Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The best part of waking up

As I sit in here in the quiet watching the skies lighten, as I have done scores of times in the past, it is time for a confession of sorts. My beverage of choice for times such as this, and for just about any morning, has lately been instant coffee.

I know, I know; in the context of the Pacific Northwest coffee culture, this is heresy. We're supposed to obsess over which side of the hill our beans were grown on, and order our espresso drinks with a stream of qualifiers as long as an Elizabethan sonnet, and know the difference between grande and vente as well as ristretto and lungo, and so on. I can play in that sandbox when I have to, but usually I choose not to. I don't know if it was growing up with burnt percolator coffee ever-present on the stovetop, or coming of age in a New York that only distinguished between "regular" and "black" in coffee ordering, or just having too many graveyard cups of 7-Eleven and Circle-K coffee as a cop, or maybe just having unrefined taste overall, but I've never been able to get too excited over coffee.

Many people out here just don't get instant coffee. Perhaps the kindest thing a friend has said about this penchant of mine was "Well, I guess if you consider it a completely different beverage, you could get used to the taste." So, in an attempt to make instant coffee more relatable to the prevailing attitude, here's a short course in becoming an instant instant coffee snob.

Starbucks: The big green machine has been pushing its little tubular packets of instant coffee furiously of late. I tried a fee sample we picked up and liked it better than the regular brew that the chain serves - it had less of that burnt flavor that many people complain about. And one of the weirdest things I have seen was a commuter cup that had slots to hold several of the little tubes - I guess that no matter where you are, you just cadge some hot water and Bob's your uncle. I could drink this stuff regularly, except I try not to redistribute any of my resources to Starbucks.

Folger's: This is a nice, steady, mainstream instant coffee. It's a little on the thin side when it comes to flavor; it never really gets bitter, but isn't ever that robust. The smaller size still comes in a glass jar, so that's cool.

Trader Joe's: A rare miss for our favorite funky foodstore. Their instant coffee is nondescript in flavor and has an oily film on top, no matter the proportions of milk and water. Give this a pass, even though it is in a cool glass jar.

Kona coffee: Otis has brought me back two types of instant 100% Kona coffee from Hawaii: Ukulele Melody from Hawaiian Brew and Gourmet Blend by Mulvadi. Both of them come in nice little hexagonal glass jars, and each has the nice, round, earthy flavor of Kona. The Ukulele can tend to some bitterness more so than the Mulvadi, and neither mixes as well with cream as the local brands.

Nescafé Clásico: The ne plus ultra of instant coffee. You can tell it's classy because not only are there two diacritical marks in the name, the jar has a really cool shape and the label is written primarily in Spanish, with some English subtitles. It actually has a rich, full flavor, and no bitterness at all, and creates a creamy drink when combined with half-and-half. I guess jillions of people worldwide drink this, even in those fancy European countries that we think we are copying with all this coffee-drink business we have going on. And it's what I'm drinking right now.

So, pick your poison. For some, it's a grande two-pump vanilla non-fat extra-hot latte. For me, it's a cuppa. Just relax and enjoy.


wheylona said...

I tend not to like the taste of instant coffee in general, but it's not like brewed/machined coffee is always better, so it's somewhat of a wash. And it's true that when I'm in Bordeaux that's all I get and after two days it starts to taste OK.

Indeed, by preferring instant coffee, you are in line with coffee snobs in Latin American countries--the Pacific Southwest?--(though maybe not Argentina), where instant coffee is more expensive than the brewed stuff and thus is sort of a status drink. (I suppose it's consumed in Europe as well, but in Spain it's more common to use those little new-fangled espresso machines [which I call the George Clooney machines as he appears in their advertising], where coffee concentrate comes in little cartridges and turns into drinkable coffee as water is pushed through them.)

I'm not sure what my point is, but there you are!

WV = gerentio; surely this is some Italian coffee lingo, maybe to refer to the head barista?

Walaka said...

Those Nespresso systems are made by a division of Nestle, the same company that makes Nescafe. I guess it's not instant coffee, since those totally-not-green little modules contain actual ground coffee, but that might be a distinction without real difference.

Found this:

ke hay kuñis
pos aki nomas
ya sabe el gerentio
pos ni tiempo
pero aki toy ke
habido komo anda
ya ke nos rechazo
todas las invitaciones
del finecito pasao
haber si pa este ya
se digna ehhh!!!

What's it say?

RAB said...

One perverse side effect of my compulsive listening to Richie Havens following the Woodstock anniversary weekend was not being able to get the Folger's coffee jingle out of my head. After many weeks I'd finally managed to get over it, then you go and post this. Gah!

But, you know, I'm still going to follow your recommendations.