True coffee-lovers become coffee evangelists

Five Cent Tours in Bablion:

The best way to get a good cup of coffee at home, work or elsewhere is to be a coffee evangelist. You will need to encourage and educate your friends, family and colleagues in a friendly, warm and kind manner. You will need to be persistent, patient, helpful and courteous as you communicate your enthusiasm for a well-deserved, good cup of coffee.

Coffee pot challenged persons

I know that there are a lot of coffee freaks out there and I am one of you.

Like me, you suffer terribly at the hands of family, friends and colleagues who think that a cup of coffee is somehow as easy as a tea-bagged cup of tea. Actually, a good cup of tea is equally challenging.

The most unkind among my friends and colleagues are sure that I drink my coffee (that they prepared) with way too much sugar and milk. However, I am only attempting to repair the damage they have done and make a coffee drink that I can swallow. If you permit me to be vulgar, I will have my caffeine one way or another.

Nay, I must.

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Fortunately, Starbucks has been in Bucharest for about a year now– at twice to three times the cost for anything you find at a US location.

Until Starbucks, I was importing Starbucks (twenty pounds at a time) and other things with frequent flights for five years now. I even have my own personal connection for on demand, fresh roasted certified Kona coffee.

Note: You can contact me on linkedin if you need a Kona hook up.

Actually, I have some complaints about the Starbucks’ Bucharest location regarding coffee knowledge, drink formula, barista-ing, product availability and customer service- but I generally treat it like a store where I buy coffee at. This is Bucharest and Starbucks doesn’t have a chance at getting internal branding going on here- not unless they hired me to make it happen.

The Bucharest Location

What were they thinking when Starbucks considered internationalizing a franchise? Didn’t they learn from the mistakes made in putting the brand in Marriot’s hands? Starbucks in Safeway grocery stores was a major blow to the brand. Anyway, corporate has been making brand mistakes as they expanded their mission to monetize the brand. In the case of the Balkans rollout, the Marinopoulos Coffee Company is doing as lousy a job in Romania as Marriot does in the US.

So, I don’t actually buy coffee drinks from the Bucharest store- not after I poured the last one completely out on the counter.

I ordered an iced venti hazelnut latte, they produced an iced grande americano with a little soured milk, and refused to make the correct drink or give me a refund.

Note: If I get sick in Bucharest by drinking a bad latte at Starbucks, can I, as an American citizen, sue the parent American Corporation?

Ok, I really wanted the fucktard barista to drink the bad beverage that he made for me with the hope that he would overdose on the caffeine (most Romanians are not used to Starbuck’s caffeine dosages).

But I was in a good mood that day.

Romanians and bad coffee

I might attempt to appreciate that Starbucks having a Bucharest location has helped improve a sense of coffee reality here. But most Romanians still do not have any idea what a good cup of coffee is- including the cool guys that drive Ferarris, 911 turbos, and Brabus Mercedes. Hence, the only thing that has changed is the willingness of a Romanian to pay 12 bucks for a coffee drink.

It’s not possible to drink the best locally available coffee (a few expensive Italian imports) for more than a month.

Romanians are used to buying pre-ground, stale coffee grounds sold to them by Israelis, Turks, Italians, Austrians, Swiss, and Germans who seem to want to get rich while making fun of the Romanian lack of good taste and instinct for quality and goodness. However, if you drink that stuff, you will get sick. Here’s some of the brands not to buy: Amigo, Elite, Jacobs, and Nova Brasilia.

I have several friends that cannot drink coffee due to past medical problems or a now-uncontrolable physical aversion to coffee that developed from drinking Jacobs and other local brands on the Romanian market. Myself, I had to resort to filling suitcases with good coffee from the US.

And there were some interesting moments in Romanian customs over the years regarding those suitcases- until they all came to accept that this soft spoken, modest American is willing to spit and cuss for a decent cup of coffee and tea- everyday. Thank you very much.

Historical notes

Since coffee was not produced domestically, historians suggest that bad coffee was the only kind of coffee you could get in Romania during communist rule. After the (staged yet painful and scary) Revolution, coffee got worse. According to food industry members, Dutch, Israelis, Italians, Germans, Turks and Syrians came into the market with their black market trucks of expired stocks, floor sweepings, and ground cardboard blends.

Price mattered in the 90s and market competition was limited since reputable international coffee businesses didn’t know how to bribe the border control and didn’t want to learn how. In conclusion, Romanians poisoned themselves for a decade before things got a little better.

But so-called cheap coffee wasn’t the only toxicity-delivery system that they were embracing: expired canned and bottled foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, chemical cleaning agents and detergents, pesticides, and you name it.

There is no surprise to me now that the incidence of cancer is really, really high here. Although, when I first came to Romania, it did strike me as odd that, literally, everyone I met had a near relative who was diagnosed with -, dying of -, or dead from cancer. Of course, the real numbers of cancer victims in Romania will never be reported. That would be too embarrassing for them to admit to foreigners. And it would be misinterpreted internally as a failure of the shoddy, reckless socialist health care solution they have in place.

Overview of Coffee Preparation

Assuming you want a good cup of coffee, you must convince your family, friends and colleagues that there are six fundamentals to getting a good cup of coffee: good bean, grind, proportion, water, freshness of grind, and brew. Understandably, they will not believe you and ignore your explanations until you dump a bad pot of coffee on their sofa or desk. One time should do.

The guy in the video below almost has an espresso figured out.

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Bean, Proportion and Grind

Starbucks’ medium house blend is the most obvious bean to go with for general audiences and it really isn’t very costly- unless you are in Bucharest.

Regarding proportion, I prefer two rounded tablespoons of ground coffee per 200 ml of water; most Romanians seem to like one tablespoon.

Grind depends on your brewing technique or machine; the coffee bean can be ground coarsely (coffee press) to very fine (expresso). The longer (minutes) your ground coffee has contact with near boiling water, the coarser they can be. In any case, the coffee grind should not be in hot water for more than five minutes – usually less for better flavor.

Water, Freshness of Grind, and Brew

In my experience, some water makes a better cup of coffee than others. Water heavy in minerals and other bad things seems to flatten the flavor of good coffee beans. Stateside, Evian, Fiji and Trinity seem to make an equally good cup of coffee or tea.

If outside the US, get a Brita water filter. Well water (typically hard water) from the Romanian country-side, for example, usually poses some challenges to the flavor, body and acidity as it cools. This doesn’t just happen to coffee; I notice that it also happens to tea.

Depending on roast and general storage conditions, opaque, air-tight sealed containers of roasted coffee beans can keep for a few months in the refrigerator.

Myself, I wait to grind the beans for same day use. Dried out coffee grounds tend to make a cup of flat coffee. But if you aren’t the first one to the office, grind before you leave the office and leave the coffee grounds in a resealable plastic baggie in the frigerator with a note on the door: “use coffee in baggie or die.”

Brewing style also impacts flavor, body and acidity. High pressure espresso machines, for example, produce an intense, lively and immediate flavor with froth and body.

On the other hand, a French pressed coffee can provide subtle nuances when you want to sip and savor the moment. In an office, glue the grind setting in the proper place on the coffee grinder as the setting will move and usually no one ever notices.

Good Taste

A cup of well prepared coffee can reveal the personality of the coffee bean. If the coffee is fresh and well prepared, you should be able to distinguish several things such as aroma, acidity, body, complexity and finish.

Aroma is usually your first impression of the coffee, it is the smell of the coffee. While I most enjoy the aroma of roasting any kind of fresh coffee beans, the aroma of fresh and freshly ground coffee grounds is a wonderful smell from morning until early evening. On the other hand, I don’t like the aroma of a coffee pot that has been warming for more than a few hours. Yeeech!

Acidity is a term that describes the liveliness of the coffee from flat to sparkling. A lightly to medium roast that hasn’t been frozen or does not have more than a few weeks since the roasting tends to be more alive (and aromatic).

Body relates to the thick or thinness of the liquid. Although it seems to me that a frothy, thick cup of coffee is more aromatic and alive, I have enjoyed a cup of thin coffee now and then. Myself, I am still unsure whether bean or brewing have more influence on the body.

Complexity relates to our general experience or flavor of a coffee. It is the overall impression of aroma, acidity and body. Different people will have different preferences, but it seems to me that there’s no better cup of coffee (regardless of the blend or origin) than a frothy, aromatic expresso.

The finish describes the length that the flavor stays in your mouth. In my humble opinion, the finish of most beans is best enjoyed as a hot cup of coffee. As discovered by my friend and former colleague, Claes Andersen, Starbucks’ medium house blend seems to hold its own even when cold.

More on Good Bean

Although Starbucks seems to be the authority on coffee, I find that you really need to find a Starbucks blend you like and stick to it- if you want to get black apron about coffee. On the other hand, the espresso and house blends from Starbucks are good general blends for office, home or gift to a friend that you often visit.

A bit better to me is the Kona coffee bean bought direct from one of the small, certified kona coffee farms in Hawaii. Hand-picked, hand-cleaned, dried gently, and lightly roasted is the way to go. 100 percent Kona coffee is also a little expensive. The video below provides some insight into Kona coffee farming.

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And, better than week-old roasted, certified Kona coffee beans (considering price and flavor) is a week-old roasted batch of Dean and Deluca’s Georgetown blend. However, getting a freshly roasted blend from Dean and Deluca is rare and far between. I didn’t get one fresh roasted batch in my last four tries.

Getting Good Cup

The best way to get a good cup of coffee at home, work or elsewhere is to be a coffee evangelist. You will need to encourage and educate your friends, family and colleagues in a friendly, warm and kind manner. You will need to be persistent, patient, helpful and courteous as you communicate your enthusiasm for a well-deserved, good cup of coffee.

The fact is that if you don’t make the coffee, you won’t get a good cup until they love coffee just as much as you.

Stan Faryna
March 01, 2008
Bucharest, Romania

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About Stan Faryna

Stan Faryna is the founder and co-founder of several technology, design and communication companies in the United States and Europe including Faryna & Associates, Inc., Halo Interactive, and others.

His political, scholarly, social and technical opinions have appeared in The Chicago Defender, Jurnalul National, The Washington Times, Sagar, Saptamana Financiara, Social Justice Review, and other publications.

Mr. Faryna is editor-in-chief of Black and Right (Praeger Press, 1996), a landmark collection of socio-political essays by important American thinkers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Copyright

Copyright 1996 to 2008 by Stan Faryna.

Here’s my fair use policy for my content:

If you want to share my content with your own audience, you may quote a brief excerpt, if and only if, you provide proper attribution (Source: The unofficial blog of Stan Faryna) with a direct link to the source. You may not republish or translate the entire article without my written permission. Send your request for permission by inmail through the linkedin professional network at www.linkedin.com.

2 Responses to True coffee-lovers become coffee evangelists

  1. mac157 says:

    So true. It’s been an uphill fight in India too (and they grow the damn stuff in the South of their country!). Some go on and on re. filter coffee in India . . . it’s like Indian tea but with a coffee base instead. Fortunately, they’ve been opening some indigenous coffee houses . . . however places like Cafe Coffeday really don’t seem to get it. It’s like the TGI Friday’s in Bombay that served me a non-verg. sandwhich in the style of Bombay Vada Pav! Aaaagh! Some cultural fusions really do work better than others. I guess if I didn’t take my coffee black, it wouldn’t be so bad. Without the extras, the quality of what you’re drinking is really clear (this being a problem too [i.e., weak coffee]). I, like you, now bring a Costco-size bag when I go to visit my relatives!

  2. Anonymous says:

    ezine articles

    Good post!

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