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January 31, 2006


The other day I tasted a sample of Golden Congou at a local Peet's. It was wonderful, except...

Peet's describes the tea as,

Exquisitely crafted rare tea from China’s Wuyi Mountains. Golden tipped young leaves brew a bright malty cup with a refreshingly sweet finish.
And it was truly a treat to taste this teariffic tea. Except... the leaves had been left in too long, so there was a slightly bitter aftertaste. My wife mentioned this, and I told her ...

That's why you're not supposed to ...

wait for it ...

That's why you're not supposed to LEAVE it in too long!

And Dogs

Coffee, and dogs, too. (Click on the pic of Espresso in the left column. Buddy pic coming soon.) Jane just sent me this link, firedoglake: A Message From Kobe, Katie, Lucy and Boo Boo* with a pic of her four dogs. And the post is a reminder of what happened in New Orleans.

Thanks Digby!

Thanks Digby for welcoming Smelling the Coffee. Some of the best comments following your post:

"I may just bookmark that blog and give up all the political ones. I'm not sure I can take many more days like yesterday. The state of this country is killing me."

"Coffee?Hell, the way things are going we should be blogging about alcohol. Of course, only the finest single malts and armagnacs ... white wine is for old-school Democrats: the new realists drink grappa and marc."

"Heh-heh-heh<. I remember my first coffee press . . . and my first bicycle, and my first kiss, and all that other kid stuff . . .
Real coffee? You can't handle real coffee.
Equal parts rain water and fine grind, heated to a rolling boil in a cast iron pot, left out to cool for the morrow's dawn, then strained through unwashed denim and four inches of beach sand.
Reheat, and add salt to taste.
I have no hair anywhere on my body.
I have a kitten, but it doesn't move anymore."

"You know what - I always drink the dirtiest, cheapest coffee, purchased at the local ghetto grocer, made super strong in a $20 drip pot purchased at Dollar General. That's the way I like it.
I felt vindicated when my neighbor's French exchange student said she liked it too."

"Funny, I blogged about coffee this morning too. Must be something in the air."

"My mother told me when I was 13 I should start drinking coffee but insisted I "drink it like a man" and not put any sugar or cream in it. I worried that I'd grow hair on my chest but, thankfully, that's not been a problem.
Really, though, Peet's is so superior to Starbucks. My husband drives a couple miles out of his way to pick up Peet's instead of going to the Starbucks right down on the corner. Peet's coffee is not only better, they're a socially progressive company, so we get to feed our lefty psyches while getting our caffeine fix. Mmmm. Nirvana.

January 30, 2006

Recycling Starbucks Cups

OK, another great issue of our time, and this one really is a great issue of our time: recycling.

I always bring my coffee cups and plastic tops home so I can put them into the recycling.

But what are the thousands of local Starbucks doing? There was one locally that set up recycling bins, but I haven't seen them there lately. Can anyone report on their locals?

Starbucks Gossip says that they're now making the cups out of slightly-recycled (10%) material. I found verification of that here. But the Organic Consumers Association isn't impressed,

Environmentalists applauded Starbucks' move, but said that the company should do even more if it is serious about being a green company.

"It's a helpful start, but 10 percent recycled content is minuscule," said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Starbucks said it was using only 10 percent recycled material partly because the material costs more.

Still, The National Recycling Coalition gave them an award.

Treehugger writes,

While we are talking stats, Starbucks also note that 655,00 lbs of paper waste was saved last year, by offering customers a ten cent discount when they used their own mug.
Fine, but I want to know what happens to "an estimated 1.5 billion cups" that come out of Starbucks every year. Does everyone take them home and recycle them? Where do they all GO? I haven't found anything online addressing this, please let me know if you see something.

P.S. And we also take home used coffee grounds for our vegetable garden.

January 29, 2006

More Wi-Fi Table Hog

eXtension IT: Coffee Shop Etiquette? weighs in on the great controversy of our time.

Thanks Pacific Views

Thanks Pacific Views: for welcoming Smelling the Coffee!

Thanks Lean Left

Thanks Lean Left for welcoming Smelling the Coffee.

An E-Mail I Received

This came via e-mail:


When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, Charles decided he needed a woman to enjoy it with.

So one evening he went to a singles bar where he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away. "I may look like just an ordinary man," he said as he walked up to her "but in just a week or two, my father will die, and I'll inherit 20 million dollars."

The woman went home with Charles that evening, and three days later, she became his stepmother.

The moral of the story:

Women are so much smarter. When will men ever learn?

January 28, 2006

Wi-Fi Table Hogs?

At Virtual Coffee,
Let Them Eat Wi-Fi
by Steven Krolak,

Since he had begun offering free wi-fi, he said, the cafe had become a magnet for a whole new customer base. That was the good news. The bad news was that these customers tended to like wi-fi and table space more than coffee and panini. The result was what I had witnessed the previous day: a cafe full of campers, many of whom had been nursing a single coffee drink through several e-chats. The owner told me of one customer who had stayed in the cafe for six hours. During that entire sojourn, he had only ordered one beverage.
I work at Starbucks, using the wi-fi. I usually buy a half-caf Americano (sometimes a venti half-caf soy atte), refill it with decaf coffee, maybe twoce. I ALWAYS tip really well when I am there to work. But I can be at a table for two hours, and I'm concentrating so I don't always notice if the tables have filled up. And I'm paying $30 a month for the T-Mobile wi-fi.

Am I a table hog? What's the solution?

January 27, 2006

Issues of Our Time

Politics in the Zeros weighs in on the great issues of our time, in Roast your own. Go read.

Making the Coffee

OK, I mis-spoke. (Or should that maybe be 'mis-blogged'? 'Mis-posted'? Lied?) I DO let myself get more than about 300 yards from a Peet's. For example, I LIVE more than 300 yeards from a Peet's. (It was a hard choice. Although the just-opened Peet's in Redwood City is very close.)

So what I do is I take Peet's beans home WITH me and make it there! I use a French press. I get the beans ground "to number 12." Today I am having a 2/3 Decaf Special Blend and 1/3 Lost Toraja.

Yes, when I am pushing the plunger it stops part way down. Thank you for asking. No, I don't push harder. (Been there, done that, had to clean it up.) What I do is spin the top of the plunger, which seems to clear things up and then the plunger is able to go down some more. (I do wonder if I just waited the same amount of time, if that would also clear things up. But just waiting for coffee is soooo hard...)

And yes, I have a one-cup plastic travel press pot that I take with me on trips.

Coming soon: Does the coffee made at the store taste better? Smelling the Coffee is not afraid to ask the big questions. And we will not be intimidated. (Try bribes.)

Today's Starbucks vs Peet's Post

Winds of Change said the following yesterday,

I grind beans and make coffee for TG in the morning (Peet's French Roast). And Starbucks makes rocking hot cocoa - I order a "nonfat, no-whip, no vanilla" - try it, you'll like it.
So now hot cocoa is in the mix. Peet's for beans, Starbucks for hot cocoa. Dude, what about consistency. Shouldn't it be Starbucks OR Peet's? Whatever hapened to plain, old-fashioned Patriotism, anyway?

Alas, I am the same. Though I try never to let myself be more than aobut 300 years from a Peet's I prefer Starbucks for a latte. What is that all about? (I get soy latte's.) And my wife used to ONLY drink Starbucks lattes, "went off it" and only wanted Peet's latte's. And there was one guy and only one guy at the Peet's on Middlefield at Charleston in Palo Alto who made the foam just the right waym, so she had to get her Peet's latte there.

Thanks Winds of Change

Winds of Change has a great coffee post welcoming Smelling the Coffee, and you should breeze over and look at.

This could be the time to mention that I don't drink coffee, and that one of my favorite books is Mark Helprin's "Memoir from an Antproof Case" - which is about a man who is (legitimately) psychopathic about coffee.

And coffee, of course, a drug, a filthy, malodorous poison and entirely destructive addiction, has vanquished the human soul, spoiled innocence, and destroyed childhood. It is virtually omnipotent: I have never convinced anyone, no even one person, not to drink it.
And you won't convince ME not to drink it, either. I try not to ever let myself get more than maybe 3oo years from a Peet's.

Thanks Tom

Tom of Opinions You Shoud Have is of the opinion that you should Grab a cup of joe and stop on by. So that's an opinion you should have.

January 26, 2006


One of my very favorite local coffee shops is Coffeetopia in Santa Cruz.

Free wireless.
Chess sets. Chai.

Who's here from Santa Cruz? Raise your hand.

Thanks skippy

Thanks to skippy the bush kangaroo for welcoming Smelling the Coffee.

Denver Coffee

I came across the Mile High Buzz | Denver Coffee House Blog, writing about the coffee shops in Denver. All of them, apparently. Hence the name, I guess.

So I'm hearing about Common Grounds, and in the comments as well. Are they national? Is it a common name for local shops? Here's one in Idaho. (Warning, music.) I can't seem to find a national website... (Not this Christian blog with the same name.)

Who's here from Denver? Raise your hand.

January 25, 2006

Canada Elections and Coffee

CoffeeCrew Blog: On a day like today... writes about Canada's election yesterday.

For our American friends just joining us – We had a Federal election yesterday. The Liberals (your Democrats) were booted out and the Conservatives (your Bush-Republicans) got in, albeit with a sqeaky victory.

Please tell me what's going on up there. Does this mean Canada will get rid of their national health care? Pull out of the global warming treaty?


Starbucks Union!

And while we're on the subect, Fair Trade from The Organic Consumers Association (OCA).

Starbucks Photos

Starbucks Everywhere has photos and an incredible ist of Starbucks visited.

January 24, 2006

Some Blogs

At Coffee and Caffeine Blog, Coffee may up female libido. That's OK with me if it does that.

There's quite a Recipe carnival at Morning Coffee & Afternoon Tea

Badgett's Coffee eJournal has a story I also saw at Engadget about kiosks coming to Starbucks, so you can download music to your iPod (or other device) for 99 cents.

Is this post JUST a Peet's ad?

And a (fair trade) Chocolate Fantasy Party at green LA girl! AND Coffee Crisis Series.

LOTS of good music at Keep The Coffee Coming.

Starbucks Coffee Stirrer Sculpture

An e-mail I received from James Jacobs:

I was sitting at a Starbucks several years ago stirring my coffee and wondering where my life as a Constructivist sculptor was heading when it dawned on me that those 7 inch Starbucks coffee stirrers, if a guy had enough of them, would be an ideal material for my work.

Modeling Materials

The result, many years later, is an entirely new geometric structure system composed of twisted coffee stirrers, the Spiral Geometric System (SGS). The SGS has now been shown to actually model molecular structure (photo attached), and I'm in the process of writing a book on the SGS, "A Geometric Foundation for a Contemporary Philosophy of Nature". I guess you could say thanks to Starbucks we now have the first new geometric structure system since the discovery of those of the circle, square and triangle.

Spiral Geometric System (SGS)

Good luck on your new weblog.

Complete instructions here, as a 225K PDF file.

JetBlue Be Dunkin'

JetBlue to serve Dunkin' Donuts coffee,

JetBlue Airways Corp., parent of the low-cost airline, said Tuesday it will begin serving 10-ounce cups of Dunkin' Donuts coffee on all its flights by the end of the month.

JetBlue and Dunkin' Donuts aren't the first to create such a partnership. United Airlines parent UAL Corp. has had a similar deal for years with Starbucks Corp., a relationship that was recently extended for another three years.

"Cross-branding that is done at the airlines is done at a very low price or even for free," said Stefan Lumiere, a research analyst with investment firm Oscar Gruss & Son. Although details of such contracts are rarely released, Lumiere said airlines may even charge advertising placement fees. "You're basically creating brand awareness."

"Cross-branding," "brand awareness," corporate relationships, investment firm... Sounds sort of like JetBlue's passengers are the product here, and investment firms are the customer...

January 21, 2006

Starbucks Dems?

From Starbucks Gossip: Is Starbucks the "blue-state" Wal-Mart?

Dark Chocolate

I have neglected to mention dark chocolate. I didn't put it in the blog description, "coffee, coffee shops, wireless..." or the first post or any post since the first post.

This is a regrettable, unfortunate omission. I realize the pain that I have caused to my readers, their families and friends, to the general public and most regrettably, to my proud country The United State of America.

I can only offer my deepest, most heartfelt apologies and promise that In the future I will strive to do better. I ask for your forgiveness and understanding. I am working with a minister, a rabbi and a priest. The minister, the rabbi and the priest walked into a bar. The minister took the first sip, and said... Oh, wait, sorry. I can only say that with time and understanding I hope to overcome this episode and become a better man.

But what do YOU think about dark chocolate? What's the best? Scharffen Berger? Donnelly Chocolates? Do you buy it at Trader Joes?

January 19, 2006

Stumptown in Portland

Someone mentioned Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, saying,

In Portland, we have a relatively new brand that's storming the market, and all the cool baristas go for it: Stumptown. Since Torrefazione died, it's the best in town.
I worked in Portland for a while, near Powell's Books. I used to fly up from San Francisco or San Jose (depending on ticket price that week) on Tuesday mornings... In Porland there's a Thai restaurant named E-San that is the best Thai food I have ever had.

Note, when you mention a coffee shop in the comments, try to leave a URL if they have a website (as Jeff A. did), so people can look them up.

Update: - John left this comment in another post:

Jeff A: My brother's shop in Portland serves Stumptown coffee, and homemade pies too. Kids and Democratic and Green politicos are welcome:

Bipartisan Cafe
(503) 253-1051
7901 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97215

Bipartisan Cafe Reviewed

January 18, 2006

Starbucks or Peet's

Ah yes, the premier question of our time. Starbucks or Peet's? Let's start the discussion right at the start of the blog itself. Let no one say that the Smelling the Coffee blog avoids the tough national controversies! In the future we'll have Starbucks and Peet's proponents writing here, and lots and lots of stories about the great independent coffee shops and roasters around the country.

I'm sitting in a Starbucks writing this, drinking a half-caf (but watery) Americano. Not to fault Starbucks Americanos, though, because I order them for a reason -- that they're almost as good as a regular old Peet's coffee (to me), for when I just have to sit at a table and get work done. You see, Peet's doesn't have wireless Internet service for computers! Can you even imagine that? And Peet's doesn't even begin to understand coffee-shop atmosphere. So for work, it's Starbucks.

Now having stated my own preference for Peet's regular coffee I think that you just can't beat a Starbucks latte or cappuccino. I'm a Peet's drinker, but for a latte I go to Starbucks. And I am very particular. (I'm so particular that many days I pick up a Peet's coffee and drive to a Starbucks to sit outside in the car, snarfing on the wireless.)

Oddly, my wife was a hard-core Starbucks soy-latte drinker and has switched very recently to Peet's. Go figure.

So okay, this starts it. It's out there. Discuss.

Like Water For Coffee

I'm working on a Starbucks ot Peet's post, but I have to ask, do you sometimes get a coffee that seems almost like water? (No this isn't a build-up to a Starbucks vs Peet's comment.) I mean, you go in every day and get a good, solid, rich coffee, but once in a while it's like half-strength and watery.

Is it just me? Do I have "special" needs on some days that the regular brew just doesn't keep up with? Or is the coffee like water sometimes because they do something different?

Today I'm leaning toward "my special needs" because it's an Americano and I SAW him add a fourth shot after I mentioned it and it's still like water.

I know this will lead to a heated discussion.

January 17, 2006


Clearing something up right at the start. The "Espresso" dog over on the left is real. She is one of my two dogs. Buddy is the other.

Now What?

OK ... now that that's out of the way, what do you want me to write about? Leave a comment, or send me news and tips.

About Us

Jacob Grier is a barista in Washington, DC, and also blogs at Eternal Recurrence. His email address is

Dave Johnson is a researcher and writer in Redwood City, California. He also blogs at Seeing the Forest. His email address is

Smelling the Coffee

Welcome to the new weblog Smelling the Coffee. This weblog will be about coffee (duh!), coffee shops and chains, the coffee-shop experience, and using a coffee shop as an office. (Because I do.)

It will also be about music, and computers, and coffee cups, and recycling coffee cups and will solve the larger issues facing our complex society.

* Written from a Starbucks.


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