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Designer Coffees Mostly Overrated
I just love this: In a test conducted by Consumer Reports, a pretty reliable source on most things, a panel determined the best-tasting coffee in America was (drum roll, please) ...
Eight O’Clock Coffee. The very same coffee my grandmother bought every week at the A&P, back when we had A&Ps around here.
OK, I have to admit the winner was not exactly Grandma’s coffee. Consumer Reports liked Eight O’Clock 100% Colombian, which comes in a brown bag. Grandma bought the original version, in the red bag. Although once she got wild and went for the black bag, the Bokar Blend, the daredevil.
(Bokar, by the way, was the coffee company’s way of paying tribute to the Columbian cities of Bogota and Cartagena. I had wondered about that for years. Isn’t the Internet grand? )
Anyway, I think the fact that the panel’s first choice was a grocery store coffee, and not some designer coffee, supports something I’ve been saying for years: Most designer coffee is overrated.
For purposes of this discussion, designer coffee means any coffee that requires its own storefront, sometimes two or even three to a city block. It goes by several names – one after a character in Moby Dick, another after a reindeer, several with variations on phrases including “Seattle” “java,” “cup,” and the mixture of earth and water commonly known as “mud.”
It’s all marketed on the belief that if you make people stand in line and pay extra, they automatically assume that what you’re selling is good. Which isn’t necessarily so.
I’ve found most of these coffees to be sour. Maybe that’s because I don’t gussy mine up with syrup and milk and hot fudge and whipped cream and sprinkles, at which point the drink stops being coffee and becomes something of a milk shake. Or a runny candy bar.
If you drink the stuff in the unaltered state, it can be pretty harsh – and mind you, I’m no coffee sissy. I was raised on old-fashioned Mom and Dad Coffee, percolated over a roaring burner until it resembled black lava. The best description of it would be “stiff.” Or maybe “chewy.”
Looking back, I can honestly say that it was godawful, especially the mornings I made it (What did Mom say? Three scoops of coffee? Let’s try six!). So you can see I know bad coffee when I taste it.
Except they don’t call it that, of course. They call it “our custom roast,” also known as “burned.”
Now, there’s a certain doughnut shop that has great coffee, in my opinion. There’s no mistaking it – it’s coffee, all right, with a certain amount of that coffee kick we all know and love – but it’s also quite mellow and smooth, as they used to say in the cigarette commercials. And no, it’s not the doughnut shop you’re thinking of. It’s Tim Horton’s, which we don’t have around here. Someone should do something about that.
Until then, I guess I’ll drink Eight O’Clock Coffee, which you can get without traveling to the northeast and the few remaining A&P stores. Just about everybody carries it now. And tomorrow I’ll head out to ... Oh. Wait. I just remembered something. I quit drinking coffee three years ago. Drat.
I wonder how Consumers Reports feels about Red Rose tea?
© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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