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Coffee ain't coffee, Sol.


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Coffee, coffee everywhere but none you'd like to drink.

On a recent trip across the USA which started in New York City, went on to Newport, RI then over to Chicago and fianlly on to the left coast to San Diego it became patently obvious that you just can't get a decent coffee in at least 4 States.

That celestial chain would have to rank amongst the worst culprit serving a beverage closer to the water left over after washing a stack of very dirty dishes in a lot of water (not that I've ever drunk any but it smells the same). Little wonder it's common to add sickly sweet syrups - anything to hide the taste.

I tried brewed, espresso, cappuccino, filtered, regular, double and triple shots - all undrinkable for someone who comes from a coffee culture. Here in Australia we seem to have discovered what the Americans still don't know. You don't just burn the beans for flavor. You can't cook the bejeesus out of the aromatics and expect to end up with any taste you'd enjoy.

What I will do next time I'm in the US is go to a roasting establishment, teach them when to stop roasting and introduce the coffee drinkers of America to the rich, deep noted taste of a wider range of aromatics than you can expect from near ashen beans.

Good coffee is meant to be enjoyed. You stop. Sit down. Take in the complexity of flavors. Notice the chocolate notes. The toasty roasted characters with their hint of bitterness. There's a fullness of mouth-feel, almost a creamy texture which adds to the satisfaction of drinking coffee. It is certainly missing from the thin, lacklustre swampwater and what Americans call caufee. No wonder they buy it in a rush and swallow it while dashing to work or a meeting or just because life's always in a hurry. I suppose it's also recommended to drink and drive because if you spill some, you don't have to drink as much.

Introducing innovative Australian ingredients to creative chefs, cooks and foodies.

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Yeah, and whats up with that flag?? Red white and blue?? Gimme a break. And this apple pie crap...Slimy apples in soggy crust?? Don't even get me started on baseball...Do we need another excuse to drink beer and get fat?? :shock:

What we need is an Australian coming over and teaching us how to live. That will solve things... :wacko:

Edited by adegiulio (log)

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Let's point this in the discussion of a fruitful and productive conversation before I have to put on my bad cop hat and pull the thread.

There's a tremendous amount of merit in your comments and observations Vic. But "adegiulio" counters with a justifiable point that US culture has plenty to offer in a culinary sense and otherwise.

I regret that you had the unfortunate experience of seeing that dark side of US coffee culture. But change is a gradual thing and you simply weren't lucky enough to stumble upon one of the countless independent cafe operators or local/regional roasters who are all about coffee and espresso quality and offer a cup that any self respecting coffee loving Aussie would gladly enjoy.

You're correct that we don't have a tradition of quality coffee here. For many years the market was driven by the cheap supermarket coffee foisted upon an unsuspecting public in vacuum packed cans. The quality of that product has continued to decline over the years.

Enter the Mermaid. Starbucks created a new awareness among US consumers that espresso was not just a tiny cup of bitter dark liquid served in Italian cafés and also created an interest in better quality brewed coffee. The dilemma (one of many), as you've pointed out, is that their signature roasting style is so dark as to mask the aromatics and more subtle flavor components. It works for them and many people don't know better but the truth is that they generally ruin perfectly respectable beans by using this roasting style. They're not called "Charbucks" for nothing. Their metamorphosis into a fast food joint masquerading as an upscale coffee emporium has also required a move away from traditional techniques and towards full automated "push the button" equipment - yet another step in the direction of lower quality drinks.

There are a few good chains (actually I can only think of one - Peet's. But surely there must be one or two others?) but the independent scene is where it's at and you have to do a little bit of homework to seek out the good ones. I hope you'll revisit the US and give us a heads up before you do. Every major metro area in the US has at least a couple of espresso cafés that are serving top shelf drinks with properly roasted beans brewed and served the right way.

If you think our coffee is bad try visiting Paris. After four days of drinking total crap at $3.50 US for a 1 1/2 oz cup I broke down and went to Starbucks one morning. That's how bad the coffee was. Yet after my visit I was informed that there is indeed good coffee in Paris but just as in the US - one must seek it out.

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I should have mentioned.... although I can't speak for San Diego or Rhode Island because I haven't visited either place in years, I can assure you that excellent coffee and espresso are available in both NYC and Chicago.

In NYC check 9th Street Espresso on the Lower East Side, Joe the Art of Coffee on Waverly Place or Gimme Coffee in Williamsburg Brooklyn.

In Chicago the choices are fewer but it's easy: Intelligentsia Coffee.

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Just of curiosity - let me know if I'm reading your post wrong - if you were looking for a GOOD cup of coffee in America, why in HELL did you go to Starbucks?????????

There are roasteries and serious coffee places all over the US - heck, there's even a very good one in Asheville, North Carolina. Surely you could've used that magical invention, the internet, to look some of 'em up? :blink:

I'm not trying to be mean, here - I thought it was just common wisdom that Starbucks makes a crap cup of coffee.

K

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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I thought it was just common wisdom that Starbucks makes a crap cup of coffee.

It is among anyone with a reasonable amount of exposure to specialty coffeea nd a good reference point. But the problem is that so few people (in relative terms based on the size of the US population) have actually tried really really good coffee and far fewer have had properly made espresso or espresso based drinks.

Starbucks has how many stores in the US? Perhaps 7,000 or more? I think that in Australia they've only managed to open about 50 stores in the five years they've been there and at least three of them have been closed already (underperformance is rumored to be the reaosn but the 'bucks does not admit that).

Australia has a decided advantage in that there was already a well established quality coffee culture there when Starbucks decided to move in.

Vic - can you fill us in a bit on what you know of the history and development of the coffee culture down under? Did it begin with Italian immigration... was it enhanced by adjacency to the great coffees of Indonesia? How did a country with a historical connection to the UK move away from tea and towards coffee?

It's widely understood that McDonald's serves crap food yet they remain very popular and do lots of business. It's my understanding that Amercian fast food chains have been less than wildly successful in their efforts to propogate their businesses on a widespread basis in Australia. Why is that?

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It's ironic to hear this.

I recently had the pleasure of spending a bunch of time with a collection of Ausie coffee pros (over here for the SCAA conference).

They arrived with a lot of expecations about US coffee (as one of them, Paul, said, "I'd been warned that I wouldn't be able to get a decent cup of coffee in the US."). They left with a different point of view (quoting Paul again, "we're way behind you when it comes to roasting coffee.").

It ALL depends on where you go. There are thousands of terrible coffee bars in the US, just as there are in Australia.

But there are truly world class ones as well.

Oh... finally... most of the Ausie pros were shocked by how light the roast was on many of the truly great coffees here. I gather you all tend to burn your coffees a bit more than we do (grin).

fanatic...

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Vic - can you fill us in a bit on what you know of the history and development of the coffee culture down under? Did it begin with Italian immigration...  was it enhanced by adjacency to the great coffees of Indonesia? How did a country with a historical connection to the UK move away from tea and towards coffee?

It's widely understood that McDonald's serves crap food yet they remain very popular and do lots of business.  It's my understanding that Amercian fast food chains have been less than wildly successful in their efforts to propogate their businesses on a widespread basis in Australia.  Why is that?

Australia was developed at breakneck pace from the point of invasion in Sydney out to the very Centre - the Outback. Perhaps it was because the invaders were English and Irish, peoples with no real food traditions and cultures with a history of repeated invasions themselves, that the plant food resources of our indigenous people were entirely ignored. In fact it took until the 1980s when I was able to research Aboriginal food resources and then commercialise them (see www.cherikoff.net/cherikoff/#who). Readers might have heard of Wattleseed which I developed in 1984 as a roasted seed from selected Acacia species and which is now used by those in the know, as a caffeine-free coffee substitute but it is more like a chai and appeals to tea drinkers than die-hard coffee addicts. It is often used as a flavoring in ice cream, breads, desserts and sauces where its roasted notes and coffee-chocolate-hazelnut characters are deliciously applied.

This spread of exploration was followed promptly by transport lines (often over the top of walking tracks of Aboriginal groups as they managed their lands and maximised their food supply). At the same time and often building the roads, railways and ports, immigrants from Italy and Greece poured into Australia bringing with them the beginnings of our coffee culture. Interestingly, out in the bush, on stations and rural towns, tea is still the beverage of choice and it's impossible to get a decent coffee west of an hour or two out from the city limits. Never ask for a cappuccino in an outback town unless you want a tea-like, dilute, instant coffee which would be nearly identical to the stuff I learnt to avoid in the US.

And as for McD... Here in Australia we have McCafes with (almost) reasonable coffee made espresso style as the most popular corner of McDonald outlets. A double shot of the coffee they use is not too bad as a heart-starter on a long country drive although they only offer their regular stewed crap if you ask for the free cup on offer to drivers as part of our community Driver-Reviver program. C'est la vie! We live in hope that taste will prevail - eventually.

Introducing innovative Australian ingredients to creative chefs, cooks and foodies.

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There are roasteries and serious coffee places all over the US - heck, there's even a very good one in Asheville, North Carolina.  Surely you could've used that magical invention, the internet, to look some of 'em up?  :blink:

K is right, but, alas, I have a counter-example (so I advocate using eG as an intermediary). The roaster that I frequent in Lincoln, Nebraska has no web presence. There is nothing that would alert you to his roasting at any higher level than these heinous slow-roasting bastards. And yet, when I traveled to Chicago, I think his coffee edged out Intelligentsias in flavor, etc. Not by much, but a little.

There are bastions of light, ya just gotta open yer eyes.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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It's widely understood that McDonald's serves crap food yet they remain very popular and do lots of business.  It's my understanding that Amercian fast food chains have been less than wildly successful in their efforts to propogate their businesses on a widespread basis in Australia.  Why is that?

Very, very interesting stuff about Australia (and I had forgotten about those McCafes - it's been a really long time since I've set foot in McDonald's, and I just try not to go at all while I'm in NYC, which seems to be the only place in the US the cafes abound, so far. Correct me if I'm wrong, please). However - with the sentence I quoted, I think you missed my point. If you know something serves crap and you're looking for good, why would you go regardless of its popularity???

K

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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IMHO, the only real good 'American Coffee' is in Louisiana. It is a very rich brew with chicory. Some of the aforementioned small roasters are decent, but they are hard to find and I've discovered many are hit and miss in their quality.

"Instead of orange juice, I'm going to use the juice from the inside of the orange."- The Brilliant Sandra Lee

http://www.matthewnehrlingmba.com

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IMHO, the only real good 'American Coffee' is in Louisiana. It is a very rich brew with chicory.  Some of the aforementioned small roasters are decent, but they are hard to find and I've discovered many are hit and miss in their quality.

I'll agree with that... except that the way that Cafe Du Monde does their coffee, its like quadruple strength so it can't be drank black or only with a little amount of milk or cream -- you need to have it Au Lait to balance out the strength they brewed it at. Its a rather frustrating thing when its 10am in the quarter, its 95 degrees out and you REALLY want an Iced Coffee. Hilarity ensued recently at a Cafe Du Monde branch in Metairie when I asked for "a big plastic cup of ice, with coffee poured into it, with some cold milk poured on top". It was the strongest iced coffee I ever had -- I actually had the shakes after drinking 16oz of it, and I was wired for about 10 hours afterwards.

I really like Community Coffee though -- but brew it yourself. I actually prefer their non-chickory one.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Maybe silly to repeat what others have said, but many Americans are quite well-traveled and have indeed been exposed to good coffee elsewhere. And have come home to higher expectations. And have opened independent coffee shops that are well-supported.

But it does take some effort to seek out these places.

What I do is to telephone the concierge desk of a local large hotel and ask about independent coffee shops. If I'm in a locale too small to have a large hotel with a concierge, I get out that time-honored, low-tech resource, the telephone book. In a town of any size at all, there will be several small coffee shops listed.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Its a rather frustrating thing when its 10am in the quarter, its 95 degrees out and you REALLY want an Iced Coffee. Hilarity ensued recently at a Cafe Du Monde branch in Metairie when I asked for "a big plastic cup of ice, with coffee poured into it, with some cold milk poured on top". It was the strongest iced coffee I ever had -- I actually had the shakes after drinking 16oz of it, and I was wired for about 10 hours afterwards.

I really like Community Coffee though -- but brew it yourself. I actually prefer their non-chickory one.

Dude, I know you know, but we only have about 100 Vietnamese places that have SUPERIOR iced coffee and will set you up with the whole rig, as long as you don't mind waiting for the drip to occur, and a go cup full of ice. I love that stuff. It's kind of funny as I always thought that they used CDM because they were in New Orleans, but it turns out that it the Vietnamese standard all over the country. The majority of those places use CDM, inspite of the fact that there is some excellent coffee coming out of Viet Nam.

Also, any CC's can put together a reasonable good iced coffee and they will actually give you a full on coffee, with no milk, and not give you a hard time about it.

New Orleans is a coffee town, you are right. We are the largest coffee port in the US and have several of the largest roasting plants in the country. St Tammany Parish has the largest coffee warehouse and packaging facility in the US. Hell, if you are driving in on I10 from the east on a still, humid night you can smell the coffee roasting as you cross over the high rise over the Industrial Canal. It's a great smell on the right night.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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IMHO, the only real good 'American Coffee' is in Louisiana. It is a very rich brew with chicory.   Some of the aforementioned small roasters are decent, but they are hard to find and I've discovered many are hit and miss in their quality.

I'll agree with that... except that the way that Café Du Mode does their coffee, its like quadruple strength so it can't be drank black or only with a little amount of milk or cream -- you need to have it Au Lait to balance out the strength they brewed it at. Its a rather frustrating thing when its 10am in the quarter, its 95 degrees out and you REALLY want an Iced Coffee. Hilarity ensued recently at a Cafe Du Monde branch in Metairie when I asked for "a big plastic cup of ice, with coffee poured into it, with some cold milk poured on top". It was the strongest iced coffee I ever had -- I actually had the shakes after drinking 16oz of it, and I was wired for about 10 hours afterwards.

I really like Community Coffee though -- but brew it yourself. I actually prefer their non-chickory one.

Jason:

Remember our discussion over dinner at Jade 46, about the Coffee that I enjoy drinking at home, that is so strong that if anyone else wants to share I treat it like "Coffee Essence" using about 2 ounces with 6 ounces of hot water to make a [normal?] regular tasting richly flavored cup.

I had mentioned that I brew in Bulk a 15 oz Can of "Café Du Monde" into a 72 oz Carafe for my favorite beverage. This is not a method I invented it is the same Coffee/Water ratio that is regularly served at the majority of Vietnamese Pho, Sandwich or Restaurants in the USA being their Coffee of Choice in the majority of places. I find that one generous cup is adaquete for each day, but drinking sludge was aquired after all my years in Hotels and Restaurants with Expresso Machines.

It's mostly served Filtered from a Stainless Drip Coffee Filter dripped into a individual cup, most often with Sweetened Condensed Milk on the bottom, then served with Ice or Hot to your preference.

The "Café Du Monde" has sustained it's popularity even though there are now many Coffee's being imported from Vietnam. It's hard to imagine that in only a few years that Vietnam has become the 2nd largest Coffee producer in the world.

Getting back to the topic of which American Coffee is the true champion of Dredge I want to nominate "Farmers Brothers" to the top of the list.

This undrinkable goop is served throughout the middle and western states where it often the Coffee Drink of choice in those places that pour cups through out your meal, beginning to end in a light beige color at best. I have been in places where this is the Coffee being used for Irish Coffee, Kahlua Coffee and Coffee Nudges that creeped me out, but then I'm not a local, only bewildered.

I often remember customers patronizing my restaurants requesting Coffee be served with meals, who were surprised that we warned them that we served a richer, more flavorful coffee recommended after they enjoyed their meal.

Often they insisted on being served the Coffee their way and we did serve as they requested. We watched as they became "Wired Up" but complied. It wasn't unusual if these customers returned for Dinner that they waited until finishing their entrée before ordering some "After Dinner Coffee".

For the posters who were intrested in a so called "European Cofee" there are several well known "Dutch" Coffee products available everywhere in the States or over the Internet, they are selling a "Dutch Pod" machine at "Sams Club's" and "Costco's" at reasonable prices. I have found that Coffee in Europe, with the exception of Spain and Italy is generally only mediocre with England being the worst except for Coffee Botiques or places featuring Expresso.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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