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Java jive

November 5, 2010
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

I'm often told (though not by anyone old) that a lot of old age is groovy.

I guess there are some advantages - aside from great deals on Supp-hose, Metamucil and trusses.

For example, older people are less prone to both altitude sickness and jet lag, both of which will be great consolations when I plan my flight to Murmansk and my ascent of K-2.

There is, however, one great Golden Years' Deelite I keep enjoying more the older I get. It's haranguing young people about how much better we had it in The Good Old Days than they do now or than they ever will.

Of course, like all viejos fartos suffering from Retrospective Myopia, I actually believe this. Or at least I believe it for the most part, because there's one thing that's indisputably better now than ever - coffee.

Trust me at least on this issue. Having been a coffee addict and habitue of diners, lunch counters, snack bars and truck stops in the cities, towns and wildlands of the lower 50 for the past 45 years, I've had more than my share of the best - and worst - the bean has to offer.

And one thing I clearly remember is, while everything else then was wonderful, most coffee was mediocre at best.

I suspect it's due to a combination of things. Primarily, the super-special coffee we now take for granted wasn't around then. Also, I don't know if the old machines were as good as today's, but I suspect they weren't. Plus, coffee was simply a beverage, not the aesthetic, consciousness-raising, status-crazed "experience" it is today. We just wanted to drink the stuff, not immortalize it.


Coffee heaven 2010

But today coffee is less a drink than a glorious altered state. The last time I got in line at an upscale Cafe-opolis, I found that out immediately.

"I'll take a Montevideo Carmalito Conquistadore with extra yorba matte and half cream, half two percent," says the first guy.

Neither he nor the counter guy flinched.

Then it was the next guy's turn.

"A maja black raspberry mocha chino, with a shot of wintergreen."

Again no flinching.

Then a woman.

"A double-decaf Milanese espresso soy latte."

Me, I'm lost. The only terms I recognized were the latte with soy milk and decaf espresso, but to me an espresso latte without either real espresso or real milk is no espresso latte at all.

And while I was puzzling over this, my turn arrived.

So I'm standing in front of the counter guy (who's really a barista) looking at my choices. They're so foreign to me, they might as well be written in Farsi, Pashto or Amharic.

"What can I get you?" he says.

I keep scanning the menu, hoping for enlightenment, and like all my other quests for enlightenment, this one ends in failure too.

"Yes?" he prods.

"Uh um er how's about a large coffee?" I say.

"A large coffee?" he repeats, with a look of half wry amusement and half obvious disgust.

"Yeah," I say, having had it with all this Precious Percolation nonsense. "A large coffee. You know, that hot brown liquid with caffeine that's not tea or cocoa."

"What-ever," he snorts, turns on his heels and goes back to some machine.

When he returns he sets the cup in front of me with a look that lets me know I'm a Loser with a capital L.

And because I may be a loser, but with a lower case l, I've since avoided all those upscale joints with an almost religious fervor.

I'm serious about my coffee, but only regarding three things: It's got to taste good, it's got to be strong, and it can't be flavored.


Making the break

And thus I settled for My Home Town's very own Adirondack Bean-To's Hammer blend. It was an easy choice, since they had only two other blends: one that was half-caffeinated, and another that was fully decaffeinated. In short, it was no choice at all.

But then even they had to go and muddy the waters, as it were, and introduce a new blend. It's called Bali Blue Line and I ran across it in Nori's.

First I saw the bag, then I read its description:

Roasted to a 'full city plus' depth, it is exotic, romantic, complex and flexible, has a lovely long finish with excellent aromatics and a nice milk chocolate tone.

"Well, if that ain't a fine howdy-doo," I said to myself, having no idea what I'd just read.

Then I reread the description.

I still had no idea what it meant or at least how what it said could apply to a cup of coffee - but something struck me, namely why not give the stuff a try?


I started to debate with myself

I really like Hammer, but it seems once I find something I like, I almost never take a chance with something new - especially when it comes to food. But while coffee sure has taste, let's get real: Ultimately, it's not a food - it's a drug. So if Bali Blue caffeine thang couldn't do the trick, the problem wouldn't be me being snooty about its "romantic complexity," "lovely long finish" or any of that. Uh-uh, the problem would be I'd never be able to get dressed and get to work on time

Then I realized what a ridiculous old poop I'd become. There I was having a full-fledged back-and-forth about, of all things, coffee?

"Just get some," I told myself.

And I did.

So how is it? You ask.

Well, to put it in true coffee drinkers' terms, I'll say it's mildly acidic, moderately strong, with a light, fruity base note, a soft aftertaste, and a slight citric bouquet. It also has subtle spicy undertones, with an almost undetectable floral aroma.

Do I really mean any of that? Of course not.

The whole issue here is not about coffee. It's about genetics and labeling, and I've been around long enough to know that all too often, genetics and labeling mean nothing.

Take the case of my dogs, whose ancestry is as murky as mine. When I come home, they've neither chomped on the furniture nor turned the joint into their bathroom. Plus they manage enough waggings to score a treat or two. And that's exactly what they're supposed to do.

If, however, I returned to find the leg on my Duncan Phyfe chair gnawed to splinters and my hand-knotted Tabriz rug crapped on, the fact that it'd been done by a purebred Royal Romanov Retriever would be no consolation at all.

As for the human realm? I've seen enough applications of prospective teachers and administrators to know that for the majority, the only correlation between their resumes and them is a negative one.

So all verbal fluff aside, how's the Bali Blue Line?

I will say I like itbut not as much as I like Hammer.

And that said is 'nuff said.



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