Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Adventures in Coffee

I like my coffee hot. Unless it’s a frappe. Or iced. What I don’t like are those sleeves they put over the hot cups at coffee houses. As my friend El will tell you, since our Monday night coffee dates in Kansas City, I’ve always pulled them off. I’ve never had my coffee so hot that I can’t hold it long enough to take a sip. The double cupping doesn’t bother me, but I don’t need it. Just don’t put that stupid cardboard sleeve on my coffee. The sleeve dictates where I hold my cup. It’s always around the middle. What if I want to hold it at the top? Or the bottom? What if I want a straw? I don’t like to be told what to do—especially when it comes to coffee.

Nick and have been loyal customers of Barnes and Noble and Starbucks since…well, always. Nick actually worked at B&N just before we got married. My Saturday nights at the airport actually began as entire weekends at Barnes and Noble. I could sit there for hours—and have. It’s better than a library in that there’s coffee. Imagine if the books were available for loan!

I’ve always found Starbucks coffee to be sub-par. I mean, it’s no Gloria Jean’s. There are no Gloria Jean’s in San Diego. The closest is somewhere in Arizona. I’d always struggle with what to order: hot or cold. Mocha or latte. Whip or no whip. Grade or venti (ok, so always venti). Border’s was always the competition. Seattle’s Best was coffee’s worst. Unfortunately for us travelers, many a trip found us seeking out a bookstore. In Portland, OR, we discovered our need for a map when in a foreign city. I think that was our first occasion to actually search for a bookstore. Downtown Portland was home to a very large Border’s. It would just have to do. We only looked at maps, had no coffee, and left. Whoa! Hope no one saw us in there. Unfortunately, we had the same problem in Phoenix (one of our early trips—we so know where we’re going now). Tempe has a nice sized Border’s as well. Several floors, even. But it wasn’t until we were exploring downtown Chicago that I finally broke down and ordered a mocha from Seattle’s Best inside of Border’s on State Street. It was the middle of January and COLD! Ivy was hungry and I needed a place to sit. Fine. I’ll get some coffee. Twist my arm why don’t you. (Ok, so I didn’t need too much convincing. But I wasn’t going to like this coffee.) Well, it wasn’t bad. But our local Downer’s Grove Barnes and Noble was still our favorite place to sit and read while drinking coffee.

Now that we’re back in San Diego, it’s the Barnes and Noble, Mira Mesa that finds us frequently indulging. Recently, however, we’ve been doing something dangerous. There’s a Border’s in Carmel Mountain. We went there a few weeks ago because we wanted to do something we don’t normally do (Yes, we’re dull people. Our idea of change is switching bookstores.). Anyway, I decided that as long as Ivy was asleep and I was going to have the opportunity to read for a while, I’d go ahead and reluctantly get some coffee. Little did I know, there was a sneaky barista working at Seattle’s Best that day.

“What can I make for you today?”

“What’s a raspberry kiss mocha?” I asked.

“Just a raspberry mocha.”

“Is it any good?” I asked, skeptically. How could it be any good? It was Seattle’s Best.

“Not bad.”

But they had a list of other mochas. Which should I choose?

“Which mocha is a good mocha? I mean, if you had to pick a mocha—“

He thought for a moment. “Well, the white mocha’s good.”

“Yeah, but I can get a white mocha anywhere.”

“True. You could always try the Snickers Mocha.”

This intrigued me. “Ooooh. What’s that?”

“It’s an almond mocha with a pump of caramel.”

I was tempted. I was beyond tempted. I was convinced. I was sold. This was my mocha. I told him I’d give that a try. As I beheld my decadent treat, covered in whipped cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce and a tiny bar of chocolate (non-fat milk!), I could hardly wait to dive in. One sip and I was converted. What a drink!

The Snickers Mocha is now my drink of choice. I’ve ordered it at Starbucks and Seattle’s Best, iced and hot, whip and no whip, but always venti. Why skimp on the ounces? I know it’s gonna be good!