In a casual dinner conversation this weekend, our guest inquired about our coffee habits. It struck me that a conversation centering around the particulars of our personal coffee habits would likely have not occurred a generation before. I don’t think my parents thought much about coffee, other than it helped wake them up. Boomers had few choices — Folger’s and Yuban tins were hallmarks of every household. Boomers’ accumulation of wealth has elevated their coffee consciousness to more refined addiction to gourmet blends in recent decades. But, certainly, they didn’t engage in lengthy dinner conversations extoling the merits of AeroPress vs. pour-overs, or burr grinders vs. standard grinders.
The simple question poised to us as we served up soup for dinner, “so how do you guys make your coffee?” opened up an extensive topic that is in fact a very common discussion among the sandwich generation — those of us in our 30s and 40s who straddle the X’s and millennials.
You see, the millennials are the “technology natives,” but my generation could be considered the coffee culture. We grew up during an era of expansive growth in the coffee industry, largely attributed in part to Starbucks becoming a household name by the time we entered adulthood. But before Starbucks took over the kingdom of coffee, smaller regional coffee companies like Seattle Coffee Company showed up in malls, places like Cinnabon served sweet espresso drinks, and drive-up espresso huts popped up on suburban street corners across the Northwest in the 1990s. The introduction of these sweet, milky drinks was the gateway drug to the hard-core habits of good coffee, creating a generation of coffee snobs.
Once our coffee habits were fully addicted, they matured. We began seeking out the independent coffeehouses that served dark, serious drinks with aroma and body. Funky artwork, intellects reading books and writing in journals, the occasional laptop atop a table, and — in the evenings — live music. These places were our temples. These were the places to expand and experiment with traditional shots, breves, cappuccinos, Americanos, and listen to jazz.
We became a coffee-hooked generation and it’s only fitting that the Methow hosts two exceptional coffee roasters to cater to our needs.
Anyone who has organized a group getaway with my generation, be it a camping trip or ski weekend, knows very well the importance that someone must oversee the coffee. This is no small task. There must be enough. It must be dark, and there must be cream. It is also an unspoken arrangement that if you are a true coffee snob and only like your coffee ground, brewed, and doctored a certain way — you bring your own gear.
At a group campout, the morning scene can host a wide assortment of devices for feeding our addictions. There will likely be at least one Aero-Press, one French press, a percolator, a Moka pot, a pour-over, and — while many may balk — Starbucks Vita, the instant yet easy, dark and powerful go-to for the lazy camper.
Coffee habits have taken on all kinds of trends and lingo. Take for example, the recent, “fat coffee” rage. This can include a dollop of butter or coconut oil, creating a greasy, yet filling, warm drink to help fuel outdoor expeditions. Dirty shots, dirty chai, splits, fair-trade, shade-grown … the language is endless, a product of our addictions.
If you are reading this and have no idea what I am talking about, that’s because you’re not a coffee snob and your friends aren’t either. This stuff is real. We take coffee seriously. What separates the true snobs from the addicts? Not much, but true addicts will take it whenever they can, sometimes without cream if necessary, and snobs will only drink it their own particular way. Either way, we make no apologies. We are of the same tribe. We just wish there was a place to get it good, fast and fresh after 4 p.m. in Twisp. (And if you are curious, we use a conventional drip machine. But I won’t divulge the blend or brand.)