Friday, October 22, 2010

Guest Post: My Coffee Memoir - Family, Coffee, and Home

Today's post comes from the Fiance. (She has been recently upgraded from the Girlfriend to the former.) Over the past week I encouraged her to do a guest post for Metro Espresso. Not only did she do that, but produced a wonderful essay on coffee and family. To compliment her prose, pictured left is a painting called "Morning Coffee" by Francois Boucher (1739).

My Coffee Memoir

My dad has always been a workaholic. He would come home, only to leave the next day on a week long business trip. When he actually was home, he was usually in the study on some kind of conference call, with the door closed. Needless to say, as a bona fide daddy’s girl, every second that I had with my dad was precious.

When I was a little girl, I looked forward to the weekend mornings where I smelled espresso brewing in the kitchen. That smell meant that Daddy was home! I would wake up, not caring what time it was, and run downstairs to where my dad would be sipping his espresso in his white Mikasa cup. We would sit at the breakfast table and chat about anything and everything; what projects were going on in school, what room in the house my parents wanted to redo next, or why the sky was blue. These moments became my favorite childhood memories, and they continued all throughout elementary, middle, and high school.

Eventually, I grew up and went off to college. As a student with a dual major and who was involved in other college committees, I had a rigorous course load, lots of commitments, and many late nights. Caffeine was the only way to survive. I became addicted…or at least I think I did. I couldn’t tell if I was more addicted to the caffeine, or the smell that my coffeemaker produced, reminding me of my dad. I looked forward to breaks when I could go home, not just because it was time off from my busy schedule, but because I could go home and continue the tradition of waking up to the smell of Dad’s espresso and spending time with him.

Then I met the wonderful author of “Metro Espresso”… Not really a coffee drinker when I met him, I would occasionally make him a cup of joe when he had to pull all-nighters reading some ridiculously long text about some guy that died hundreds of years ago in order stay awake. Gradually, he became addicted too. Trips to our favorite coffee shop were frequent dates.

Fast forward four years later and we have graduated college, moved in together, and started our lives as real adults, me as a special education teacher, he as a grad school student. I wake up earlier than him, and am usually out the door before he even gets out of bed. He often has night classes and gets home after I have gone to bed. Depending on our schedules, days can go by before we ever really see each other. However, every weekend, I wake up to the smell of espresso brewing in the kitchen. Only now, it’s not my dad that I see sipping out of his white Mikasa cup, but the love of my life sipping out of one of his many espresso cups. We sit down at the breakfast table, talking about anything and everything, like what projects we have going on in our life, our future, and why the sky is blue. These are becoming some of my favorite adulthood memories… sound familiar?

To me, coffee is more than just a drink that keeps me awake in the morning while I have 20 students asking me how to spell words that they should already know or telling me that they are going to puke (and then do so in front of me…ew). It is a feeling. Sometimes, I brew coffee without the intent of drinking it, but because I am homesick for my dad or my metro espresso writer. The smell is all I need. Once I smell the aroma of coffee, I am instantly brought to my happy place and two of the people that I love the most in this world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grinding the Coffee: A Different Posting Format

Hi Metro Espresso readers, I wanted to spice up the format a little bit. Some posts will be in a short stream of consciousness structure. Why? A. It changes the paragraph, essay format that isn't necessarily conducive to blog readers who want short tid-bit sized reading. L. I can write more posts providing more content.

B. Because I want to.

C. One of the searches on google for my blog was "Can I drink coffee in Metro?"

The answer is no, if you do, you will be mercilessly made fun of by wtfmetro or unsuckdcmetro. Enshrined forever by stealth photos taken by DC'ites framing you as a tourist who obliviously hogs metal poles or gorges themselves with fatty Doritos spreading cheese over the dusty, musty carpet that metro riders love.

S. You will inevitably spill.

D. Coffee, Espresso my espresso turned out wonderful today.

E. It tasted brighter than my dark roast. Naturally.

F. Freedom, freedom to try out different roasts, beans, and cups to create a wonderful coffee

M. Milk- We have skim milk at the house, I should try whole for lattes, I think I would get the
whole effect.

S. Snobbery: No one should be a coffee snob, but coffee lovers. Not in a carnal sense, but as an epicurean one. Spread the good news. (Not that news, but caffeinated goodness)

The end.

Update: This section will now be called "Stream of Coffee'ness" Trademark *stamp*

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reconsidering Coffee and Sociability

In a recent post by coffee bloggers Bill and Kim, they discussed a coffee tasting party where they invited friends and acquaintances to taste premium coffees from a French press and a drip machine to facilitate a better appreciation of coffee. A great read on its own, it prompted me to think about the relation between coffee and sociability.

Either by the nature of drip coffee, being sipped over an extended period of time, and/or the growth of cafe culture in the modern era, coffee is seen as a drink where people can come together, drink coffee, and socialize.

What I hope to do is discern the differences between chatting at a public cafe and the intimacy of one's home or private residence in relations to drinking coffee.

First, one can certainly have meaningful conversations at public coffee houses like Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts. When I use public, I merely mean that they are located in the public sphere, not the state of their ownership. I contend that locally-owned cafes also be included in this category for the following reasons. In both cases, baristas make your coffee and money is exchanged for services rendered. Customers sits down and engage in their affairs, whether it be conversation, reveling in a peaceful moment, or running out the door to their next 2 hour meeting. Fundamental to understanding the differences between coffee at a cafe and one's home is that a barista is making the coffee, not yourself.

I realize this is an obvious observation, but the implications should teased out to fully understand how this affects social relations. The physical act of brewing and serving is delegated to someone else. This delegation or shifting of responsibility reduces personal interaction and connection between two people engaging in coffee. In this delegation an important element of social activity and communication is lost. In making coffee at your place of residence with the host brewing coffee for the guest, it reflects, in part, the values, care, and importance of the relationship to each person. The host enjoys preparing coffee for the guest, and the guest acknowledges the care and pride the host takes in his/her coffee and presentation. Certainly this relationship isn't exclusive to coffee, but what is peculiar to coffee consumption are the rituals associated with it.

For example, pictured above are two cups of Turkish coffee. From what I have read, certainly not from academic sources but from coffee blogs, Turkish coffee consumption in Turkey has a specific presentation and culture revolving around communication, holds significant meaning in society.

What I am arguing is that partaking in cafes, while convenient and a place for discussion in a public space, removes a certain social intimacy inherent in making coffee for yourself and others. By relying on a paid barista at your local coffee shop, one depends upon others to engender better social relationships which could be strengthened through one's own action in a host/guest relationship.

I am not calling for a boycott of cafes or anything near that extreme, but rather that there is a dependency on cafes to facilitate social relations. Instead, one should reconsider meeting at Starbucks, and invite people over for coffee at your place.

My Turkish coffee turned out pretty bad tonight. I didn't boil the water resulting in a gritty coffee, but in the picture above I wanted to show my wonderful little foam I spooned out.

Coffee and Technical Problems

Recently, my laptop went on a bender, and by "on a bender" I mean kaput. In these hard times, I will be reinstalling Windows tomorrow. Unfortunately this his has impacted my ability to blog and do other academic work. This issue will be rectified soon so I can post more pictures of my initial forays into coffee roasting.

In other coffee news, my Yemeni coffee with its rooty, spicy taste made a unique espresso, but truly shined as Turkish coffee. Last night, I brought out the ibryk, spooned in two heaps of coffee, stirred, and brewed two delicious cups of coffee. While I can't post any pictures of it yet, I heartily recommend every coffee lover to buy a Turkish coffee pot and a grinder capable of grinding very finely.

In the mean time, enjoy this photo of Turkish coffee that I can only dream of making.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Coffee Roasting: My First Batch of Coffee

Metro Espresso has entered into a new stage of coffee love: coffee roasting. For our 4 year anniversary, the Girlfriend gifted me a popcorn popper and 4 bags of green coffee from Sweet Maria's!

Often times, people who are interested in coffee roasting begin using a popcorn popper as an inexpensive way of exploring how to roast. For more information on this roasting method see Coffee Geek's informative guide about it.

I wanted to show off my first two batches. While my first attempts produced some uneven roasting ranging from light to medium, everyone has to start somewhere! Pictured below is my first batch.

Friday, October 08, 2010

New Feature: Metro Area Coffee Map

View Metro Espresso's guide to DC area coffee in a larger map
(For a reason unknown to me, the map isn't centering on DC itself. You can easily scroll the map to Washington for your viewing pleasure.)

In my spare time, I made a map with good coffee houses I have visited in DC. Over time, I will update the map to reflect new places I have visited and thought worth people's time, effort, and money. I will place this map on the blog's right hand column so Metro Espresso readers can always refer to the map outside of this post. If you have suggestions for places that I should go to, use the shout out box, tweet me, or use the Metro Espresso Facebook fan page.

Coffee Houses listed are in no particular order:

DC: M.E Swings, Bourbon Coffee, Chinatown Coffee Company, Dolcezza Gelato, and Peregrine.

VA: Java Shack, Rappahannock Roasters, Beanetics (pan the map left, it is in Annandale, VA

Coffee House Spotlight: Bourbon Coffee

Located in Foggy Bottom at 2101 L Street NW, Bourbon Coffee serves roughly 6 regional Rwandan coffees to sleep deprived, caffeine dependent Washingtonians. A local coffee house among the swarm of Starbucks', Bourbon coffee serves excellent, stand out coffee bursting with flavor accompanied by snappy, friendly service. (Photo Credit: Prince of Petworth Blog)

While not a review of Bourbon coffee, I wanted to tell my metro area readers about this wonderful retreat from the DC bustle.

The coffee house is designed with many African and Rwandan elements to accompany the quality coffee they serve. Please visit their website to see photos of the interior, but a pleasant number of seats, tables and couches are available to customers.

I wanted to discuss my impressions of their coffee. Having visited M.E. Swings, Chinatown Coffee Company, and Peregrine, I found that Bourbon's drip coffee and espresso to be superior. Often drip coffee can be watery, lacking in flavor, and generate an overall feeling of "meh," yet theirs surprised me with a bold complexity akin to coffees from Kenya. At least, the coffee in the drip machine reminded me of that. Other Rwandan coffees can be mellower in taste. I recommended their drip to one of my colleagues, and his face lit up when sipping it.

Everyone prefers their espresso a bit differently, but I enjoy a bit more body and 2oz for a double espresso. Other coffee shops in DC often have a flavorful crema, but the body is lacking making a flat tasting espresso. In addition, a pet peeve of mine is when the espresso cup isn't heated making the espresso cool when coming into contact with the cup. Bourbon coffee's espresso was in a very warm cup, and had a pleasant tiger striped crema accompanied by a rich body.

If you live in the DC metro area, please stop by and try out their coffee. You won't be disappointed (At least I don't think you will be).

Additional Links:
Rwandan coffee suffering from a drought!:
A spotlight on Bourbon coffee by the Washington Post.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Fritz Frischer, Flavored Coffee, and the Girlfriend

Good morning! I wanted to stop in, and do a quick post. As of late, my graduate work has been overwhelming my blogging responsibilities. As seen in the pic, this hasn't stopped my coffee consumption, in fact, it has done the opposite. The most recent book I read was Germany's War Aims in the First World War by Fritz Fischer. This behemoth weighs in at a paltry 600 pages, and has jealously gobbled up my precious spare time.

In other coffee news, the Girlfriend bought some Dunkin Donuts coffee that was pre-ground, (ehh!), but it was mint infused. I opened up the air tight canister she put it in, and the aroma that permeated reminded me of Andes candies, which is a good thing! Initially she put brewed it using a French Press, but stated the taste came out way too strong. This morning, (I haven't had the chance to talk to her), she used the drip machine which will reduce the boldness of the coffee.
(Clearly not my hands: credit to Wikipedia Commons)

My question is, when coffee chains use flavors, artificial or natural, do they purposefully make the flavors extra bold to overcome the flavor stealing paper filters, which then makes it difficult to drink from a press pot?

I have heard good things about Starbucks's natural infused coffees from (who gave it a 3.75/5!). Hmm, perhaps tonight I shall try out this Andes-like DD coffee.
Since writing this post, the Girlfriend has stopped drinking the Dunkin Donuts Mint coffee. She brewed it in a drip machine and in the French Press, and states that the results are inconsistent. Naturally, this may be attributed to barista error, but I would never say so. My experience with flavored coffees are hit or miss, and I would rather spend my money on quality single-origin beans. Nevertheless, my question still remains whether coffee companies over flavor their coffee to hide bad beans and to account for paper filters.

Thank you for Daily Shot of Coffee for citing me in Fresh Brews. Be sure to check them out, one of the best coffee blogs on the internet with daily posts and continual content.