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Craig Camp

A Distaste for Coffee

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Moving to the Northwest I greatly anticipated its famed coffee culture. Having lived in Italy, I became addicted to their concentrated short shots of coffee heaven. Sure enough, upon arrival I discovered espresso stands on almost every corner.

Unfortunately I also discovered that while everyone sells espresso no one actually likes it or orders it. In fact I am convinced that the famed coffee culture of Seattle and Portland is no coffee culture at all, but, in fact, a flavored milk culture. Anything and everything is used to hide the flavor of coffee making the quality of the espresso that goes into the mix meaningless. Often I have to convince the barista (a title they should not be entitled to) that I don't want milk in my shot - as they refer to espressos in these parts.

Stopping for coffee here always means standing in line as each person in front of you orders a complex concoction of mocha this or Carmel that followed by a line of other descriptors like: skinny, wet, dry, half-foam, half-caf and on and on. It takes the poor barista five minutes to make each masterpiece. They seem almost disappointed when I order my unglamourous espresso.

Because no one actually tastes the coffee here, the quality of the espressos are usually quite bad and it takes a bit of detective work to search out the few coffee houses out of the thousands that surround you that can make the real deal.

It seems very strange that such a well caffeinated bunch can't stand the taste of coffee.

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Don't forget, these young corporate Turks also consume the vast majority of the nation's boneless, skinless, flavorless chicken breasts.

Money and addiction do not foster a proper appreciation for an art form.

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This is another one of the bazillion reasons why, when I lived in Seattle, I used $tarbucks as a last resort only, and had a few favorite trusted independent espresso joints, mine being Cafe Vivace. Yeah, I still drank a lot of lattes there--but the thing I liked about Vivace was that for a change you *could* taste their coffee, which they roasted themselves, through the milk (their barristas also really knew their stuff). Agreed however that there's a whole lot of crappy coffee drinks served in the Pacific Northwest, and a whole lot of crappy coffee underneath all the milk and syrup and junk. My serious coffee hound friends up there buy their own beans and either use a home espresso machine or a French press; they also have favorite indy coffeehouses and turn to the chains only for caffeine-level maintenance. :rolleyes:

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In fact I am convinced that the famed coffee culture of Seattle and Portland is no coffee culture at all, but, in fact, a flavored milk culture.

I couldn't agree more. Although I think that there are more coffee (vs espresso) drinkers than you give credit for.

I recently ordered a double espresso at a highly recommended coffee bar and the barista actually messed up my order. (I was watching him.) He was caught off-guard by somebody ordering an actual espresso!

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In fact I am convinced that the famed coffee culture of Seattle and Portland is no coffee culture at all, but, in fact, a flavored milk culture.

I couldn't agree more. Although I think that there are more coffee (vs espresso) drinkers than you give credit for.

I recently ordered a double espresso at a highly recommended coffee bar and the barista actually messed up my order. (I was watching him.) He was caught off-guard by somebody ordering an actual espresso!

The other day I ordered an espresso and the "barista" asked me if I wanted the 16 or 20 oz. size. This is not the first time that has happened.

I would agree that the American style coffee is generally better than you get in the rest of the country, but it seems crazy to drop 4 or 5 grand on a commercial espresso machine and then not learn how to use it.

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The other day I ordered an espresso and the "barista" asked me if I wanted the 16 or 20 oz. size. This is not the first time that has happened.

And you're complaining?

Everytime that I order espresso I get this little tiny cup of the stuff and it costs something like 3 bucks. I hate that and get the feeling that they are making a ton of money off of me. If I was getting a healthy 16 oz., that might kind of perk me up some and make me feel a little better about the money that I have spent.

Some people will complain about anything.

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I feel your pain, Craig. Friends in the know tell me that there are a few places on the West coast that blow away the best places in Italy, but there's nowhere near the ubiquitous baseline quality one can expect on every street corner in Italy (this is discussed a bit in this thread). That's one reason among many I take almost all my coffee at home with my own roasted beans and from my own Rancilio.

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What are peoples favorite coffee shops in the area? Being a student I tend to goto the ones around Uw, but I also work at the Grateful Bread out in Wedgewood as a busser. I like Cafe Alegro as well as Cafe Solstice, but I want to hear what other people have to say about places in the region.

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What are peoples favorite coffee shops in the area?

Caffe Vivace on Broadway and Victrola (on 15th Street I believe). Both take their art and craft seriously, do excellent roasting in-house and have well trained barista's who deliver consistent results. And you'll find that they know what you want when ordering a straight espresso.

Other Seattle area shops that find favor with many people include the cafe's Zoka, Vita, Lighthouse and Del Arte (sp?). But the first two I mentioned are IMHO the best of the best in Seattle.

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In Olympia, we have our own roaster and I relish my freshly ground organic french roast. In fact, when I travel, I bring enough for gifts and for my own consumption. Gotta know your supplier!

Kate

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The Coffee Roaster in Lincoln, Nebraska has recently branched out into espresso service, and they have a mighty tasty espresso blend that really makes a fine shot.

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