Crazed for Coffee

from FIX, Echo Park

I’d like to think I am an addict-free woman, but that would be a tiny white lie.  My addiction is black and strong, short and sweet, and is sometimes ridiculously hard to find.  Where is my perfect espresso?  I’m sorry but our American coffee (or ‘dirty water’ as some foreigners have called it) just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.  The Portuguese christened me an espresso drinker not long after my arrival to Lisbon, slowly working my way up to the pure black magic after dabbling in lesser intense experiments: the milky mulatto-colored coffees, espresso with just a kiss of white froth, and a long espresso which had a bit of hot water to temper the intensity of what came to be my final destination: plain and simple espresso.  Don’t even think about tainting it with sugar.   (You can explore the Portuguese coffee culture in this article I wrote.)

Well, surprisingly or not, it’s actually not so easy to get a decent espresso around here.  I may be pressing my luck- it is San Clemente after all, but I just wonder what these coffee shops think they are promoting if they can’t sell a decently prepared, hot, not bitter, espresso, in a real ceramic cup.   I’ve sampled the local options and whether it’s the espresso or the delivery,  something is just not right.

The place down the street serves their version in a huge, wide-lidded coffee cup, the kind that allows lots of air in to cool your espresso off before it gets to your lips, not to mention it makes the espresso look really lonely floating at the bottom of a very empty cup all by itself.

Pretty and practical

The drive-thru coffee place doesn’t do such a bad job with their espresso, but when they serve it to me in two paper cups, plus a plastic lid, I feel like I am consuming more in disposable goods than coffee.  I saved the ‘extra’ paper cup and brought it back the next day and the server looked at me like I was crazy.  This is where we need Raven and Lily’s coffee sleeve – an LA based design collective I met last year at the Women’s Conference. This great cup sleeve reduces unnecessary coffee cup waste while supporting the women’s collective in Burundi who sews them.  They make great gifts- check out their site!

And then there was the hygiene issue.  Hard-pressed for coffee and without any other option than Starbucks (which I usually avoid at all costs), I brought my own mug to the mini Starbucks housed in the LA Convention Center while working an art show.  After ordering, I pushed my mug across the counter, and she said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t do that- it’s against county health regulations.”  I argued that it was my mug, I would be the only one sipping from it and that I didn’t understand.  She just shook her head no.  I offered to hold it as the barista poured my espresso in, saving all Starbucks employees from handling my mug, yet to no avail, I was served in yet another paper cup.

If it’s not complicated enough, have you ever thought about what’s in your coffee that you can’t see? As one of the world’s major cash crops, the coffee plant is subjected to radical amounts of toxins and pesticides throughout the agricultural process.  Some of the products used on foreign grown coffee are banned in the U.S. due to their toxicity levels and hazardous implications on health.  Buying organic coffee not only is healthier for your body, but it supports a healthier work environment for the people and land responsible for growing it.  I just discovered a brand new spot in Silver Lake called “Cafecito Orgánico.” My espresso was the perfect blend of three different beans meticulously selected for their taste and sustainable practices.  Read about their journey in this LA Weekly blog article  here.

In all, I’ve concluded that this cozy beach community just can’t do coffee, that my northern neighborhood up in L.A. has plenty of places that vie for the perfect cup  and are conscious about its origins (Intelligentsia is another favorite), and that all of us could be a bit more responsible by asking for a ceramic cup when we plan on sipping ‘in’.  It tastes better anyway!  Now start telling the local baristas to stop looking at me funny when I ask for a ‘for here’ cup.

My favorite Lisbon bakery: espresso from Delta's "gold" label, with freshly baked raisin bread smothered in real butter.

Where do you go for the perfect cup? I’d love to know!  Please leave notes about your sipping pleasures…

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~ by maureenmoore on April 5, 2010.

4 Responses to “Crazed for Coffee”

  1. love Cafecito Organico! A friend of mine worked with them for a while, so I was lucky enough to try all of their blends — my favorite is the El Salvadorian.

    Despite growing up in Orange County, I don’t know too many places to grab a good espresso there. I guess I started on my coffee addiction a little after leaving. But The Lost Bean in Tustin is a pretty reputable place to grab a strong, organically grown, sustainably delivered cup.

    And if you’re in LA and haven’t tried these spots yet, here’s a list of my favorites:
    – LaMill (the scene would be intolerable if the coffee weren’t irresistible.)
    – Casbah (limited seating, slow service vs. great Monkey & Sons coffee, wonderful pastries)
    – Delilah’s (brews Cafecito Organico coffee, and has some of the best cupcakes EVER)
    – Spring for Coffee, downtown (serves LaMill brews, among others)
    – Mornings Nights (odd space, great service, great dark brew)

    • Thank you for sharing your favorites, Kiran! Anxious to try Delilah’s and Mornings Nights!

  2. thanks for supporting our site!

  3. Nice piece. I’d remembered Roma as having the perfect cafe, but I have to say that Spring for Coffee and Intelligentsia are pretty damn good! Shocking to see Starbucks in Amsterdam, Paris, and Rome! And crowded too! (not just with Americans.) and there’s my pet peeve about tea. If I were a Brit ordering tea in America, I’d be totally appalled.

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