Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Steaming Cup of Consistency

My father was a coffee lover. He’d make a big, big pot of coffee in the morning and drink it all day long. Black. Lots of sugar. Me, not so much. I never drank much coffee until a few years ago. And it’s strictly decaf.

My coffee drinking is social. A friend has stopped asking me to go with her for coffee. She likes to walk down Higuera Street, order a cup and bring the coffee back to work. For her it’s all about the coffee itself. Not for me. I like to go to the coffee shop. To sit and relax. Carry on a conversation over a steaming cup. Or just open my laptop, sipping, checking up on email or the latest “news” on HuffPost.

Lots of people don’t like Starbucks. But I do. There’s one four blocks from my house. Two more – facing each other, one in a Barnes & Noble – five blocks from my office. And tens of thousands worldwide. Their sheer numbers make them easy targets for naysayers.

My preferred coffee is flavored. On weekend evenings, I like mine with Kahlua and cream. Sometimes with Baileys. But my favorite is with chocolate – a big mocha. Decaf, of course, no whip. It’s how I size up coffee shops. Starbucks makes my favorite mocha. And the best is at the downtown SLO Starbucks.

What makes it “best?” Consistency. It’s always made the same way. Not too sweet. Heavy cocoa flavor. No thick syrup residue at the bottom of the cup. One young barista, with short platinum hair, is the queen. When she’s making the drinks, it’s going to be great. Excellent staff. Smiling, cheerful, friendly, and helpful; genuinely engaging without pretense. And there’s a refreshing sameness; I frequently see familiar faces among relaxing customers, regardless of when I visit.

I like Peets Coffee in downtown SLO. Tables outside, in a prime people-watching spot. Excellent iced tea. Cool vibe. Efficient staff. But not a great mocha. And that’s my gold standard. It all starts with the “product.”

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