Bad Beans

I meant well. I’d let my Lola Savannah beans run out without a new order, so I needed some at-work coffee. I had romantic pretensions of shedding my snobbery when it comes to coffee. That’s why I picked up a package of Eight O’Clock Coffee beans this morning.

I got this idea from my recent dalliances with cheap but serviceable brands of beer. I’ve recently tried Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller High Life. They aren’t as good as the fashionable microbrews I usually buy, but they are a good value in the taste to cost ratio. They’re half as cheap but they’re better than half as good.

Mixed in there is my romantic pretension that I could rid myself of pretension and snobbery. That I could quaff the brew of the working man, the man’s man. People who build stuff in the Texas heat drink this kind of beer. This isn’t “retire to the pub for a pint of stout” beer, this is a “down a cold one in extended gulps to extinguish thirst and heat, rivulets of overflow beer mingling with beads of sweat on your jowls” kind of beer. “Wipe your sweaty brow with the back of your hand while you drink” kind of beer.

And, faced with similar conditions last week, I found that Pabst and Miller make a decent thirst-quencher beer for a much nicer price. (I had to ignore the sudden urge to go watch NASCAR, though.)

And so I thought that idea could be extended to coffee. The cheaper beans stood on the grocery shelf right next to the Starbucks brand, their $3.97 price card mocking me and my trend-conscious coffee snob self. It said, “You know most of Starbuck’s extra cost is just brand and marketing. Their beans are trucked in from Seattle, my beans are trucked in from New Jersey. You’ll be paying four dollars extra for Seattle.” So I gave New Jersey a try.

I’ve always held the view that a smart coffee snob should be more of a snob about the *way* coffee is made. If you have fresh roasted and ground beans, clean water, clean equipment, and a good brewing process, then the provenance of the beans is a secondary matter. That’s always held up for me in the past.

But it only works up to a point. Perfect coffee process cannot save just plain bad beans. And this was just plain bad coffee.

My romantic notion of having rediscovered a forgotten coffee value — a quotidian coffee, pedestrian but serviceable, a coffee that was good enough for your grandpa — was gone after the first half cup.

Your grandpa didn’t know Starbucks, apparently. And if your grandpa had access to the miracle that is Lola Savannah, he would have plowed under those Eight O’Clock Coffee beans in his vegetable garden as compost.

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