Times-Call (Longmont)

Jawing on java’s essentials


Arise and shine. But first, coffee.

“I may sound like I’m 5-years-old,” affirms Joe Faissal, “but I like Mcdonald’s coffee. It’s cheap. I drink it there in the morning,” adds Joe, whose family is in the jewelry business north of Denver.

You can’t see me, Joe, but I’m gently tossing a bouquet to you. I know how you feel. In a world flying higher than Chinese spy balloons and/or UFOS, staying aware of the next big thing in coffee can be exhausting. I, too, have felt out of the loop by confessing my affection for the Mcdonald’s blend. The senior coffee there is under a buck, and refills are free.

Back in his native Lebanon, Joe recalls, coffee is served “in small cups and, oh, very strong! They refer to it as Turkish coffee. Here, the Lebanese refer to it as Turkish coffee.”

Joe’s son, Joey, strikes a more nuanced chord when talking coffee. “I try to go with the profile of the bean, the potential flavor notes in coffee,” he instructs, his credibilit­y percolatin­g. If the New York Philharmon­ic was accepting applicants to be its first maestro of the java-fueled woodwinds section, Joey would be the hands-down hire. He’s that interestin­g.

“I like it somewhere between nutty and roasted with a chocolate profile,” he goes on. Joey’s regular supplier is Sweet Maria’s.

The company’s Oakland, Calif., warehouse delivers beans and brewing equipment like roasters and grinders.

He dives even deeper. There’s an Indonesian blend, he says, that’s made partially from…um… cat poop.

“Eighty dollars a cup,” he proclaims. (Or, if you prefer, $198 a pound.)

“You mean a pound,” I insist, trying to sound snobbish to the ways of coffee.

“No, no, no, a cup,” he maintains. “For some, it’s the cat’s meow.”

But, looking through an objective lens, Joey hastens to balance his comments with praise for Mcdonald’s brew. Many of the company’s beans, he explains, are “grown in Chiapas,” nestled in extreme southern Mexico by the Guatemalan border. “It’s in the volcanic range.” As for convenienc­e store blends, Faissal is practical: “Sometimes it’s necessary when you’re on the road.”

Coffee junkies. Coffee devotees. Coffee freaks. Americans down an average of three to five cups daily, with nearly half preferring their beans medium roasted. Finland

leads the world in per person coffee consumptio­n, followed by Norway and Iceland. Fans in those spots prefer their coffee black, complement­ing the cold, dark winters. Shockingly, the U.S. lags far behind in 25th place. Maybe we need more coffee stops so they can further block the pristine views of the Rockies.

The backstory of coffee is steeped in folklore. One legend has it that when Islamic shepherds fed their sheep coffee beans, it produced hostility in the animals. Soon, the Muslim world was hooked on coffee, making Christiand­om jittery. Centuries later, when coffee was introduced to the Vatican, Pope Clement VIII’S handlers urged him to forbid

it because of its dastardly Muslim roots. The pontiff, though, um, held his ground until he tried it. “This devil’s drink is delicious!” he exclaimed, taking his first sip. “We should cheat the devil by baptizing it.”

In an earlier life, my Aunt Fran, who, like coffee, is sweetly smooth, rich and bold, worked in the family restaurant business. She did it all: managing, serving, baking her prize-winning cakes and pies and being a constant and comforting light in a dark world. And in every task she plunged into, she drank coffee. Lots of it.

I asked her how long was long. “Probably when since I was 16,” she says. “It’s when I tried my first cigarette. Thank God, I

never got into that habit!” Now retired in Clearwater, Fla., my aunt has made the switch to decaf, for the most part. “I fix my coffee pot the night before. Then it’s ready after my shower the next morning.”

Part of a 1960s generation that brewed coffee at home — remember Maxwell House, Chase and Sanborn and Yuban? — my wise aunt can’t rationaliz­e spending $4 on a cup of coffee. “I’ve got better things to do with four dollars. Like, hmm, putting a down payment on a dozen eggs.”

It’s not hard to see a trend among many coffee drinkers. As we age, or for other reasons, we jump to decaf, although “jump” may not be the right word. How about “crawl,” since

we’re no longer stoked on caffeine?

One of my friends used to guzzle coffee. That’s changed. “I just get my green tea and mix herbal tea in with it,” he says cheerily. “It doesn’t give me the same rush or buzz that coffee does, but I wanted to restore my sleep patterns after writing a book.” As for early-morning habits, he believes “people would rather give up their eggs before they give up their coffee. I love a good omelette, but I’m not a slave to it.”

On the homefront, my wife, Mary, after decades, has forfeited her evening cup of regular coffee, replacing it with a cup of hot tea. But her journey of reconditio­ning has been marred with bouts of

weeping and gnashing of teeth. In simple terms, she takes a dim view of decaf.

“I don’t see the purpose of decaf if all you care about is flavor,” she explains, shaking her head, a sharp edge in her usually genial tone. “I need some caffeine to get going. Everybody likes the buzz from a good cup of coffee.”

As Joey enjoys his takeout Thai food, I ask him what the world would look like without coffee. What if there was a devastatin­g drought in Costa Rica? Or Ethiopia? Brazil? What if the Indonesian kitties staged a wildcat strike?

“There’s a saying: `Death Before Decaf.’ I’d just switch to whisky,” strictly in jest. “There’s caffeine in whisky.”

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