August 24, 2011 by David Gillaspie
OR HOW COFFEE GOT ME GOOD
Once upon a time the cup of coffee in your hand graded somewhere between thirty-weight Turkish oil and weak tea.
If you bought both and mixed them with a packet of Sanka, you got decent taste.
One morning in 1982, on the usual coffee walk down Broadway, George the photographer and I talked it out.
“The espresso I used to get in the 5th Street Marketplace in Eugene made we want an espresso machine.”
“I’ve got a stove top boiler,” George nodded. “It’s pretty good.”
“One of those aluminum hour-glass looking things?”
“Traditional. Great coffee.”
“I miss Chock Full O Nuts coffee I used to get in Manhattan. Dark, but not too thick.”
“That’s the trick, getting the mix right. It’s either too thick and dark, or too thin and light, and I don’t mean cream.”
The food court on the corner where the Columbia Sporting store is now had a coffee place, more of a dessert bar.
We knew the guy; we were regulars.
“Two large?” he asked, knowing the answer.
For seventy five cents each, it was a good coffee stop. The cups we got that day made it a great stop.
“Got a new coffee. Tell me what you think?” he said.
“Is it Italian?” George asked.
“French roast?” I added.
“Neither,” the coffee guy said. “Just try it and tell me.”
I took a big sniff.
“If it tastes as good as it smells, we’re good,” I said.
After half and half from the carton, we put on our coffee expert faces.
We drank. We breathed. We drank more.
This was the Holy Grail of coffee. Not too bitter, not too burnt; dark without the thickness.
It was the first cup of Starbucks for either of us.
“Where’s it from?” George asked.
“I told you.”
“No you didn’t.”
“I said Seattle.”
“I’d remember if you said Seattle. I like Seattle.”
“It’s from Seattle.”
“You said that.”
“Okay, just shut-up.”
We laughed and drank more of the tan gold.
“Will this be here all the time?” I asked. If he said no, I was buying five pounds right there.
“Don’t know yet. It’s new. If enough people like it, we’ll order more.”
“How much’ve you got?”
“We don’t sell bags of coffee, man, just a cup at a time. You want another cup?”
“It’s free, right? You want to cultivate the customer base.”
“This time, because you asked, okay? After this, if you get another cup while you’re here, it’s a quarter.”
“You need me to fill something out, like a customer satifaction survey?” George asked.
“Did you like the coffee?” the guy asked.
“Would you buy another cup?”
“If it wasn’t free I would.”
“Would you tell your friend about this coffee?”
“He’s right here, otherwise I would.”
“I’ll buy five pounds of this right now,” I said.
“We don’t sell bulk.”
“Yeah, I heard you, but that’s how much I like it. It’s an example of affection.”
“Not the coffee. I love it. I want more.”
“Give me your cup.”
“No, not now. I don’t want more now. I want more of this the next time I get coffee. I want to plan on having another cup of this. If it’s not steady, what do we do? It’s better than Chock Full O Nuts.”
“Huh? Nuts? We still talking coffee.”
“I want to go to sleep knowing this isn’t the first and last cup of this I’ll ever get. Where’s the survey?”
The coffee guy handed another cup over.
“I’ll tell the boss. You guys know coffee. You come here often enough. He’ll like what you said.”
“What’s it called?”
“It’s what we’re doing here, right? It’s not Folgers. It’s not Taster’s Choice. It’s not…”
“It’s from Seattle.”
“Is that the name? Seattle Coffee?”
“Star-something. What was Terry Bradshaw’s first wife’s name?”
“That’s her. JoJo something.”
“Starbuck? JoJo Starbuck?”
“This is JoJo Starbuck?”
“She’s hot, but no, just Starbuck.”
“Starbucks? I even like the sound. Starbucks.”
“Will it be here tomorrow?”
“Look, it’s a trial thing. If it catches on, it’ll be here. If not, you’ll still show up.”
“Either here or somewhere pouring Starbucks. This is it.”
“What about a tip?”
“For coffee? Come on.”
“What’s the right tip on a seventy-cent buy?”
“Maybe it’ll be more.”
“No one will pay more than that for coffee. Here’s a quarter.”