After spending some time as an unhappy public accountant I thought it was time for a change; I decided to move from Boston to San Francisco. This was a very exciting time for me, and led me to some pretty momentous personal achievement and moments of self discovery. It also led me to coffee.
As I mentioned in an earlier post I had never really taken coffee seriously. I would drink it in huge quantities when working grueling hours in public accounting but never really enjoyed it. At the time coffee, to me, meant a “triple, venti, non-fat, sugar-free, vanilla latte” from Starbucks. I would get three, sometimes four of these a day and would joke about how I was drinking a big caffeinated hot milkshake. I did not enjoy them and for me the “coffee” component of these was something to be hidden, disguised under layers of fat and chemically flavored syrups. I did once or twice get a straight shot of espresso from Starbucks too, but I disguised the sour goo with a packet of honey (I’m not sure where I got the habit of sweetening coffee with honey), but I certainly did not enjoy it.
I needed to cut back, and when I moved to SF I decided that I would. I didn’t stop drinking coffee, but instead started drinking small cups of it out of the office carafe. Then one September or November day I dragged myself out of bed and walked from my apartment to the Ferry Terminal Farmers Market. I would do this every weekend, one of my favorite memories of SF, and I would always walk past a line of people, 20 or 30 deep, lined up to order from something called Blue Bottle Coffee. This made no sense to me. Why would any reasonably sane person wait to get…coffee? No, this is silly, but maybe….ok, I’ll try it.
I stood in line, feeling a little silly, and when the time came made my order “I’ll have a mocha latte, non-fat. Do you have any sugar free syrup?”
Oh, how they glowered at me. I withered under their contempt. I stammered “a..a…actually I’ll just have a coffee” Thinking that this would be a waste of money. Soon enough I saw them pouring grounds into a cone shaped device and slowly pouring water over them. This was confusing, I’d never seen anything like that before. After a couple of minutes of head scratching they gave me my cup of coffee. I tasted it, and…passed out.
Ok, not really, but it was (pardon the cliché) a revelation. Unlike any cup of coffee I’d ever had. It was complex, like wine, with different notes at first sip and at the aftertaste. It was clean, no bitterness, no sourness.
I loved it.