Tag Archives: coffee

Coffee Thoughts: Sharing, Preparing, and Size Matters

Coffee-related conversation overheard during the holidays:

“First I lose my sushi – now I have to share my coffee? This is Christmas? What the hell!”

DD #1 loves her coffee.

DD #1 loves her coffee.

DD #1 was lamenting the results of the Christmas Eve gift exchange, where she’d opened a do-it-yourself sushi kit, only to have it “stolen” by her equally sushi-minded cousin in exchange. Then after getting a bag of her favorite coffee on Christmas morning, I had the audacity to suggest we make some of it. (It was good, too.)

“Making coffee should be a gamble. Every time you prepare it should involve risk.”

Resistance is futile.

Resistance is futile.

With three coffee lovers around the house (DD #1, DD #2, and yours truly) for several days, there’s been increased discussion about all things coffee. So the conversation eventually turned to coffee makers, including the uber-sophisticated (and uber-priced) models at Sur La Table, and the Keurig device (yes, that thing) that is now part of the campsite up north we have with some friends. DD #2, a trained barista, shook her head and provided the comment above. Apparently she believes that making a really good cup of coffee should involve a degree of skill. Sounds a bit Luddite to me, but who am I to suggest that hard-working Americans like her be obsoleted?

“I have to use this 2-for-1 coupon. It expires today.”

While I don’t patronize this place anymore, I still own the stock. So stay thirsty, my friends!

Following last Saturday’s group run, a good friend invited me along for coffee, naming a particular Very Famous Chain Coffee Shop. I used to frequent said VFCCS, but am now spoiled by years of much superior coffee. I offered to take him to a different place that uses excellent local roasts, but he wanted to use the coupon, so I acquiesced.

I ordered a peppermint mocha. After all, how can anyone screw up a peppermint mocha? Well, this place succeeded. The coffee was so over-roasted that I found it undrinkable. Now I am not in the least ungrateful – I really appreciated his gesture, and I’m looking forward to treating him to some much better coffee.

And finally, there’s these words of wisdom I found on the Internet recently:

Take the issue of status…what should you do to get more of it? In a study led by David DuBois of HEC Paris, people who were observed choosing large coffees, pizzas, and smoothies were rated by others as having higher status…To take it one step further, surround yourself with the trappings of the salary and lifestyle you want, not the one you have.

This excerpt from the article is about trying to get noticed in the office and improving your “status” with your co-workers. Apparently the tried-and-true approaches, like speaking up, setting goals, and accepting greater responsibility, is second-rate compared to the size of your stuff. So here’s my tip to you all for getting ahead in 2014: Supersize it! 

On his way to the top! (If he doesn't explode first.)

On his way to the top, if he doesn’t explode first. Source: Oddity Mall. (Click to go there.)

Going Green?

For someone from the center of all things maize-and-blue, green was quite a part of my life yesterday.

At the starting line, sporting the latest in upscale race fashion.

At the starting line, sporting the latest in upscale race fashion.

There was the holiday red and green of the Holiday Hustle 5K in Dexter. This run holds a special place in my heart, being my first race, the first race in which I won an age group award, and the first time I broke 20:00 in a 5K. Last year I served as a volunteer, and for some reason found setting up for a winter race to be fun, so I did it again this year.

I helped put up tents, string Christmas lights in the registration area, haul water to the finish area, and set up the finish chute – in between leaning over the heater in the warming tent. With the temperature unbudging from the low 20s and a steady wind, keeping warm was a real challenge. But the cold didn’t appear to hurt the spirits of the crowd of runners (nearly 1,100 finishers) and spectators.

The Grinch is smiling? Gotta be cold out.

The Grinch is smiling? Gotta be cold out.

Then there was the environmental “green” which already has a prominent place in our house, and in Ann Arbor in general. The plastic water bottles we handed out were prominently marked, “Made from Recycled Bottles” so at least some reuse of waste is going on, and we put out recycling containers, so many bottles will avoid the landfill a second time. Then there was this sign in the Joe and Rosie coffee shop, where I had lunch and my post-race peppermint mocha.

I understand the sentiment and support it...but really, can't we find a better way to phrase it?

I understand the sentiment and support it…but really, can’t we find a better way to phrase it in the A2 area? But see below…

Enjoy it, Tori and Sis....you're not likely to see this ever again.

Enjoy it, Tori and Sis….you’re not likely to see this ever again.

And how can I overlook a certain football game last night, as the Spartans knocked off the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten title. It was bittersweet for this house full of Wolverines, but heaven for my sister and my older daughter (the green sheep in the family). Congratulations, little brother! You done good.

Hey, what about my favorite type of green?

Hey, what about my favorite type of green?
(from wikia.com)

Well, the stock markets were closed yesterday, but here is a recent article from Marketwatch (an investment website) that suggests that we use our cash this season for other purposes than giving stuff to each other. And putting his money where his pen is, the author of the MW article is giving away everything he earns this month. “Every nickel. Every dime.”

Wow. How many of us are willing to do that? Sure puts a few chilly hours helping with a race into perspective. I’m not saying I’m going to follow suit, nor would I suggest that anyone else do so. But I will consider doing something more than we’d planned for. Go green!

The Relentless Pursuit of (Coffee) Perfection

ONE OF MY PERENNIAL FANTASIES is to leave the demands of the day job, retire to a small town, and open a coffee shop. I’d carry only premium organic, fair-trade, free-range coffee (hand-harvested to classical music) and ephemeral pastries that would bring in people from several neighboring states. And while my dedicated, well-paid staff served the crowd of regulars, I’d sit at a corner table sipping a cappuccino and working on my next highly anticipated novel.

Remember, I said this was a fantasy. (I get the feeling there’s a bit more involved in running such a place.)

Day 1 - Ann Arbor to Fenton (click to enlarge)

Day 1 – Ann Arbor to Fenton (click to enlarge)

For the moment, let’s say I’m in an “exploratory phase” while I figure out what my ideal coffee shop / bakery would be, and where I’d want to open it. Fortunately, my weekend-long bike trips through small towns provide the perfect opportunity for such research. And last weekend I completed the first such trip of 2013, covering roughly 180 miles over Friday and Saturday.

The good news is that the local coffee shop has apparently survived the onslaught of Starbucks (*) and its hoard of imitators. In just about every town I’ve visited over the past two years, there has been a locally owned and operated coffee shop. (And in my hometown of Ann Arbor, it seems another one opens every week. How am I supposed to keep up?)

Anyhow, here’s a sampling of the places I visited on last weekend’s bike trip.

Plymouth – Espresso Elevado

Espresso Elevado - Lemon Ginger Scone and LatteI’ve been to Plymouth a few times, mainly as a 10K pacer for the Kona series of races, but hadn’t biked there before. The ride there was among the most pleasant segments of the entire trip. Normally I stop at The Coffee Bean, where they have good pastries and handmade sweet or savory crepes – perfect recovery food after a race. Now they have competition for my business.

Espresso Elevado 2 - Theresa and JanessaTheresa (right) is the owner of Espresso Elevado, located on Main Street just south of KelloggPark, which is where the races are held. I met her at a visit to the Mindo Chocolate facility in Dexter (subject of a future post). She insists on using only premium, fair-trade coffee, and my latte was excellent, as was the lemon-ginger scone. I’ll be back.

Clarkston – Village Bake Shop

Clarkston - Good M&M BarsClarkston (official name: City of the Village of Clarkston) bills itself as, “historic charm in the heart of Oakland County” with “an air of timeless elegance” and I enjoyed my brief stop there, walking down the main street and checking out a few of the shops. Naturally, the Village Bake Shop was among them.

Clarkston - Alyssa at Bake Shop 2I asked Alyssa (pictured here) how she liked living there. “Well, I’ve never lived anywhere else,” she said, “so I have nothing to compare it to.” But she just completed her freshman year at U-M and admitted to loving Ann Arbor, which showed her obvious intelligence and good judgment. The coffee was ordinary and weak, I’m sorry to say, but the M&M bar was worth the stop and even a repeat visit.

Howell – Uptown Coffeehouse

Howell’s downtown has the look and feel of smaller towns, but it’s far less “sleepy” being on Grand River Avenue. Uptown Coffeehouse is on the primo corner in the center of the downtown, and is unabashedly upscale in appearance. Fortunately, its coffee and pastries live up to the expectations thus created.

Last October after the Headless Horseman 5K.

Last October after the Headless Horseman 5K.

This place consistently makes one of the best cappuccinos I have ever had, so it’s become a required stop whenever I’m in Howell. Given that I’ve been either wet and muddy from a rainy bike ride, or sweaty from a local race, I wonder if they’re happy about that. They haven’t kicked me out yet, at least.

Next up: Two places with owners that show some pretty incredible dedication to what they do.

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(*) I have very mixed feelings about Starbucks. I don’t go there anymore – they over-roast their beans. But as a shareholder, I appreciate their contribution to my retirement funds.