January 15, 2012

Coffee obsession

I have a problem: I can't seem to stop collecting coffees. Or maybe the problem is that I'm too delighted in all the variety out there. The obsession isn't actually about coffee: it's about CHOICE.

I have a Keurig brewer, which was a gift two (three?) years ago from my mom. It is, in fact, the only coffee maker I've ever loved. It's just so EASY. And it makes switching from one variety of coffee to another - or even to tea or hot chocolate or chai - as simple as getting a sampler pack or a 12- or 18-count box at the local grocery. On a weekend, I may have three different kinds of coffee in a day. Or tea. Or hot chocolate. It's great!

These aren't the K-cups you're looking for.
My problem is that I don't quite finish a box before stocking up on a couple more. So at present I have six varieties of coffee in my pantry, another half-dozen represented by stragglers in the little revolving carousel, and two varieties of K-cup tea.

They're like merit badges!

Not that the long-rooted tea obsession has gone away either! In teabag form, I have three different kinds and in loose-leaf form another four. And as long as we're on the topic of pre-packaged hot drinks, I'll admit that I also recently got a box of Trader Joe's instant coffee (pre-sugared, pre-creamered) just to try it. At 10 cents per serving, I'm not risking much.

And it doesn't suck, believe it or not.
But is all this variety too much? Sure, I love offering my guests a large choice, from regular to hi-test to half-caff to decaf and even herbal teas. But I'm the first to look at a restaurant menu and point out that I could make a decision a lot easier if there were fewer choices!

LESS choice is a discipline and is probably a good one. For instance - let's look at the lines formed at two different establishments for getting your morning cuppa on the way to work. On the one hand, you have Starbucks - highly glossy, awful coffee, very expensive - I have to wonder why people ever go there. Ah, but they have CHOICE. So they flock to the counter, debate for a while, give their complicated "coffee" orders, which take the baristas five minutes to make, and the whole trip takes 10 or 15 minutes.

If you get tennis neck from reading the menu, it's too big.
But on the other side of the street, there's the local deli or small diner. They make one kind of coffee - and it isn't decaf. It's made by the gallon (or two or three) at a time. They have some choices for cream and sugar or their substitutes, but those are limited. And if you have them do the cream and sugar, they do it one way and that's it. Guess how long their lines are? They have none! Not for lack of customers, but because they have a high turnover rate on each order. A good sidewalk coffee/donut guy can pump out 180-200 cups of coffee an hour.

Order some breakfast in your head.  See how easy that was?
So if less choice is clearly the better way to go, why am I so obsessed with collecting coffees and teas? If I'm honest with myself, I could be happy with a single roast for the rest of my life. (Note: that roast is currently Eclipse, but any of the extra-bolds will do.) I don't get bored with a coffee so much as distracted by shiny new ones. If I weren't such a braincase, perhaps I could have some mental discipline and narrow my coffee selection to something more reasonable. Perhaps I can focus if I have just one more cup of coffee...

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