Monday, March 1, 2010

Coffee Talk

A man at the café heaved himself into the sofa opposite mine, planted his latte squarely in front of him, and then proceeded to load the cup with at least six packets of sugar. I looked at him and without any sense of decorum whatsoever asked, “Did you really just put all that sugar in there? Is that a world record or something?”

When he stopped laughing, he led me into a wonderful conversation about coffee. Just this morning, he said, he’d been to the home of a little old lady who was pouring coffee and balking loudly at his request for milk and sugar in his own cup. She was an old school coffee drinker, he mused. And then he asked about my preference.

I grew up drinking it au lait with sugar, but was not a regular coffee consumer until college when I studied late at night. True to my Louisiana roots, I still prefer a quality coffee. Good strong coffee with chicory, like CDM, and preferably produced in the Holy Grail of all coffee systems: the French press.

My husband brings me a steaming cup of exactly this each morning. He adds a generous portion of half ‘n half and turbinado sugar to his heavily steeped concoction. It’s so filling that I can’t eat breakfast till 10 AM, but I love his coffee so much that I have started to associate my bed with it. Each night, I jump into bed grinning to myself that right here, in about 8 hours, I’ll be sipping a cup of CDM while piled up to my elbows in pillows. This coffee has ruined me for anyone else’s java, including Starbucks. It’s nearly thick enough to serve with a fork. It’s chocolate brown. It beckons with its come-hither fragrance. It is dessert first thing in the morning.

Last year, I had a routine of cleaning the office kitchen as a courtesy for my co-workers before our shift began. One morning, feeling extra nice, I decided to start a pot of java for the employees that were beginning to stream into the office. Mistake. I thought it was just right, but I can still hear my boss: What is this? How much you put in here? It’s oily. I’m pouring it out! He liked his coffee looking and tasting like tea. I glanced at the directions on the canister and showed my boss. One tablespoon per cup, it read. He told me never to put more than four tablespoons in for a full pot (note: twelve employees and a 10 cup pot) and spent the rest of the day joking about my trying to kill him. I decided to slowly accommodate the staff to a stronger brew by adding one extra teaspoon at a time in the hopes that one day the java would not be-- transparent. I don’t think it worked. There were a few of us die-hard full-blooded coffee fans that simply brought in our own anyhow. Everyone else probably regressed gratefully after I left.

Waffle House has coffee that looks yellow when creamer is added. Krispy Kreme and Duncan Donuts both came highly recommended, but really to a coffee connoisseur, isn’t worth the extra miles on the car to go find it. Starbucks char-roasts their beans, which makes a highly acidic black cup to me, but a great latte. A neighbor and I were discussing local brews when she recommended a new place (well, new to me) and I took the kids with me to investigate. This is where we met the aforementioned sugar fiend.

A clerk of indefinite gender and with multiple piercings took my order and his/her co-worker, a white Rastafarian wanna-be, delivered it. Bohemian environment? Maybe. Upper echelon provisions? Definitely. In fact, it was a fork-worthy brew from an $11,000 coffee machine. No kidding. It took the edge off the amused looks and sardonic, “Oh, just take your time,” the clerks gave me when my son began climbing the walls mid-order. It was a wonderful cup of coffee despite the fact that I drank it with one arm attached to my child to keep his fingers out of the foam in my cup. This is a place where no one would complain that they were being served turbo coffee or army coffee, as I have heard others call the family brew. No one here would tell me I could “save money by adding water to this” as I was once waywardly coached by a former in-law. There’s nothing like finding a cup of home when away from home.


  1. mmmmm...CDM...the ONLY place around here that sells it is a Chinese market in OKC (thats an hour away). Of course, since it's all we drink...i buy in bulk. Yep, we make it full strength too...and yep, everyone else thinks its burnt molasses, except The Flying Dutchman, who drinks it neat...that's right...straight up, no sugar, no milk. This is the same dude that once went to Starbuck's and ordered a venti espresso...neat...and downed it in about 15 minutes. In his defense, he assures us, he'll never do it again.

    But good lawd...once you get baptized into the world of cafe au lait...everything else is just coffee. Especially that coffee scented water made in every office, and most homes, in America.

    Now...if i could just get a French press, and a drop or two of sunflower oil, since that's what they fry the beignets in, but then, you knew that:).

  2. The syrup left at the bottom of the pot of a French pressed brew is incredible. I still can't handle it black though-- the coffee from the $11,000 machine kept me awake until 2 AM last week, and you know how much milk is in a latte...

    Cost Plus World Market has nice French presses for less than the cost of the ones at Starbucks.

  3. And for that matter, World Market also carries CDM. I stop at the one across Broad from the school once every couple of months and stock up.

    And I'll admit to seeing nothing wrong with the sugar man's tastes. I always figured about three packets would equal one of my heaping "teaspoons," so six or seven sounds about right to me. :-D Which might explain why I've lost at least ten pounds since giving up sugar for Lent.

    And yes, that means I take my CDM straight up these mornings. Oddest thing about that? Without the cream and sugar to hide behind, chicory tastes like pepper to me.

    I look forward to Easter.


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