Random thoughts, and Twitter, on National Coffee Day

Found at Your Lighter Side Blog, 2014.

Found at Your Lighter Side Blog, 2014.

It’s a commercial and wag-created day of note, National Coffee Day. It’s not declared by Congress in a memorial resolution, nor honored by the President with a proclamation.

Doesn’t mean we can’t have fun

September 29 is National Coffee Day, or in many corners of the internet, #NationalCoffeeDay.

A few Twitterized thoughts.

Driving between Duncanville, Texas, and Appleton, Wisconsin, on one of those “visit the kid at college” trips, we encountered this truck. Despite its hopeful sign, it really carried gasoline, sort of a visual pun on coffee, I suppose.

We collect coffee mugs — not always consciously. They add up. There’s a story behind each mug pictured.

The nice oak racks were handcrafted by Kathryn’s father, Ken Knowles. Two of the racks hold 23 mugs, and a third holds 20. We also have a high shelf that holds the overflow mugs, including the seasonal favorites that get rotated in at appropriate times, like the Dracula and witch mugs for Halloween.

I used to be a tea guy. Off at college I didn’t take much pleasure in the cup o’ joe offered by the Huddle or Student Union at at the University of Utah (though I drank my share). Teas other than Lipton started showing up in small shops, Celestial Seasonings started up and took off. I had a variety of tea infusers, and cleaning the smaller tea paraphernalia was always easier than keeping up with a coffee pot or a Mr. Coffee with two years of rancid coffee oils built up on parts of the device.

Out in New York with the L. A. Jonas Foundation’s Camp Rising Sun (CRS), I ran into Greg Marley from Albuquerque (yeah, the irony), and we swapped methods and stories of brewing teas way out in the Southwestern deserts, where local “weeds” offered a variety of great things to supplement teas. They don’t call that plant “Mormon tea” without reason, you know? At CRS I often partook of Mama Glenn’s stout percolated brews, for the incredible caffeine jolts they offered. Mama Glenn always used sweetened condensed milk to lighten it, and if you tried it black, you understood why.

I’ve driven the length and width of the nation, had coffee over campfires, in diners and luxury hotels, in every state except Maine, North Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii. I’ve awakened to those tiny cups of dark, heavy Scandinavian brews in Denmark and Sweden; spent most of a week with English breakfast coffees and that infernal heated milk they lighten with. Tried some thick muds in Monterrey and Nogales, Mexico, and had pretty good cups from Vancouver to Toronto — coffee is almost always better in the mountains, by the way.

Tea still catches my fancy often, especially if I don’t want caffeine. But coffee is my drink of choice.

I was fortunate enough to get a trip to Seattle in the near-early days of the rise of the Northwest coffee culture that gave rise to Starbucks. In town for the Computer-Aided Manufacturing – International (CAM-I) convention (does the group still exist?), corporate consultant extraordinaire Roger Beynon and I sampled coffee all over town, and I knew things were looking up.

The successes of Peet’s, and the dramatic spread of Starbucks, put pressure on almost all commercial coffee sellers to step up their games. In most towns in America today, in most supermarkets, you can buy a very good cup of coffee or the beans and accoutrements to brew one on your own.

A couple of years ago son James and his wife Michelle took me to the weekly Friday fest in Louisville, Colorado. We had a grand night listening to the band, whose name I forget, and arguing with a couple of cheeky libertarians posing as the local Republican Party. On the way out, about 10:00 p.m. we stumbled on a woman brewing coffee in a Chemex drip, and giving out samples. What fortune!

The woman was Neige LaRue, proprieter of Snow Street Coffee, a roasting company. The coffee was an Ethiopian bean, Yirga Cheffe. It’s a medium roast, where I usually prefer a darker roast.

But that coffee! It was sweet, hot, aromatic, with only tasty hints of bitterness — struck me at the time as the best cup of coffee I’d ever had. Several pounds later, I think it still holds up, though Ms. LaRue can brew it better in her Chemex than I can in our Melitta (Kathryn’s brewing is better than mine, and I swear we do it exactly the same). In any case, I highly recommend it.

We may rankle at its corporateness, and its ubiquity, but Starbucks still does a good job of brewing a good cup. They’ve also changed how we think of coffee houses in America, and maybe around the world. I’m disappointed they don’t carry music CDs anymore. And I really wish they’d bring back that much maligned bit of putting controversial quotes on their cups. A hundred times I’ve wished I had a thousand of cup #289 in their “The Way I See It” series:

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