appreciated.

And if I can put on my snob hat, when I want a tasty coffee, I go for a darker roast from Papua New Guinea. That's just me, though, as always YMMV.

As for steak sauce - even that can be an adventure. I personally love going for Dave's Original Steak Sauce (yes, by the maker of Dave's Insanity Sauce, but the steak sauce doesn't have any hot peppers in it). That steak sauce makes you think you spent alot more than 8 bucks on a steak.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 8, 2005 12:59 PM

jp, thanks for the links, I'll check them out later.

I do have a grinder. When my last coffee maker died on me I decided to pick up one of those coffee maker's that have a grinder built in.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 8, 2005 1:33 PM

I find this kind of funny.

I just did a web search, looking for a roaster near me, which turned up a company called Quatermaine Coffee Roasters.

http://www.quartermaine.com/

Here is the first sentence of thier about page;

"Founded in Rockville, Maryland in 1991 by the original founders of Starbucks Coffee, Quartermaine Coffee Roasters is a regional specialty coffee roaster committed to providing customers with fresh, flavorful, roast-dated coffee."

ARGH! I can't escape Starbucks!

Comment from: jpcardier posted at August 8, 2005 2:45 PM

From Matt:

""Founded in Rockville, Maryland in 1991 by the original founders of Starbucks Coffee, Quartermaine Coffee Roasters is a regional specialty coffee roaster committed to providing customers with fresh, flavorful, roast-dated coffee."

ARGH! I can't escape Starbucks!"

Roast dating is the key here. Regardless of the problem with Starbucks, a roast dated for freshness is what you want. Good Luck Matt!

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 8, 2005 3:20 PM

"Roast dating is the key here. Regardless of the problem with Starbucks, a roast dated for freshness is what you want. Good Luck Matt!"

I guessed that. The Starbucks reference was a poor attempt at a joke.

And after a look through some of jp's links, my mind is now calculating how much this new hobby is going to cost me. The geeky ritual of all of this appeals to me to much for me to turn my back on it now.

Though, I'll probably wait to start doing home roasting until I acctually have a home. Which will hopefully be in the next year or so.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 9, 2005 11:50 AM

Adis hits the nail on the head.

http://countyoursheep.com/d/20050809.html

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