As those who know me personally can attest, I am a hopeless coffee addict.
I’ll put up with a lot of unpleasantness - as long as there’s coffee.
Let the coffee run out though and my tolerance for unpleasantness, such as it is, drops to zero. Bad things usually follow.
Nowadays, I don’t drink shitty coffee. This is my one hard and fast rule, no shitty coffee. Period. And while I generally don’t drink coffee after lunch (unless there’s Irish Whiskey in it), if I don’t get coffee in the morning somebody is going to get maimed and it’s not going to be me, if you understand what I’m saying here.
I spent more than two decades in the US Navy, coffee is a sailor’s lifeblood. Unfortunately, our lifeblood is coffee that’s been boiling in giant urns since the Eisenhower administration. Navy coffee consists of pure distilled caffeine, jet fuel, a hint of machine oil, and the bitter tears of Marines filtered through a pair of dirty skivvies. Navy coffee is a weapon of mass destruction and a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions with regards to the treatment of military personnel. I don’t miss it and neither does what’s left of my stomach.
I’ve lived and travelled all over the world, I know what decent coffee tastes like. You can hate the French all you like, but those beret-wearing wussies can make some damned good coffee, there should be a Nobel for the Jean-Pierre who invented the French Press. Italy? Land of fantastic espresso and cappuccino made in beautiful copper and stainless steel machines that look like works of art. Spain? Once you’ve had Café Con Leche (basically a latte made with strong espresso, thick whole milk and sugar) you tend to regard Folgers Drip as the runoff from Satan’s colon. The Greeks do some fine and tasty things with coffee. And the Turks make a cup that will cure a hangover migraine with a single sip – and leave you wide-eyed and quivering for a week. Turkish coffee is wild and full of life – sort of like the Turks themselves. Some of the best coffee I ever had was in Israel, sweet and spiced and perfect.
Americans? Our coffee tradition descends from the tea sipping English. The English make coffee the way they cook, i.e. boil the shit out of it until it’s reduced to a thick bitter pudding. Add sugar and lard, enjoy. These are the people who invented the Hot Toddie, which tastes like scalded rockgut stirred with a fried chicken leg. You wonder where the British expression “keep a stiff upper lip” comes from? It’s because they’re clamping down on about three centuries of bile. Americans, being Americans, looked at all the options out there and then took the shittiest tradition of the lot and made it faster. Americans will drink damned near anything, as long as it can be made in a cheap disposable plastic machine and it’s fast – Give me a big ol’ cup of ass and be quick about it! Ever have McDonald’s coffee? I’m pretty sure that stupid clown used to be a Navy cook.
Sooner or later I’m going to break down and buy my very own espresso/latte/cappuccino machine. Problem is, a cheap machine is worse than useless and a good machine costs $1000 or more and requires special plumbing. Now a crisp new Grover Cleveland for a decent cup of coffee doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to me, but my wife has other ideas. So, for now, my very own steam spitting, copper and steel, chrome trimmed, self cleaning, automatic espresso machine with integrated bean roaster and burr grinder with its own dedicated plumbing on a special gilded coffee island in the kitchen with optional bikini clad barista remains but a fantasy. Some day though, my electronic friends, some day it will be mine. Oh yes.
Update June 2012: I bought the espresso machine. The position of Bikini clad barista is open.
I’ve learned a few things:
- Never get in line behind two women: Women are worried what the other woman thinks, they'll try to out non-fat each other. Seriously.
Barista: Nice to see you again. Your usual quadruple mocha latte with whole bottle nosed dolphin cream and a scoop of Hagen-Daz Peanut Brittle Supreme, double brown sugar, extra whip and stirred with a glazed donut, served in a rolled up slice of pizza, ma’am?
Woman 1: Oh, heh heh, no, you must have me confused with Kirsty Alley. No, I’d like an extra small non-fat, no-sugar, hot water…
Woman 2: Really? That’s what I was having too! Only I want mine with no caffeine.
Barista: (priest-like neutral expression)
- Never get in line behind two men: Men will compete to impress the barista. Honest to God, it could be a trained warthog behind the counter, but if it has breasts men will hit on it.
Barista: What can I get you, Gentlemen?
Guy 1: Heh, whatever it is, I’ll need it in the kind of cup that fits the cup holders in my Porsche!
Guy 2: Ha ha! You mean small. That piece of shit Porsche could use some coffee stains on the seats! They’ll cover up the other stains, ifyaknowwhatisaying! Now, my Hummer, that’s a man’s truck you can spill some coffee on! And I’ll need a large.
Barista: Large what?
Guy 2: I don’t know, but I want some extra shots in it! Make it strong!
Guy 1: I want extra extra shots in mine. In fact I’ll just take some raw coffee beans! Yeah! Just squeeze the juice out and I’ll drink that. In my Porsche!
Guy 2: Make mine extra hot!
Guy 1: Make mine extra double hot and I don’t even need a cup, just pour it in my bare hands! Say, which one of us do you think looks more like Tom Selleck? I know, I know, people always say it’s me. Come on, what do you think?
Barista: (covertly adds extra ass flavor from the special bottle behind the counter)
Note: Yes, “Ass” is a coffee flavor. It’s right between “Toejam” and “Hugh Jackman” in the Starbuck’s catalog.
- Never get in line behind two kids: Kids will order something weird and complicated as a goof.
Kid 1: how much does flavor cost?
Kid 2: yeah, how much?
Barista: Sigh. Flavors are free.
Kid 1: I want a bubblegum hot chocolate frappe with a shot of every kind of flavoring you got. Mix them all together.
Kid 2: Good one, D00D! LOL!
Barista: (makes mental note to order more Ass flavor).
- The Macho guy will order the sissy drink.
- The quality of the brew is inversely proportional to the hotness of the barista: Seriously, the fuglier the girl, the better the coffee. If hotties in bikinis are making the Java, I guarantee you that it’ll be indistinguishable from the bilge in a Navy galley. Hot girls get tipped no matter what, especially if they’re hanging out of a drive-up window in a halter top, they never have to learn how to make a decent cup. You want good coffee? Go to the coffee stand with Quasimodo behind the counter. I don’t know if this it true of male baristo’s, with or without halter tops, because I only go to the place with the hot girls, but I suspect that it is.
- Never get the special.
- People behind you haven't had coffee yet. They're angry, impatient, and suffering withdrawal and I’m their king. Don't speak to them. You’re at the front of the line. We hate you with the heat of a thousand espresso bean roasters. Get your shit and get the hell out of the way. Taunt us with your cheerful banter and you die.
- Never get the drip coffee. Coffee shops make zero money on drip coffee. They don’t want you to order it. They make it from ass sweat filtered through toenails in order to keep you from ordering it. It will suck. You will not like it. You will have to put in a gallon of cream and fifteen packs of sugar just to choke down one sip, and you still won’t like it. Then you’ll complain. And ask for something else. And you’ll hold up the line. And I’ll have to kill you. Don’t order the drip coffee.
- Don't tell the barista how to make coffee: What the hell is it with these people?
Barista: What can I make for you today?
Clueless Moron: A large latte. Only I don’t want it how you make it, I want it like that place in the Mall does it.
Clueless Moron: You better write this down…
Barista: (I wonder if I can order Ass flavoring in the five gallon jug?).
- There will always be one jerkoff in line loudly describing bodily functions on a cell phone.
- Never order anything that requires the use of a blender: I haven’t had coffee yet, the sound of metal blades on ice makes me homicidal to a degree that would make Freddie Kruger look like a fluffy cotton candy bunny. Order a smoothie and you die.
- Know what you want: Seriously, you've been in line for ten minutes. Know what you want. If you ask, "what's good?" you die.
- Don't order stuff that is not on the menu:
That thing? You know, that you used to have? With the Cinnamon and Strychnine? I want one of those. Only over ice and run through the blender.
Make it a Grande!
Oh, and put a jelly donut on top!
Say, what are you doing after work?
Ever ride in a Porsche?