Tag Archives: coffee

COFFEE OR STARBUCKS?

FIFTY CENTS

See that liquid in the cup pictured above? That’s actual coffee, made the way I like it. Many people today think that they like coffee, and in fact spend fifty bucks a week or more on what they think of as coffee, but in fact, they hate the stuff. How can I know that? Because they don’t buy the stuff pictured above. The least un-coffee like thing most people buy at Starbucks or similar places is what they call a Latte. Latte, if you didn’t know, is the Italian name for milk. If you order a cup of latte in Italy, that’s what you’ll get. For the privilege of drinking a latte with some coffee in it, they pay four or five bucks for their hot milk. *

Besides paying five bucks for a cup of warm milk, they get to wait while a barrista concocts their order, after, of course, concocting six other orders that take a long time to make. Why so long? Good question. In Italy, when I ordered caffelatte, it took about twenty seconds for me to be served. At an American coffee shop, it takes several minutes for each order at a minimum. Coffee shops in Italy get really busy, too. It’s not the volume of customers that slows the process. Maybe it’s all the variations Starbucks offers, with several kinds of milk, at least two kinds of coffee, five or six sizes of cup (yes, not all are on the menu.) The net effect is that one waits five minutes or more for a cup of warm milk mixed with what is, in the case of Starbucks at least, terrible coffee.

Okay, nice complaint, but what else is there to do?

Well, I’ll tell you.

The Good Stuff

Pictured just above is a bag of the Good Stuff. 100% pure Kona coffee. From Hawaii. Whoever raised, picked, and processed it was paid at least the minimum wage in Hawaii. The growers are subject to all of the regulations provided by the FDA and other agencies to ensure safe, wholesome product is delivered. It’s about forty bucks a pound.

FORTY BUCKS A POUND?????

That’s outrageous!!!

Isn’t it?

Well, all together, that mug of coffee pictured at the top of this page cost me about half a buck to make, maybe a tad less. A bag of that stuff lasts me about a month, at two or three mugs a day.  Since I like the taste of coffee, and since Kona is arguably the best tasting coffee available (even I can’t make it taste bitter or otherwise bad,) I drink it black. But, if you don’t like that, you can get it roasted dark and ground into powder with which to make espresso. A small espresso maker can be had for as little as sixty bucks ($60) on Amazon. That’s less than two weeks worth of Starbucks swill.** Of course, if you like standing around waiting for some barrista to mix up an inferior cup, well go right ahead and spend your money foolishly. But, before doing that, maybe you would enjoy trying some pure Kona, which (honest to goodness) is never, ever bitter. You’d be surprised how much better good coffee tastes when compared to whatever that stuff is that Starbucks uses. And you get automatic Fair Trade status, and you’re even buying American. If you just gotta have those “lattes,” drop sixty bucks on an espresso maker. Or try it plain and black. Who knows, you might actually get to like coffee.

The full set

 

*In Italy, these drinks are called “caffelatte”, or coffee with milk. In France it’s Cafe au lait. The proper name in English is “coffee with steamed milk.”

**Based upon $5 drinks, one per day, or seven per week.

 

Starbucks, You Failed Me — Odd Godfrey

Cafes are all the rage, here.  Each cafe boasts that they have Rarotonga’s best “this” and world famous “that”.  It all seems easy enough, until you step up to order.  Exploring town, we sauntered into one of only three remaining original buildings on the Island.  A cement, one story structure with arched windows and doorways, it housed a high priced souvenir shop, TAV clothing (the island style preferred by Duchess Kate) and a cafe. The cafe had an open air rooftop, a record player spinning 50’s American Jazz, and a man and a woman working an impressive looking espresso machine (not to be confused with “expresso”).  A newspaper article about the cafe and its owners hung on the wall, interviewing the very man and woman who hustled around the little galley, grabbing white cups and filling them with all manner of dark, bitter liquid.   As I approach the countertop, I panic a little bit because I see no menu for coffee.  Muffins, cakes and cookies look tempting on a bookshelf behind the counter, and a food menu tantalizes customers with options like egg and ham “toastie” with chutney sauce or a smoked salmon on cream cheese bagel with capers and purple onion.  But, I wasn’t in the market for food, just a coffee.  No matter, I’m a purist at heart, so I order a black coffee.   “Black coffee?”  The man behind the counter asks me, looking puzzled.  He stared back at me as though I had just landed from Mars and asked for a moon-cake.  “Yes, just black coffee.” I respond.  He doesn’t move, instead looks at me as though I am daft. “Well, what kind of coffee do you have?”  I ask.   “Just espresso.”  He says.  Now, I look around at the handful of customers sipping from their cups around the cafe.  Some of them are the traditional, miniature espresso cups I am familiar with, but others are normal coffee sized coffee cups.  I am confused as to why he is confused, and vice versa, I’m sure.  So, to end both our suffering, I say: “Well, great!  An espresso then.”  Andrew makes it two espressos, and we duck away from the countertop.   We sit at a table, receive two tiny mugs of rich, strong coffee.  We sip, read a newspaper all about Rarotonga dining, and then scurry off still puzzling over our coffee options. When we see them next, Phil and Laura asked us what we had been up to that afternoon.  When we tell them we stopped in at a Cafe, they chittered on about having found “Flat Whites” after spending so long in tropical places that do not offer such coffee delicacies.  I don’t know what a “Flat White” is, so I ask. When they describe it to me, it sounds exactly like a latte: coffee with foamed milk.  I say as much, and they both vigorously shake their heads. “No no, it’s different.”  Something about proportions. We had better luck at Jireh’s “Home of Rarotonga’s world famous custard squares.”  They at least had a menu of coffee options, and what do you know:  A Flat White is available.  So, we order two Flat Whites and a world famous custard square and give them a test.    Since this is my first custard square, I cannot speak as to the quality of the custard square.  But does world fame necessarily mean that it is the best custard square?  I don’t know.  The white-flour crust is thin but dense.  It did not crumble in your mouth, but instead provided a chewy juxtaposition to the thick vanilla custard sandwiched between top and bottom crust.  The square was only mildly sweetened, allowing the cream, toasty flour and vanilla to be the focus of the taste.  It was pretty good.   The custard square was mostly gone when our “Flat Whites” arrived.  I looked down at my coffee, and it looked just like a latte.  (But don’t tell Laura and Phil.) The barista at our final cafe excursion provided our enlightenment.  Within walking distance of Sonrisa, there is a “famed” waffle cart.  The five tables seated in the morning shade are filled with groups of locals, all cajoling one another from one table to the next, reading newspapers, and/or weaving a flower crown.  One remaining table was available for us.  The waffle cart had a fancy espresso maker, too, but they provided a coffee menu.  “Ah-hah!”  I say, and then scowl. Espresso Long Black Short Black Flat White Americana Starbucks did not prepare me for this.  Seeing my grimace, the woman inside the cart says “Are you American?”   “Yes, why?”   “Ah, you will want an Americana.”  She responds.   “Wait, wait, wait.  Why?  Can you explain these coffees to me?” She laughs and explains that an Americana is the only “filtered coffee” they have, and Americans are used to filtered coffee.  I make her take me through the rest of the coffees, and I learn that all of the other coffees are made with espresso (coffee made by using high pressure steam to push water through extremely fine ground coffee beans), th

Source: Starbucks, You Failed Me — Odd Godfrey