Sipping and Tipping
April 26, 2014
Our resident caffinologist, John Flemming, pursues perfection.
It’s inconceivable to him that we who have bought a $12,000 espresso machine hesitate before spending another $1,500 to buy a reverse osmosis water filter (whatever that is).
Or about two $1,200 dosing grinders that will dependably dump exactly the right number of coffee grams into the espresso baskets ? (“Dosing,” he calls it.)
Although he prefers that people not contaminate his perfect latte with a sweetener, “People are going to sweeten it anyway. So I want to make that experience better than anywhere else. Vanilla is a good medium, but I want to complement it with other compatible flavors like whisky, oak, maple sugar.”
What is the line between passion and obsession? And why are we doing this?
I remember when Starbucks was thought to be great coffee. Indeed, I remember when Maxwell House was perfectly fine and the percolator was the accepted method of brewing. My coffee baseline is lower than John’s.
God knows I don’t want to go back to those days but how far do I want to go?
I admit that in spit of his nature John has compromised. He’d prefer to do “pour-overs” in the morning but bowed to General Manager Perry Plybon’s insistence that as they walk to the Van Ness Metro at 7:30 am customers won’t want to wait for seven minutes to watch hot water dribbling slowly through a paper filter.
And John also yielded to my insistence we not adopt the inherently unfair system of tipping those who make espresso drinks. I find it subtly coersive that in so many food stores customers are presented by cashiers with a bill that has a tipping line to be filled in while the cashiers look on hungrily.
There is no question that our coffee program will be superb; John will see to it. But I am a child of the 1940s and ‘50s and while I love coffee and drink it all day, I have been fantasizing about the soda fountain largely lost for the past four decades.
We’re going to attempt a modest revival of that old institution by offering egg creams. And as we will be making ice cream for sale in cones and cups, we use our ice cream to make milk shakes, ice cream sodas, and root beer floats.
And John will turn his caffeine-saturated mind to juice drinks and teas, chocolate drinks and soft drinks that we make.
John is going to be the founding sodologist, master of non-alcoholic drinks.