Thursday, February 28, 2008

Have Coffee Will Travel

I realize that I have a bit of an obsession. I know this about myself and though I’ve tried to overcome it many times in the past, I now realize that it’s a part of who I am and I’m ok with that.

I love coffee.

No, no, I LOVE it! It’s the most fantastic substance I’ve every consumed. Ask me to pick my favorite food—this is it. My favorite drink—no question. My favorite dessert, the one thing I’d take with me to a deserted island, if I could choose the last food on Earth—all coffee.

When I travel, there’s no exception. My boss makes fun of me, but I feel no shame. I recently went on a business trip to New York/Connecticut. Heather (my boss) and I stayed at the fabulous Ryetown Hilton (very rustic and cute—I loved it). When we first got our reservation confirmations, my first task was to call the hotel and see if they had coffee makers in the rooms. Most hotels seem to, but the Waldorf=Astoria did not! Upscale my foot! I was pleased to learn that the Ryetown Hilton did provide this (as well as a hairdryer and onsite fitness center. Whoo hoo!) When packing for my trip I had to decide if I was going to carry on or check my bag. With the new (not so new anymore) liquid restrictions in place, I knew I’d have to check my bag—how else was I going to get a 32 ounce bottle of coffee-mate on the plane? Of course I took coffee with me! Rely on the hotel brand? No, no. This is me we’re talking about.

I wasn’t sure if my bottle would survive the trip or the pressurization of the bin (that’s where the bags are under the plane). I asked Nick if I packed my bottle inside of a plastic bag would the bag pop. He said maybe, but the odds of both the bag popping and the seal on the bottle breaking were pretty slip. Great! I could bring my coffee. When I told Heather I was going to check my bag and why, she immediately understood—I had to have my coffee.

I’m happy to say that it made the trip. No leaks or punctures anywhere. When I checked into my room, I went immediately in search of the promised coffee pot. It wasn’t in the bathroom where I first thought to look, but rather in a cabinet next to the TV. What I saw there presented a challenge. Not only did I bring my own cream, but my own coffee as well. In my past hotel experience, I’ve noticed that maybe rooms are provided with enough coffee for two small pots. Well, I go through that in a couple of hours. It certainly wouldn’t last an evening and the following morning. I even packed filters! I was really on the ball…or so I thought. The coffee machine was, indeed there, but it was one of those pod brewers. I could brew two cups at once, but basically, there was no pot. The hotel had provided four pods (only 4 cups of coffee), but I wasn’t sure how I could conform my coffee and filters into a pod. Still, I was determined.

We had dinner and coffee in the downstairs restaurant, so I was good for the night. The next morning, I decided to give it a shot. I poured what was probably two tablespoons into one of my filters, shoved it in where the pod goes, poured in water and pushed the button. Slowly, a stream of brown liquid started to stream into the cup below. Success!

Or not. It was pretty weak. Ok, no problem. More coffee. I tried again. This time, only half of the water came out before the machine shut off. I was getting desperate here. To hold myself over until I figured this out, I put in one of the pods. Maybe the machine wasn’t working right. When I had a successful cup ready in a few minutes, I knew the pods were somehow the answer to my dilemma. I tried the pod coffee—ok, but not great. Good enough, though. Well, that would be at least four cups. I tried tearing off the top of the coffee filter, hoping that maybe room in the small filter area was the problem. This seemed to do the trick. I had to push the on button a few times during brewing, but I managed a more than decent cup of coffee. I headed down to the lobby to meet Heather and Don (our driver for the week) carrying a to-go cup (those were provided too!).

“How was your coffee?”


“The hotel pods aren’t bad.” Don said.

“Oh, yeah, I went through those pretty quickly.”

“Is that decaf?” Don asked.

“Uh, I’m not sure. This is like my sixth cup.”

We got to the office of our vendor (whom we were visiting) and were given an immediate apology for the broken coffee maker they had. Not to worry—someone was out at Dunkin’ Doughnuts getting a box of coffee. Was this like boxed wine? I wasn’t sure, but still, glad it was coming. I sat through the early minutes of our meeting, glancing at the door every few seconds. Was it here yet?

Living in Chicago where we had Dunkin’ Doughnuts everywhere, I was told often that this was the coffee to out coffee Starbucks. I’d never tried it though, but the hype was enough to put it in favorable light. When the log awaited box did arrive, I was terribly disappointed. This was good coffee? I had one cup but didn’t drink much of it. I would just have to be prepared tomorrow.

Before I’d left my room that day, I left a nice little note for the housekeeping staff. “Please leave extra coffee.” If I couldn’t stand dealing with my filters I could at least drink the pod stuff. When I got back to my room after dinner, I saw again, just four little pods. Sigh!

The next day (after struggling again with my filters all morning) we were told early on in our meeting that if it wasn’t too much of a distraction, would it be al right if the coffee repair person came in to fix the pot. YES! Bring him in! By all means. I have to admit, I was slightly distracted by the thought of good coffee. The pot he was fixing was my now coveted Krupps model that brewed K-Cups. They weren’t Gloria Jeans, but I was excited at the prospect of giving these K-Cups a shot.

There were a few glitches once the new pot was installed, but overall, I was quite impressed with the Krupps model. I CAN’T WAIT to have one of my own.

Over our four day trip, I used up my entire bottle of cream and the better part of my coffee. I really wish that I would have known ahead of time that my in-room pot took only pods. I would have found some other brand that made pods and brought them with me, but I certainly made do.

My next business trip in April is to New Orleans. Heather and I will be staying at the Chateau Sonesta Hotel. I’ve already called—they do have an in-room coffee pot in each room…and it’s not the pod variety. That is now on my list of things to ask hotels. My only challenge this time is that I’d really like to avoid checking my bag. It’s just a hastle and it got stuck in New York for three or so days (during Superbowl weekend AND a nasty snow storm). I’m thinking of shipping my coffee cream to the hotel before I leave. Nuts, I know, but I GOTTA HAVE MY COFFEE!

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