A Coffee "Eye Opener"

I get made fun of a lot for the amount of coffee that I drink and the fact that it's decaf. Why? Because most people like to drink coffee in order to find some form of stimulation from the caffeine. I on the other hand really just enjoy the taste. But, there is one more reason I don't drink regular caffeinated coffee...that would be for "OVER" stimulation.

Yes, anyone who knows me knows that it is not suggested that I am EVER served caffeinated coffee. I am energetic enough as it is, and anyone who has been around me "on the coffee" knows to steer clear. Best friends, family, co workers, boyfriend - they all give me the look of "oh s#*t" when they know I have had a cup.

Case in point: a few years back I was Catering Sales Manager for a restaurant. I hadn't been there long, but everyone knew in the first few weeks how much coffee I enjoyed (well hell it was free...). They all thought I had been drinking regular coffee, until a manager friend, Paul (who literally always has a coffee in his hand), brought me coffee from his local favorite place one morning.

"Is it decaf?" I graciously asked. "No, regular. Why?" he asked, to which I went on to tell him what happens when I drink regular coffee. He began to laugh but also gave the familar "oh s#*t" look as he had come to know me pretty well and took the coffee from me. He said someday he was going to have to see it to believe it.

Well, he did.

A few days later on a hot, summer day, all of the managers gathered for a manager meeting. Paul brought up a tray of iced coffees in but had a separate pint glass already marked with a straw in it and said "Lesley, this is the decaf for you, my dear". I remember being so thirsty and so thankful that I literally sucked the whole thing down almost before the meeting started. Paul just stared at me in disbelief, as did a couple of the other managers. Then the looks of disbelief slowly transformed into laughable grins.

"What? Do I have some on my shirt?", I said as I frantically was checking out myself to see if I had spilled. "No, no," snickered Paul, lying through his teeth, "we just can't believe you drank that so fast!"

Well the joke was really on me because 10 minutes later it was my turn to run part of the meeting, and I couldn't talk. I couldn't concentrate on what I was doing or what I was trying to say. I started fidgeting and talking waaaay to fast, and that's when Paul and my manager friends burst into laughter. Paul then was able to get out while still laughing, "Lesley! I am so sorry! I tricked you, we all tricked you! It was regular coffee - we just didn't totally believe that the caffeine would make you this wired! Ha ha....!" I just had to laugh at myself. I mean, literally, it's like I could feel the caffeine, especially since I had downed the "venti"-sized iced coffee in T minus 1 minute. So, lesson learned for my managers and lesson learned for me: always stick with the decaf.

So back to the present "eye opening" experience. Over the past two years I have been somewhat religious about getting my venti decaf drip every morning, Monday thru Friday, at the McDonald's of coffee houses: STARBUCKS. It's not that I think its the best, but hell there literally is one on every corner or on the route to work. I actually got excited when they did the whole "Pikes Place" campaign thinking there would be an improvement in the beans. If there was, it was pretty slight - but I still remained a loyal customer. I never really went out of my way to go to Pete's or Tully's or a nearby coffee mom-and-pop place, so I settled with Starbucks.

Until I "met" Blue Bottle Coffee. I think anyone who's anyone who's anyone that lives and works in the SF (perhaps the whole Bay) area and enjoys coffee (and the foodie scene) has at least HEARD of Blue Bottle and more than likely stood in line (and it can be a pretty long line) for a cup of their individual filter-drip coffee. I was driving to work months back and saw a line of at least 20 people waiting at the kiosk they have over off of Linden and Gough and wondering what all the fuss was about?

It wasn't until 3 months ago that I had my first experience with Blue Bottle. I was at the Ferry Building and patiently (but antsy) waited in line with the other 20 or so people there. I ordered their decaf drip coffee (I think its $2.50 - yeah, not "cheap"), waited my patient 5 minutes while it steeped, poured in a little half and half, took my first sip, and smiled. Heaven. Who knew coffee could actually be this good? Obviously they are on the right track with their "artisanal microroasting". Whatever it is, this DECAF coffee is good.

I have since then cut off my ties to Starbucks, purchased some decaf beans from Blue Bottle, ground them myself, and now make a lovely pot of decaf coffee every morning at home to enjoy (and seriously, it tastes just as good as when the baristas make it themselves). But, this morning, curious, I thought, ok it has been a while now since I have visited my "ex" coffee house; perhaps I should just say "hello" and try it out again, just to see if I am missing anything. So, I went into my corner Starbucks, ordered the decaf drip, mixed in a little half and half, took a sip, and definitely was disappointed. It was just not the same as Blue Bottle - it was sour, tasted burnt, almost grassy? I started to amass the amount of money I have spent over the years on my old Starbucks. My boyfriend even commented on the Starbucks cup in my car when I picked him up from the airport this morning: "Whoa, Starbucks? I haven't seen you drinking that in a long time." Sigh.

But, I am a loyal fan of Blue Bottle now. Not to say I am going to spend the $$ every morning at the kiosk, but I will enjoy my pound of coffee beans for $10 (worth it) that I will continue to brew at home every morning.

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