I admit it. I’m a coffee snob. I fancy myself to be something of an expert on good coffee. Once, in Kauai, I spent an entire day touring a small coffee plantation to learn how the beans were grown, harvested, sorted, graded, roasted, packaged, and marketed.
I know that, at $160 per pound, Kopi Luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee. The Kopi Luwak bean is gathered from the jungle floor by Asian farmers after the Palm Civet has eaten the coffee cherry (the green fruit), partially digested it, and then excreted it. I know that a bag of coffee labeled “Kona” (another of the world’s most highly regarded and most delicious coffees) does not necessarily mean that it is any good. Companies often buy the lowest quality Kona beans from the plantation – those just one grade above the beans that the grower throws in the trash – and mix a small percentage of these Kona bean with cheaper beans in order to be able to legally market their product as a Kona blend. I know the difference between a cinnamon roast, a city roast, an espresso roast and a French roast. I even know that, under most circumstances, the longer coffee beans are roasted, the more oily and bitter they become.
Personally, I don’t like over-roasted beans because I don’t care for that oily, bitter taste. I prefer a strong brew from a lightly roasted bean. My perfect pot of coffee pours out strong and dark – what most people call “mud” – but tastes smooth and rich. On the one and only occasion that I had a cup of coffee from a Starbucks, I found it to be bitter and oily. I thus assumed that all Starbucks coffee is over-roasted and was often heard repeating the smug comment that “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.”
All that changed today. I go to the coffee shop most every day because I like to write in public places. It gives me a certain energy that I can’t quite achieve when I am holed up in my tiny apartment. But my favorite place, where I am welcome to hang out for hours at a time, recently made a major change in their menu. They no longer have a vegetarian sandwich and their new quiches are rubbery. Instead, I decided to try the Starbucks in downtown Sarasota. Boy, was I surprised! I had my standard Cafe Americano and it was a delicious cuppa. Not to mention the heavenly lemon bar from their pastry case and the friendly, smiling barristas behind the counter. I feel sufficiently chastised. I’m gonna have to find a way to balance all the bad karma I created by propagating that vicious Starbucks rumor all these years. Or with my luck, I’ll reincarnate as an Asian Palm Civet.