Feb 23, 2012, 05:17AM

To the Last Drop

On two recent, very different cups of coffee.

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Coffee should not be an afterthought. Coffee should not be a way to occupy hands and lips while waiting for someone to arrive or for something to happen or a cause celebre. So what do we want from coffee? That’s a personal reckoning, it varies from person to person, but we can probably agree that the consumption of coffee is, ideally, profound: a moving experience wherein the congress of milk, sugar, and brew conspire to become, in concert with the customer, something more than the sum of parts. This is to say that a good cup of coffee should be as capable of changing the complexion of the sipper’s day—for the better—as a Schubert sonata.

Should you ever find yourself dining in a Mimi’s Café, order the coffee. Do it. I really don’t care what else you get. You have my permission to ignore any and all insistences that you try this dish, or that one, or a cocktail, or whatever, because you need to try the coffee. Everything else will be an afterthought. Make sure that the server supplies you with more cream and sugar than you think you need. When the cup arrives, savor the aroma; let it waft, let it stir your soul. Just kind of admire what’s happening there, appreciate what’s in front of you: this coffee bears a weight, a presence, a depth reminiscent of the eminently incisive brew I enjoyed while on honeymoon in the Dominican Republic mixed with the sophistication of whatever rich, earthy private stock is proffered by fine Italian restaurants. Even with the addition of two to three creamers and two sugars—which lead the flavor into a manageable realm—it’s bold, almost philosophical stuff. Take a sip. This is coffee that will fortify your nerves, will reinforce the scaffolding of your soul, will gird your loins; this coffee is deep, penetrating even. Your server will top you off only infrequently; you won’t mind. You won’t even notice.

Blondes, if legend is to be believed, have more fun. I wish I could say that Starbucks’ new Blonde Roast coffee was fun to drink, or at least more enjoyable than the abrasively bitter beans the chain is known for, but it isn’t, really; it’s merely less torturous to consume by about half, which means I save several seconds of preparation time because now I need only half of the usual measure of cream and sugar typically necessitated to make Starbucks’ brew palatable. And yet the gustatory disdain that’s always lurked at the heart of a cup of Starbucks coffee—the granite ochre flavor that suggests a barely-concealed loathing for the company’s forever-fiending customers—hasn’t vanished or abated. An embarrassment, a missed opportunity, a nation’s accumulated gripes and redresses dismissed with a flick of a Fembot barista’s wrist. Shameful.


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