Friday, September 14, 2012

Stop and Sip the Coffee

I have made a 1-mile, 8-block walk every morning this week.  That's the distance from my hotel in Seattle to Pike Street, where the public market - which draws me like a bee to honey - is located.  There is just nothing quite as beautiful to me as buyers and sellers talking over fresh flowers and vegetables and fish in the middle of a bustling urban setting.  You step off a sidewalk lined with high rise buildings and neon signs and into a world of basic sensory awesomeness.  And, yes, that's the best this writer can do on the subject - awesomeness.

It is hard to imagine finding the beginnings of Starbucks in this place...but, this is exactly where Starbucks began - as a bean roaster at the public market in Seattle.  Since then (1971), Starbucks has changed everything about coffee drinking in the United States - including, apparently, the immediate access we think we need to a coffee shop.

On my 1-mile walk to the market, there are five Starbucks stores.  Five. Choose another 1-mile walk in Seattle, and it's the same thing.  A Starbucks on every other corner.   And Starbucks is not the only purveyor of the magical brew in this town, either.  Interspersed along the 8-block mile are at least a half dozen other espresso shops.  In fact, I can stand in one spot in front of my hotel and photograph three...THREE...such cafes without moving anything but my head. 

This town has some coffee options.  

But here's what I notice about Seattle coffee drinkers.  They are not so much savoring as swilling.  They are grabbing and going.  They are treating the elixir like it is medicine not magic.  It is caffeine craziness.  A quick fix...that is all.

And so, being the contrary person I am...I refused to participate.  I kept walking until I found a place that had a cache of sippers in comfy chairs.  A one-of-a-kind joint on my business focused mile, with four menu options called "Slow Brew"...I chose the Chemex method.  I was seated at a bar with my very own barista, who gleefully shared detailed descriptions of my bean choices - the brightnesses, the boldnesses, the lingering aftertastes.  She carefully primed the filter, ground the beans, wet the grounds, then patiently - oh so patiently - poured water, heated to the perfect 202 degrees, gently over the dampened grounds.  Ah.  It was like watching a dancer execute a perfect pirouette.  I could have left without even a taste of the brew and been quite satisfied.  

But, the brew.  Oh my.

What's the hurry, friends?  Walk past convenience once or twice today. Do something the slow way. There is a lot of peace in that.

Starbucks may not thank you...but your soul will. 


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