the circular runner

why does my espresso taste like i’m throwing up backwards?

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on February 21, 2012 at 6:35 am

I live in San Francisco. Because I am a teacher and tutor-for-hire, half of my trunk looks like a library. Because of where I live, the other half looks like a sweater store. San Francisco is not a big city, but the micro-climates are legion. In the course of any given day, you have to be ready for everything from California heat to arctic windstorm. At night, things tend to stabilize, which means it just gets cold. This is why we have a ton of coffee places in most neighborhoods.

But I have noticed a disturbing trend among these purveyors of java, good ol’ joe, the elixir of the Gods. The fancier the place, the worse the coffee. Many people in the know give me blank stares when I point out that the coffee roasters most famous here, Ritual and Blue Bottle being the best examples, serve stuff that tastes like burned vinegar. Recently, I met someone for a meeting at the Blue Bottle-owned cafe downtown. The person I was meeting was one of those in-the-know kind of guys, so I figured he liked Blue Bottle. I also knew that the espresso there was like puking backwards, but I didn’t want to be a downer. That, and the fact that another person-in-the-know, told me my experience with Blue Bottle was not authentic since I was not drinking something made by Blue Bottle coffee gurus.

After waiting in line (because so many people seem to love the stuff) it was my turn up at the altar of caffeine, so I asked the guru-in charge if she could make a hot chocolate for me and dump a shot of espresso in that. Regardless of what I’d been told, I just wanted a decent coffee experience. (If you’re asking why I didn’t just have a straight hot chocolate, I’m not sure. For some reason, that didn’t seem like an option at the time, which I take as a sign that I needed the caffeine to think more clearly.)

Anyway, the Blue Bottle guru looked at me like I was crazy. “We don’t do THAT to our product,” she said. “Don’t you like our espresso?”

To which I answered an unusually honest and blunt, “No. Actually, I don’t.”

It’s not just one place. If you Yelp the best places for espresso in the city, the top nine roasters all produce cups of pain that, to varying degrees, make me feel like I’m puking in reverse. These places do wonderful business. People rave. I puke in reverse. Now, either my buds are off, or I live in the wrong city for coffee, which makes me so so sad. I went to Seattle last year, and it was like every espresso was better than the last. I don’t think my wife is going to allow us to move for my coffee needs, but it’s hard. It’s hard for a man to puke backwards unintentionally.

There are still a few places that serve a decent cup of joe in town–usually, they’re old school places that don’t even specialize in coffee. I have a bakery down the street that serves something called Mr. Espresso, which sounds completely lame except that it’s so much better than the fancy tripple-roasted beans washed by fairly-traded coffee technicians in Sumatra. But the bakery sorely lacks something I need, two hings, actually: seats and wi-fi.

Look, I know I should suck it up and brew my own damn coffee, but the last few months, I have become addicted to sitting in coffee houses while writing. I’m just so much more productive sitting on dusty and dingy chairs, plugged into crappy wall sockets while sipping at my double espresso alongside the new moms and dads and their slinged children. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, then you know that I was doing the Starbucks thing since it was so close to my house, but that sign about something called acrylamide or some such thing and how it’s in their products and might cause cancer, well that freaked me out, (Also the ventilation was horrid and my wife told me that all my sweaters smelled like crappy coffee and cat pee–she thinks all Starbucks smell like cat pee.)

I’m starting to think that it’s just a hipster thing. Hipsters like skinny jeans and stupid fedoras. I do not. Maybe they like burned vinegary pukey coffee, which you could call the coffee equivalent of skinny jeans. They’re taking over everything in town–the cheap housing, the book stores, and now the coffee places. I used to go to this other place owned by a Neapolitan guy–a f-ing Italian, and the coffee was just plain old Lavazza and it was magnifico. Then his business started doing well. He hired some hipster-chick to help now, and wham-bam, I’m puking mam. It’s a conspiracy, I’ve decided. But I won’t give into it. I will keep looking for good coffee and chairs and WiFi. It’s a dream, I know. But you gotta shoot for the stars sometimes. You gotta have hope.

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  1. Gawd, this was good. You had me laughing and spilling my “brew my own, cause I hate SB’s and it’s too far to go to the one good place in my town,” coffee. Your wife has an acute sense of smell and is very perceptive.

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