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Blogathon for SSA Week: On FInding the Perfect Cup of Decaf Coffee

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This post continues my leg of the Blogathon for SSA Week! From now until 9pm PDT, I will write one new blog post every hour. Plus, for every $100 raised during that time, I will post one new picture of our cats! And all donations will be matched by SSA Supporters Jeff Hawkins and Janet Strauss — so whatever you donate, it will be doubled!

As of 7:03 pm PDT: 439 Donors, $71,703.02
As of 8:06 pm PDT: 439 Donors, $71,703.02

Not sure if these numbers are being updated now that it’s after hours. I’ll check with the SSA tomorrow.

From my piece in The Humanist magazine, In Praise of Frivolity:

What brings meaning to my life? Donuts. Fashion magazines. Costume jewelry. Playing “Cards Against Humanity.” Pretentious overpriced cocktails with a lot of silly crap in them. Fooling around on Facebook. Looking at cute cat videos on the Internet, over and over and over again. TiVoing the Olympics and watching the really obscure sports we’ve never heard of. Coming up with a sexy, gorgeous, wildly inappropriate outfit to wear to the Dyke March. Padron peppers sautéed in hot olive oil until they blister, then sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Sitting on the sofa watching Project Runway and letting cats crawl all over us. The never-ending search for a perfect cup of decaf coffee.

So. About that search for a perfect cup of decaf coffee

I don’t drink regular coffee. I don’t do well with significant amounts of caffeine, especially since I started taking Wellbutrin. But I love coffee — the scent, the flavor, the ritual — and I drink decaf coffee pretty much every day. I actually get cranky and groggy when I don’t get it: I’m not sure if it’s the small amount of caffeine that’s still in decaf (insignificant if you’re used to high-test, not trivial if you’re not), or whether it’s just a Pavlovian thing where I associate the scent and the flavor and the ritual with alertness.

But here’s the thing: A lot of decaf coffee sucks. It’s often not as richly flavorful as regular coffee, and it tends to have a sour taste (I’ve learned that if a pretentious coffee place says their decaf has “citrus” notes, it usually means it’s sour). So I’ve been searching for the perfect cup of decaf coffee. I found it once in a cafe in Amherst, Massachusetts, but that doesn’t do me a whole lot of good here in San Francisco, and I’ve been chasing that lost chord ever since.

Until I realized:

The perfect cup of decaf coffee is the one I make for myself.

red french pressI’ve spent quite a while tinkering and experimenting, and I’ve found a formula that works perfectly for me. The organic/ fair trade decaf French roast beans from Rainbow Grocery. Ground fresh at home each time I make it. Brewed in a French press coffeemaker, which lets me make it as strong as I like (hint: pretty darned strong). Brewed for at least seven minutes. In one of our standard mugs, one teaspoon of brown sugar, and one tablespoon of heavy whipping cream (half and half is fine, but subpar — if I don’t have heavy whipping cream, I often use ice cream instead).

It’s no-joke strong, with definite bitterness. But it’s not sour at all. It’s deeply rich. The bitterness has a bite, but it’s a clean bite. And with the cream and sugar, it all balances and blends into a complex but easily delicious flavor: reminiscent of chocolate, but sharper and less unctuous.

Now, this might not be the perfect cup of decaf for everyone. It probably isn’t. For one thing, a lot of people don’t like cream or sugar in their coffee — and I don’t know what this French roast from Rainbow grocery would be like if it didn’t have cream or sugar. But it’s the perfect cup for me.

I feel a bit like Dorothy in the last scene from The Wizard of Oz. “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.” Which much of the time is bullshit: sometimes getting the hell out of Dodge is exactly what you need to do to be happy, and for me personally, a whole lot of my heart’s desire is at atheist conferences and speaking gigs all over the country. But it is kind of funny that it took me so many months of chasing around the city looking for something, while I was literally in process of discovering and creating it for myself.

If you like this post — or indeed, if you don’t — please donate to the Secular Student Alliance!

Comments

  1. says

    Do you remember which cafe in Amherst? I’m pretty sure i tried them all while i was there, but i don’t drink decaf…usually.

    Also: During your explorations of decaf coffees, have you paid attention to which have been water-processed and whether that made a difference to their taste or to your preference?

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