the last few days i've been enjoying oren's panama finca hartmann, a lovely sweet coffee that's very bird-friendly. it's a just a nice morning eye-opener with a splash of half-n-half.
living here in brooklyn, many of the songbirds we enjoy in prospect park winter in different parts of central america. so bird-friendliness there actually affects my life here a great deal.
and of course thanks to all who have sent this news story to me. you might as well insure your coffee palate for a million bucks, sometimes it seems like it's that hard to cultivate, and you have to sacrifice so much. . .i know, you just have to force me to cup coffee, right?
2,000 internet readers, who've known me for years, have just fallen outta their chairs in hysterics. . .
you know a class act when you see one, and a long time class act's always been buzzy o'keefe of the swanky river cafe & the super-swanky water club. this afternoon he hosted a most unusual event in the most elegant surroundings: a cupping of the mermaid's new instant coffee. (don't worry, it won't be replacing buzzy's unique and extremely fine mocha-java from don schoenholt's gillies any time soon.)
so this cupping's put together by a nice girl reporter from smart money. but because buzzy and don are involved, naturally, it's high style all the way — we get ferried around in the green jaguar with the burled maple interior, all that. what depression?
what depression, i ask. . .um, we're cupping instant, that's what depression. and the wonderful oren bloostein of oren's daily roast joined us.
now let's step back a moment and wrap our minds around this. why is the mermaid introducing instant? doesn't it totally run afoul of the fancy custom-drink, lite-jazz vibe that he's spent decades successfully cloning across the globe? howard, what the hell are you doing to your brand?
your brand is your most precious asset, howard, why are you doing this to yourself? diluting your impressive image for short-term gain doesn't work. (and it's probably dumb to tick off the entire u.k. while you're at it, dreamboat.) does anyone remember when halston made elegant gowns? no: now all we remember are the cheap patent leather belts from the downmarket j.c. penney.
now, on balance, i like howard, altho' i have never liked his coffee. he's a coffee evangelist, and he's from brooklyn.
but for the past 4 years, he's just been following a bone-headed strategy. over time he's destroyed all the factors that made the mermaid great: the comfy seating, long gone; the gorgeous handmade manual italian la marzocco espresso machines, long gone; the smell of delicious fresh coffee, gone and replaced with the disgusting odor of "breakfast sandwiches."
howard, you weren't just selling semi-decent coffee at time when that was hard to get in most places; you were selling a warm, jazz-filled, emotional, custom-drink experience at a time when most retail experiences were minimalist, cookie-cutter, techno-music and cold. that is your brand. it's an upscale brand. have you lost your mind?
even if you intend this coffee for offices and airplanes, it's not who you are, howard. no, no how. and at about a dollar a serving, it's outrageously expensive. obscenely expensive. a real cup of the finest specialty coffee brewed at home will cost you 30 cents!
ok, enough rant. how was this instant coffee? understanding that a regular cupping worksheet wouldn't do, don sweetly made up custom worksheets asking questions like "does this stuff even have the color of real coffee?" well, ok, he put it more nicely than that. see da pic.
buzzy, don, oren & myself dutifully treated this as a serious blind cupping. the reporter brought the samples herself, labelled A thru G. 2 were the new mermaid instants, while the rest were standard store brands. she doled out the "coffee" into the cups and poured the hot water.
we sniffed the undissolved "coffee." we tested it to see how nicely it dissolved. we judged its color, density, aroma, brightness, taste, aftertaste, body. total points possible: 100. i didn't give any of the contender anything higher than a 34.
after a fair amount of time, all of us agreed that blind coffee A was the best. in the cup the "coffee" looked vaguely like nice fresh ground as if for moka pot. the color of the dry stuff in the cup looked rather like droste cocoa and smelled a bit like stale coffee.
it readily dissolved into a pleasant maroon-black or oxblood color. it almost had some body. low brightness, its aftertaste was a bit burnt. i pegged this as the mermaid immediately due to the aftertaste.
after A, buzzy, oren & i agreed B was best, then D. don reversed that order: D, then B. we all agreed that E and F were putrid; G was literally undrinkable swill.
oren compared it to the ripe scent emanating from an nyc manhold cover in august, while i called it raw, rotten cabbage, or possibly raw, rotten, brussel sprout (to capture a nasty bitterness). the aftertaste of G was literally hot asphalt - everyone's smelled hot asphalt, right? now imagine that smell as a taste - a clear sign of defective robusta.
i must have eaten literally half a box of water crackers in an effort to get that taste outta my mouth. anyway, i won't spoil the results anymore. the article should be out tomorrow.
nope, it's not a perfume — it's oren's fascinating new blend in honor of the 44th president. o had the incredibly clever idea to include a coffee from each origin with which the new president is associated: kenya, kona, colombia (for columbia, where he attended school!), etc.
i've pressed this coffee and chemexied it. it's a sunny, bright, smooth-as-satin brew with a nice floral aroma from the kona and a pleasant complex taste.
the blend is really seamless, and of course since o put it together, really clean. i doubt i could identify the blend components separately.
that's how well it works. highly recommended morning cup!
and happy holidays to all from bccy. i've spent mine drinking oren's fantastic kona from greenwell farms.
oren gets a special selection from them that's quite noteworthy. seriously — you would expect fine coffee from a farm that's been winning awards since 1873.
many coffee lovers will roll their eyes at the mention of kona, arguing it's overpriced, it's not rare, quality, etc. etc. but a lovely kona is a rare product — nothing fills your house with floral fragrance like a freshly ground high quality kona.
and at christmas it's pleasant to be able to feel a connection to the coffee farmer on a traditional american family farm.
today i'm spending with oren's yemen, which i've discussed before. o's yemen is a fascinating, complex but clean coffee.
it's a great switch from andrew's enchanting and oh-so-lightly blue sidamo. but how that blue does ecco!
and just when had spent what seemed an endless stretch of the dawn staring into andrew's empty ecco bag, shuddering with sobs that the brazil was no more, i breeze on into work and discover a pound of his ethiopian sidamo, an organic bean from kemal abdellah waiting to rescue me.
andrew describes this as a berry basket (yummy - you can just imagine that little straw basket filled with delicious, delicate, perfumed mixed berries. . .) and with a dutch cocoa finish. well, he had me at hello with that one.
you can bet this is going to be brewed first thing tomorrow! thank you, andrew!
what a horrible, icky, miserable, drizzly, dreary day today! and i ended up talking to various people about that depressing topic, the financial crisis.
the only thing keeping me happy this afternoon &mdash beyond my habitual pizza-making &mdash is andrew's brazil as an americano.
ooh ooh ooh — i know the pic's not the greatest, but i was so excited when i received a sample of oren's awesome holiday gift pack!
it features 4 of the fantastic coffees i've written about here: his brazil daterra yellow bourbon (i do have a weakness for yellow bourbon!); the amazing amazing yemen mocha haraaz; his very nice guatemalan amatitlan; and many people's snappy fave, the famed la minita. (if only he could get his hands on some sun dried. . .!)
i myself happen to find the antique map box charming. obviously this is highly recommended as a gift for coffee lovers by coffee lovers!
a problem many gift packs have is that they can be a little girly in construction, too cutesy. this a quite handsome in contrast, appropriate for men as well as women.