True confessions here -- if you check my profile, you'll see that I make it clear right up front: I am not a coffee snob. I appreciate great coffee, I really do. I appreciate great coffee the way I appreciate lobster, fine wines and Wagyu beef -- the best of the best that I can enjoy whenever I can afford it (and with coffee I make a point of affording it often). But an appreciation for Wagyu beef doesn't stop me from loving a great hamburger -- or even a USDA Prime or Choice cut of beef, and appreciating the high notes of a fine Sumatran coffee doesn't prevent me from enjoying a fresh cup of good ol' basic Joe.
Now, that doesn't mean I'll drink any old dishwater. In fact, I'm pickier about my supermarket coffee than I am about the good stuff. The good stuff. Given a choice, I'll almost always opt for Eight O'Clock coffee, which I've been drinking since my grandmother used to pour it over my cornflakes when I was a kid. It helps that it's one of the few coffees I can buy in whole beans at the supermarket - and I always buy it whole and grind just before I brew.
All of that is just a roundabout way of explaining how it is that I get little Inbox bombs from Eight O'Clock coffee every so often. I signed up for their mailing list to get freebies (like the very cool coffee mug with spoon that I picked up a couple of years back and coupons for bucks off bags of coffee). I also keep up because I regularly write about coffee for a few more -- let's just call them eclectic -- coffee sites, so it's nice to have a regular stream of coffee-related tidbits that I can toss into a blog post or article for one of them. This afternoon's Eight O'Clock marketing blast contained a few great coffee-related holiday tips that were too good not to pass on. In fact, I may incorporate a few of them myself this year.
- Don't wait till after dinner to put on the coffee. I hadn't ever really thought about this but you know, until a few years ago, holidays at my mother's had one key difference from other dinners at my mother's -- the coffee didn't get put on till after dinner. My brothers and I -- all diehard coffee drinkers -- usually showed up with our travel cups of coffee in hand and once that was gone, there was no more coffee till the desserts were on the table. These days, the coffee pot goes on the minute we start arriving and everyone is welcomed with a hot, fresh cup of coffee. The house smells wonderful and everyone tends to hang out around the kitchen table, sipping their coffee and catching up. Coffee is good for promoting sociable interaction, after all.
- Try out new coffee equipment before you use it for company -- and check out coffee stuff you give as gifts. Nothing is more disappointing than finding out that the new espresso maker doesn't work, so plug it in and pull a shot to make sure that everything is working right before you wrap it up. And if you're planning something fancy, like say, a siphon pot at the table, practice up first so you can impress everyone with your command of the "new" technology.
- Provide a few coffee options. Holidays are a great time to introduce folks to great coffee -- but remember that not everyone has the same taste. You definitely should have a decaf option on hand for those folks that can't handle the caffeine, and if you started the afternoon with coffee, try serving a different one with dessert. Check out the coffee/food pairing suggestions to pick coffees that go especially well with the desserts you're serving.
- Bring coffee. Lots of people show up for dinner with a bottle of wine in hand. Why not bring along a lovely bag of your favorite coffee for the host and hostess instead? If you're looking for suggestions, check out some of the reviews for coffees here on ROASTe -- I've got my wish list all set up and ready to order.
- Coffee to go! My mom picked up on this one a few years ago, too. All of us kids and grandkids migrate home for the holidays and face an hour or three in the car to get back home. A couple Christmases ago, we were sitting around after dinner trying to figure out which drive-thrus might be open to grab a cup of coffee for the road before we hit the highway. My mother -- who absolutely abhors the thought that anyone but her should spend unneccesary money -- put on the coffee, jumped in her car, headed down to the local convenience store and came home with empty travel mugs for each of us. That's now become a holiday tradition. We can count on the fact that our gifts from mom will always include a new travel mug -- and that she'll fill it with coffee for the road before we leave the house. Remember, friends don't let friends drink gas station coffee on Christmas!