There are times when one can justifiably take advantage of a host’s generosity and access to an international audience for the selfish purpose of venting one’s frustrations. This is just such a time.
It is increasingly a problem: Whenever I elect to try out a new coffee shop, especially when out of town on business, they do not serve brewed or drip coffee. Just about every foo-foo flavor or coffee containing drink imaginable fills their menu, yet not even a simple, regular cup of coffee can be had. It’s un-American I tell you.
In these “coffee shops” wanting coffee means receiving a cheap substitute: A watered-down misfit of a beverage–the Americano.
For those unfamiliar with the name, an “Americano” is a shot or two of espresso mixed with a sufficient amount of hot water to raise it to the volume of a cup of coffee. Mind you I have nothing against a shot of espresso by itself as it offers a quick bolt of strong, flavorful coffee. But it is not something that is improved by diluting it to the point of weakness in order to make another drink.
While travelling on business the past couple weeks I’ve found it is becoming increasingly difficult to find brewed coffee at so called “coffee shops”.
In one case recently I drove past a Dutch Brothers chain coffee house. The implication in the name was that I could perhaps find a cup of actual Dutch Coffee. Recently I was in Europe visiting family who are Dutch citizens and I greatly enjoyed the coffee they served. Hoping to savor again this pleasant experience I decided to give Dutch Brothers a try.
For some strange and unknown reason all the employees were dressed in animal costumes. I tried to discern exactly the equation between animal costumes and Dutch coffee. (Were these animals to be found on Sumatra when Indonesia was a Dutch colony?) I could not find the reason but it did not matter. I just wanted a cup of Dutch Coffee.
Foul deceivers! Of all the money spent to create a large coffee shop, complete with drive-in lanes and numerous employees, they could not summon the decency to serve brewed coffee. The staff, while friendly, could only offer a poor substitute–the ugly Americano. Whether their coffee was actually Dutch or not I could not say but not having a traditional cup of coffee available was a disappointment.
While I tend to be more nostalgic than I should, there are certain aspects of life that should remain as they were. Today’s trendy coffee houses serving hipster approved confections lead to an erosion of strong coffee traditions. The “Americano” is un-American in every way. It is a bland hybrid and a sissy-concoction; unmanly and unfit for consumption by any respectable coffee drinker. No Coffee Shop should serve it. Either offer at least brewed coffee or stay out of the coffee industry. The Americano is definitely worse than the sum of its parts.
On a practical note I’ve seen how some espresso machine centered coffee shops make brewed coffee. They heat water to just below boiling temperature then slowly pour the water over a basket containing fresh grounds. This makes a great cup of coffee but this process is labor and time intensive as the barista must stand over the device for a couple of minutes to prevent overspill of the basket. And, maybe having a coffee machine lures customers away from more expensive items that can be up-marketed by the barista. Still, how hard can it be to simply make a regular cup of coffee in a coffee shop?
We in the United States have a cultural tradition in both restaurants and coffee shops. That tradition is brewed coffee. Coffee is a drink made for the Average Joe who wants a strong and flavorful cup of coffee to help him through the day, and even more so when working the night shift. Beyond that a cup of good brewed coffee can be appreciated in an assortment of origins or blends and varied as much as the imagination can derive by varying the roast or the bean. All of this is lost and debased via the diminishment of the Americano making process. We owe it to ourselves to never settle for less. Black Coffee or none at all.
Just say No to Americanos.
By Darren Smith
Photo Credit: By Julius Schorzman – Own work
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