I was thinking when I walked yesterday about how some flavors were just meant to be together--Steak and Lobster, Bacon and Eggs, Martinis and Green Olives, Pizza and Beer, Toast and Butter, Waffles and Maple Syrup and of course, COFFEE AND DONUTS! I was getting kind of philosophical--it's kind of a Yin and Yang about life. You have the bitter and the sweet, and when they blend together you have harmony----wow! All these insights from a piece of dough boiled in oil and covered with sugar!
I'm not talking about actual flavored coffee, I'm talking about those little one-shot things you add to flavor and crème your coffee. I love regular, real half and half in my coffee, or non-fat milk (again, kidding myself I'm being healthy!). I will on occasion grab one of these flavored crème things when I'm dealing with a questionable cup of joe, or just want some variety. Some of them aren't too bad, but I don't use them regularly. I always feel a great cup's flavor should pretty much stand on it's own. I want to comment on the little black shot pictured above called STOK. I haven't tried one of these "caffeine enhancers" yet, but maybe I'll have to now that I'm writing about this stuff. I get a buzz off of decaf, so I have be careful with a product that has the disclaimer on it's label: "Limit 2 per day-WARNING High Caffeine. Not for those under 18, pregnant, or caffeine sensitive" YEOW--danger Will Robinson!
OK--A few thoughts about what to put in your coffee to sweeten it up. Though I have drunk lots of black coffee, I do like to add sugar to mine. I've also tried many different artificial sweeteners. Fortunately, I'm not diabetic or have any health reason to restrict my sugar intake other than my teeth and "love handles". When I'm out I usually reach for Sugar in the Raw--a slightly less refined version of white sugar-sort of a coarse brown sugar. It makes me feel like I'm being more healthy, though my body probably can't tell the difference. At home I had started with white cane sugar and then one day decided to try brown sugar and found it to have a "heartier" taste (again, very subtle). In the artificial sweetener realm I'll just talk about Aspartame (NutraSweet), Splenda, and Saccharin. I used NutraSweet for awhile, but I noticed I started having some weird dizziness and tingling sensations. I was disappointed, because I liked it's taste, and at the time I thought it was a breakthrough sweetener. I like Splenda, and I think it has a pleasant taste with no side-effects that I've noticed. The "mother of all" artificial sweeteners is Saccharin. I remember watching my Grandmother putting Saccharin in her tea when I was a kid. It was invented in the 1800's and has survived the FDA scutinny and seems as popular now as ever. I still remember how great another famous artificial sweetener, cyclamate, tasted in my Funny Face Soft drinks in the late '60s until the FDA banned them. Never tried that one in my coffee! The only thing I taste in all artifical sweeters is a slight chemical "tang" All sweetners have their place, and your needs and preferences dictate what you like. Bitter or sweet, coffee rules!
Good water is important to great coffee. Seems obvious, but I'll say it anyway. Of course, that being said, you can't "fix" bad coffee with good water anymore that Olympia beer could improve the taste of their product with artesian well water! I live in Sunnyvale, where we drink well water from our tap that is decent, but not as clean a taste as I'd like. Top that off with some older plumbing and it's not the most flavorful water. I still drink tap water, and use it for cooking and brewing some of my personal cups. However, most the time I use bottled water from one of those pure water companies that basically filter the local tap water. It does make a difference in the taste, both in glass, and in a fresh-brewed cup of joe. At 25 cents a gallon it's worth it.
This is one of the big questions in life--to drink caffeinated or decaf coffee? A great coffee house in San Francisco's Potrero Hill used to have a t-shirt that said "Death before Decaf". I understand people's passion--besides the nice buzz, many people sincerely feel that Caffeinated coffees simply taste better. Maybe it's something to do with the process that removes the caffeine from the coffee. I'll report on this and get other opinions in the future, but for now I just want to give my two cents. I drink both Caffeinated and decaf coffees. I realize I'm not super-picky, but I personally have found very little difference in taste, as long as the beans are from a quality source. I generally switch to decaf after 2 cups of the morning "jolt". Also, I have a general rule of avoiding caffeine (in just about any form) after 4PM for a quality night's sleep. Much more to come on this--Here's another T-Shirt I got from Farley's years ago-
One of my biggest pet peeves is grounds in coffee. Nothing to me spoils a great cup more that reaching the bottom and getting a mouthful of grinds. When I make a pot at work or home I'm obsessed with cleaning the filter bowl with water to rinse any grounds that came between the filter and the walls of the bowl. Whenever I have a professionally brewed cup it's totally unacceptable to have this--little things make a big difference in your enjoyment of a good cup!
Even though I appreciate fine coffee like Starbucks, Peets, or the many great independents, I don't consider myself a coffee "snob". I've had some very nice brews from the most unlikely places. In Sunnyvale, where I live, I have to praise the very best coffee bar I've ever seen at a 7-11 convenience store. These guys run a tight ship--they rotate the coffee frequently, you have many choices from decaf to dark roast, and they have a lot of interesting flavorings and sweetener choices. I like the fact they put the coffee in thermos containers instead of regular pots on hot pads. This is one of my coffee pet peeves--not matter how short a time a brewed pot of coffee is on a hot plate it starts to "melt down" as I call it. The coffee gets cooked, concentrated, and has a burnt taste to it. Not so with the thermos arrangement-- the coffee is hot and fresh. I love when a business takes pride to produce the best product they can--
Coffee is one of life’s simple but profound pleasures and I wanted to combine that pleasure with my art. At first, I thought of opening a coffee shop and putting my photos on the walls. Then, I had the idea to print my photos on coffee cups, so I acquired a kit with everything I needed and started making art cups. That project evolved into this website. I will be posting photos, videos, and comments and I will be adding cups as I go along. Hope everyone will enjoy.
Here is the original photograph on the mug to the right: