Black, pitch, and very very grande

Posted on April 8th, 2009 Won't you help brighten a lonely comment's day?

la minita

Are you reading this with coffee? No? Well, do you wanna get one? I can wait…

I think it’s good to immerse yourself in a subject much, as it happens, like good coffee in hot water. It provides a much richer froth of experience and warm sensory delectation. Mmmm, I know you can taste it.

Now let me tell you why Second Cup is UH-SO-MUCH (said with gusto!), better than Starbucks. First, let’s take a detour to the basics: the bean. It starts as the green seed of a red cherry. The cherry part is stripped or sometimes left to dry off, the husk around the two beans in the center (sometimes one) is dried off along with the beans themselves, then they’re bagged, stored, and shipped. Basically: strip, dry, husk, bag, and deliver.

Up until this point, with the exception of coming from different equatorial regions around the world, most beans are pretty much the same. Green, there’s not much flavour. When slow roasted, though, some kinda magical alchemical reaction takes place in the bean and it starts to slowly release all sorts of flavourful oils onto its surface as it browns.

The lightest roast is green-brown. You probably wouldn’t want to drink it; probably something like boiled cabbage and two-day-old underwear. When brown, the next step up, the bean is nicely toasted throughout, but there’s no oil on the surface. The next roast up is medium. Here you can easily see oily spotting on the bean. Finally, with a dark roast, the bean is visibly blackened and very oily all over. If you’ve ever bought a French or Italian roast, that’s the guy.

So, the next time you step into a Starbucks, don’t forget that you’ve just wasted however long it took you to read that. If you skipped it, good for you. It’s pretty much irrelevant because everything at Starbucks is cinder. That’s the American style of producing “strong” coffee; burn the bean to hell and back and throw in milk and sugar like it went out of style two seasons ago.

But I don’t want to be too critical. Good blackened beans are good for a proper frothy espresso or espresso-based drinks.
Which I barely ever have.
End of story.

Second Cup, on the other hand, runs the whole gamut of browns. If you visit their bean counter, they usually have a display mounted front and center where they show off what I described above. There’s usually not much guess work between a light roast and a medium roast; just look at the differences in oil on the surface. I’ve been told their default dark roast is a bit sub-par but, at more than one location, they’ve made special cups from freshly ground bagged beans from the bean counter. Never hurts to ask because that’s how you might hit on that one awesome bean.

Not only that but the majority of their stuff is excellent; fair-trade-before-fair-trade ones like my fave of faves, La Minita Tarrazu, a coffee that has never disappointed. Mellow and just so laid back. That coffee doesn’t have a care in the world.

Summatran/Indonesian blends are also very accessible; their sun curing process creates a coffee that in some seasons tastes like cocoa. When done in a french press, it creates a really rich brew with some of the very fine particles of coffee suspended in the liquid. This thick hot suspension and it’s aroma of nuts and chocolate all get plunged into a sweetened steamed-milk bath. Like I said, accessible.

At Starbucks, the choices are basically: black, pitch, inner-anus, and very very dark. Even with caramel, I don’t like them odds.

Buy proud Canadian coffee instead! Raise that morning cup ‘o northen glory high and pronounce with pride:

nice big cup

One Comment on “ Black, pitch, and very very grande ”

  • Renee
    April 9th, 2009 5:26 am

    hehehehehe…..already had my cup o' joe…though after reading this, I'm ready for another. :)


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