• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,081,336 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,710 other followers

Cup of Joe

latteart.jpgTo all of you Midwesterners and East Coasters it might seem a joke if I say here in San Francisco we have a cold snap. A polar air mass (so it said on the news, I didn’t invent the term) batters the Bay Area this week and triggers this cooling trend by which temperature plummets to the 30s at daybreak. Layering a Morley thermal with a cashmere sweater and leather jacket off I went to the nearest coffee house, one that I usually don’t frequent, this morning for a cup of joe. It was early–the time when the sun has yet to rise but you can see the hues of blue and the outline of the houses–the moment when the insulated flesh received the first blow of bone-chilled cold was like a piece of ice being placed on my heart. A stone’s throw distance to the coffee house seemed like a long trudge.

As soon as I walked inside and settled my stuffs on a table I heard this noise so deafening as if it was a jet engine taking off. I had no doubt that I was at the coffee house and not airfield. So what the heck? This noise was from the barista’s milk steaming. He had not opened the steam valve fully to engage the milk with steam from the wand, or it was burning the heck out of the milk. And once the milk hit around certain high temperature, it would only scald and go into a low rumble after the jet engine noise. The woman’s “cappuccino,” just as I had envisioned in my head, looked like anything but a cappuccino. The foam reminded me of the bubbly soap water that is indicative of the incipient stage of a laundry cycle. Another reason that gave the cappuccino the horrifying, sewage-like appearance is the re-steamed milk (usually fresh milk is preferred), or pouring milk from a cold carton into previously steamed milk.

So my order changed instantly from a non-fat (usually the most difficult milk to steam) latte to English breakfast tea as I waited in line when I heard thoses hair-splitting, nerve-wrecking noises.

I do not consider myself a coffee snob but I do have expectations on how the drink should be prepared and this preparation method should never be perpetrated. For example, regardless of the coffee’s grade, the best expresso is brewed or extracted in a window of 20-30 seconds. I would begin counting as soon as the barista pushes the brewing button and water runs through the finely packed coffee grounds it brews. Too fast of the brewing will yield a very watery and tasteless drink and prolonged brewing will give the espresso a bitter taste. And, one last thing, there is no such thing as a no-foam latte because the grainy, silky texture of the steamed milk should blend in with the crema of the expresso shot. A no-foam latte is most likely produced from over-steaming milk.

8 Responses

  1. Yes, it is very chilly here. I don’t do coffee but I like tea. You can always tell when they make the tea in the same machine as the coffee. It comes out hella bitter.

  2. I’ve been drinking hot tea all day–keeping my hands warm at least! I was walking through Castro and it was all dead. Guess there are lots of indoor (bedroom) activities going on tonight!

  3. Give me some hot chocolate now please. The weather in California in general is C-O-O-O-L-D!! But it’s colder here in SoCal than SF. Freaky cold system here.

  4. you mean i have to leave hawaii for the freezing weather in sfo? i have a date on monday night in sfo. luckily i have a closet full of winter clothes in sfo that i can choose from. haha, i knew that moby was from sfo when i read “hella.” i used to say “hecka.”

  5. What a fiasco! I used to be an espresso drinker and I can vouch for the fact that is extremely difficult to find someone who knows how to make a good espresso anywhere and that includes here in Canada!!

  6. Matt! It is sooooooooooo cold! It needs to stop right away! I’m having to drink hot chocolate instead of Diet Coke and I can hear the weight gaining on me. Not pretty!!!

    Hope you’re having a good weekend and staying warm!

  7. I have had a couple of hot drinks today. In Dallas we’re also getting some serious cold weather. Keep warm and hope you find a good cup of coffee 🙂

  8. Moby: Yuck! Really? Cafes would brew tea out of the same machine? Next time I have to pay attention and see… 🙂

    Chris: I’m sure you’ve got some intense exercises huh?!

    Tony: Yeah I saw on the news too. What’s going on on the West coast? I’ve put on everything–hat, scarf, leather jacket, cashmere….

    Dig: Yeah be prepared for the cold when you land in SFO…but I’m sure your date will warm you up in no time! Have fun buddy! 🙂

    Heather: Not everyone who is behind the espresso bar knows how to make a quality drink. The packing of grinds, the tamping, the pulling of shots, the steaming of milk…so much room for things going amiss. But I do find one place although I have to go across town to get it! 🙂

    Matty: Matty!!!!!! Where have you been? We really need to hang out after your hibernation okay? LOL I’ve been drinking lots of hot tea at Flore….I choose the seat with the most sun and I’ve (almost) got a sun tan on the back of my neck!

    Iliana: Thanks, you’re always so sweet. Stay warm and treat youself good reads. I’ve gotta go scouring the bookshops.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: