Sunday, January 28, 2007

Why does everyone overroast?

After a long trip through Starbucks, Peets, local coffee shops and gourmet roasters, I finally found a store that sells 5 ppound bags of Lavazza again. The experience left me wondering why every American roaster overroasts their coffee? At Starbucks it's a given, they use their stuff mostly in highly sugared drinks, so they have to give some bite to average beans. Peets is a bit better, but still deliveres dark, glossy beans that kill most of the taste. And the local roasters--from BlueBottle in SF over Hudson Bay Co. in Rockridge, to Quartermaine and Coyote in DC (and at any stop in between)--are either not far behind, or way worse.

It doesn't have to do with strength, or caffination, or even local differences: every "gourmet" coffee bean in the States is roasted within an inch of its life.

Lily or Lavazza beans make a cup that sits up and barks, but if you look at the beans, they are positively pale, or even slightly greenish compared with the standard US stuff. Might it be that they use pretty much pure Arabica? Or is it just as simple as "Starbucks set the taste of American coffee drinkers and anyone must follow or perish"?

Hey, maybe it's not even Starbuck's fault. NYC diner coffee 25 years ago was thin, black, and bitter.

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