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Yes, it’s bitter

At some point, I was going to have to voice my objection to the state of espresso in this country.  And it was the advent of a really good cup of coffee that finally prompted me.

So,  It’s bad.  It’s bitter.  You’re not supposed to have to dump sugar in coffee to make it palatable.  I’ve even tried some of the best SF places (to remain unnamed) and one tiny sip is all it takes for disappointment and resignation to set in.  Followed by enough sugar to counteract the bitterness.  I’ve sometimes wondered if the white sugar multi-nationals are plotting some world wide conspiracy to addict the world’s population and ultimately bend them to their sugary will.  But I digress.  People have written at length about the state of bad coffee, they’ve imported complicated and expensive systems from Italy, but I just decided to give it up.

But this morning, I found myself at a Starbucks in Seattle of all places (at 185th and Aurora, of all places) and instead of my usual tea, or chai tea latte, I thought, what the heck and ordered an Americano.  It took me a minute to articulate just how small a cup I wanted.

Me:  I’ll have a small.

Barista (pointing):  That’s tall.

Me:  Don’t you have a really, really small, child’s size cup?

Barista (digging deep under the counter):  Oh, you mean short.

Right short.  I mean six and maybe eight ounces.  And it was delicious.  Not bitter.  So, I just want to shout out to my new friends at Starbucks for doing it right and especially those Northern Seattle baristas.  You girls have got to go national.

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4 thoughts on “Yes, it’s bitter”

  1. Zoe, I’m new to your blog, so I don’t have much context to this blog post. What is your coffee drinking background? How can you compare it to that of Europe? I assume you traveled there, or maybe studied abroad.

    Are you in SF or Seattle, I got confused.

    I would not say that I’m a coffee aficionado, maybe beer (probably not) but I have had my fair share of coffee and I have to agree, It’s tough for me to drink it in the US after spending so much time in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

    Coffee usually has to have some sort of flavor in it for me to consume it. I’ll have to get the address for the SB in Seattle for the next time i’m up there.

    -Whit

  2. Hi Whit. Thanks for writing and reading! I am living in SF bay area, but I’m from Seattle.
    I have traveled to Europe, and was thinking of Paris, when I wrote. My coffee drinking background is extensive although now virtually extinct. Maybe you know somewhere really great to get coffee in SF?
    I’ve been following your work a bit on seesmic. Seems like a lot of fun.

    Zoe

  3. I have had, at times, surprisingly good coffee from Starbucks. But, the next time you come to Seattle, in my humble opinion, you stick to quality local spots.

    Vivace, Victrola, Vita, Zoka… really just look around the end of the alphabet. Stumptown is good, and that’s alphabetically after Starbucks as well.

    Zoe, have you had equally bad experiences with the “elite” of Seattle espresso?

  4. Carlos,

    I have had a bad experience or two at some of Seattle’s elite places, although I had a great experience at Vivace, and love it there.

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