Oakland, Berkeley, And East Bay News, Events, Restaurants, Music, & Arts
Have to respond to Kevin K, who makes some excellent points, but may actually need to visit some of the bars/shops mentioned in this piece.
I agree that espresso is way down on the brewing method totem pole when it comes to revealing the full dimension of truly great coffee (competitions like Cup of Excellence, designed to discover the best coffee from a particular origin, would never use espresso as the brewing method to judge coffee quality). Espresso brewing is good for creating what I like to call “coffee beverages” (basically, brewed coffee with extra things added: milk, sweeteners, flavors, etc.). These can have their place in a good bar when prepared by thoroughly-trained and well-practiced baristas, but they need to be marketed and seen for what they are, and properly distinguished from what they are not. Drinking a “coffee beverage” is NOT the same as drinking coffee, which is simply coffee extracted with water, and nothing else. Those of us who have been lucky enough to experience it, know that great coffee is wonderfully complete on its own. It has sweetness, so it needs no sugar. It has body, so it needs no cream. It has any number of flavor notes, so it needs no chocolate or fruity syrup.
The sad truth is that most people in the world haven’t had the opportunity to try great coffee. This is because the majority of the coffee grown throughout the world is really bad, and most of the rest is mediocre. This explains why many roasters roast it so dark (essentially burning it to hide flaws) and consumers load it with cream and sugar (to make it palatable). There is, however, a small but growing number of farmers producing coffee with extraordinary flavor and nuance (similar to great wine).
The roasters and their associate coffee bars mentioned in this article, in fact, ARE finding these growers, working closely with them, and paying top dollar for genuine quality. Stumptown (Portland) does do great work with sourcing, but Flying Goat (Healdsburg) and Ritual (SF) also have equally strong relationships with producers and go to great lengths to nurture them. They are all working with growers who are producing coffee quality far and above what existed 20 years ago.
As for the “taste of place” desired by Mr. K, it is a shame that the article focused so much on the “cult” of espresso, because most of the “3rd Wave” retail shops mentioned in this piece offer awesome single farm coffees brewed to drink as “coffee.” Ritual, Flying Goat and 4 Barrel serve press-brewed, Local 123 offers individual drip pour-over, Remedy serves clover-brewed and Site Glass offers individual Chemex.
I’d like to invite Kevin K to visit some of these shops. He would definitely like what he sees, and tastes.
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