Monday, January 31, 2011

COFFEE, TEA, OR . . . GEE WHIZ! How do I decide?



by Kate Collins

My daughter came to visit me recently. She’s a huge fan of Starbucks, so one of our daily outings was to the local branch to get her a grande red eye in a venti cup with a cold soy topper or a dopio soy espresso machiatto. I think that’s what she asked for, but don’t quote me on it.

Going with her was quite a learning experience. On our first trip she ordered her uber-sophisticated coffee then turned to me and said, “What do you want, Mom?”

So there I stood like I’d just come out of a twenty-year coma, staring at all the choices on the board on the wall.

“Mom?” my daughter urged. “Hello?”

I could feel the eyes of everyone in line behind us burning holes in the back of my head.

“Coffee!” I blurted, feeling instantly relieved.

“Just plain coffee?” my Chicago-wise child asked, casting apologetic glances at the customers in line.

Hey, it’s not like I don’t know a good cup of coffee when I taste one. I’ve been to Paris, Rome, Athens . . . I know what genuine gourmet espresso is and I have yet to find it in the States, unfortunately. So at home I make my own blend – and it doesn’t cost me $3.50 for one cup.

When I’m away from home and am forced to make such a weighty decision, I usually revert to the easiest choice – green tea. But now my daughter informs me that Chicago has a tea shop devoted to every known variety of loose leaf teas. The owners consider tea an art form.

My daughter wants to take me there. I’m afraid already.

What’s your favorite – coffee, tea, or one of those ultra complicated specialty drinks? How about your favorite coffee shop? My daughter is always on the hunt for a new place to sample.

32 comments:

Sheila Connolly said...

Starbucks isn't bad, but I've been hooked on Peet's since 1979, when I lived in the Bay Area. I used to visit their flagship store in Berkeley, where the espresso would take the enamel off your teeth (in a good way, of course).

I still order it by mail, in case I don't get to the few stores they've kindly added in Massachusetts.

Linda C in Valpo said...

Plain coffee. Strong, black. Usually made at home, I switch around what beans I buy. One that I like is Mocca-Java from coffeeam.com. Target's house blend is good.
I read some of the tea shop mysteries by Laura Childs - the tea descriptions in those are interesting and educational, but I am not as big on tea.

Min said...

I used to be a caffeine junkie. In undergrad, I was known for downing a six-pack of Mt. Dew a day! But I had to go cold turkey on the caffeine when I started getting cysts in my breasts from all the caffeine.

So now I'm an herbal tea person. I recently discovered acai berry tea from Stash, and it's my current favourite. I prefer naturally caffeine free teas to those that have been decaffeinated (once had caffeine and have had the caffeine taken out).

Rural View said...

I drink my coffee black, no flavors or anything else, thank you very much. Those fancy coffees at Starbucks are loaded with calories. Dunkin Donuts is my favorite - Starbucks is too bitter. Having said that, I find myself drinking tea more than coffee lately. I like herbal teas as well.

Laura K. Curtis said...

Sheila - check your local supermarket. It's an oddity, I know, but Peets is now shipping to A&P and Shaws, I know, and quite possibly other chains as well. That's where my husband finds it now. He used to have to mail-order it, too.

Me, I can't drink coffee--it makes me sick. I drink plain old iced tea. Starbucks actually has very good iced tea, but when I make it at home I like to make it with Constant Comment tea bags. (I make decaf as well, also with Constant Comment.)

Linda Leszczuk said...

I've always been a tea drinker (regular old black tea, please), never could develop a taste for coffee - which can be very inconvenient sometimes. But I credit Starbucks for getting me over that threshold. With so many choices that barely tasted like coffee I got adventurous and little by little got over my dislike. I still prefer tea but in a pinch now I can go with the java.

Maggie Sefton said...

I grew up a tea drinker & had it as a young child, English style---strong black tea, but with milk & sugar. Never liked the taste of coffee. Smelled good but didn't taste right. I tried tea w/no milk as a teenager & loved it. My father accused me of turning Russian. :) I didn't find coffee I liked until college when i met my husband's family & tried Cuban coffee---aka Expresso. I loved it. Finally, coffee tasted as good as it smelled--strong, strong, strong! but you can't drink too much or you'll never sleep. We always had it as after dinner drink when my husband & I would talk "business." :) Starbucks & all those coffee shops have NEVER come close to the great coffee I can make with a simple Italian caffetera (coffeemaker), and believe me, I've even had a Krups. Weak, puny, expresso. All the coffee shops, too. But I have learned to drink coffeeshop reg coffee w/cream. Way too fattening, so I can't do it often. Creamer is better. No sugar. Too many calories. I only do those "specialty" coffees during the holidays because they are WAY TOO MANY CALORIES!! Yikes! Check it out, guys! Tooooo fattening.

But I still prefer my tea which I drink without sugar or cream. All day. Black. I can really taste the flavor of the teas. Prefer English but also love the Stash brand of Chai Spice Black tea.

lynneandco said...

I'm one of the few that never liked coffee. Never. Even when I had my first job out of college and was delegated to a cubicle next to a huge window, which turned out to be the coldest spot in the building all winter long --- hence why the newbie got it. I TRIED to like coffee. I really did. I would pour myself a cup just to hold it to keep my hands warm! I finally decided to bring my own little hot chocolate packets.
But these days my favorite hot drink is chai tea. Yummm. So delicious!

RosieJo said...

There is no coffee quite as good as my own. Nothing fancy, just black! By the time you figure all the calories,fat and $'s in the fancy stuff, the taste has been spoiled.

Debra said...

On the road, I am a DD woman. Once I was on the way to VA from NY and at Starbucks asked for an espresso made as a coffee, ie in a regular sized cup with lots of milk. They handed me a thimble holding espresso and said something in Italian. I handed it back and received a refund. In NY you can order a "regular" which is coffee with milk and no sugar from the guy at the cart with grubby hands. It used to cost $.85.
At home I make coffee in a one-cupper and use Senseo pods which are great because they require no measuring.

signlady217 said...

My two favorites shops aren't even real places! :( That would be Laura Child's Indigo Teashop and Cleo Coyle's Village Blend Coffehouse. So wish they were real!

My sister-in-law in Wichita, KS, likes the Spice Merchant; teas, spices, all kinds of neat stuff!

I detest McDonald's coffee, way too bitter, yuck!

Aurian said...

I love tea, the variety in a bog. Coffeshops like starbucks are not to find on every corner. We got one at Central Station last year, and it is always that crowded (and expensive) that I think, I'll just wait till I get home. But in the books I read people drink all kinds of exotic things, and I really want to try them out someday.

As a tea lover, I really adore the Laura Childs books. And of course, for the fun and the mystery and the lovely characters.

Kristine said...

Starbucks Tall Soy Chai Tea Latte-- at least 3x per week. It's a horrible, horrible addiction ;)

Katreader said...

I don't like the taste of coffee. I do like tea. I mainly drink it iced-made in my iced tea machine. I like all kinds of tea and NEVER put anything in it. No cream or sugar for me! Maybe lemon. I like Design a Tea where you can make your own flavor combinations and order online too.

Stephanie said...

I love a Chai Latte from Starbucks.

Rochelle Staab said...

My Mom was a hard core coffee drinker. From morning to late night, she always had a pot percolating on the stove. My childhood tea parties were straight caffeine, Maxwell House style. I switched to decaf 20 years ago and I am now a California coffee house order cliché: café mocha-sugarfree-decaf-soy-no whip. I prefer the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, am happy with Starbucks, suspicious of the rest.

Tea? No thank you.

Anonymous said...

If I am at a place that sells fancy I usually get a Cafe Mocha. Otherwise regular with cream and sugar or if in the evening a decaf.

Love my new Keurig but have not tried too many flavors.

In the summer I make iced tea to drink all day, with just a hint of sugar. Not a big hot tea drinker.

Nancy Barnes said...

Starbucks is my favourite coffee haunt and I usually have a venti Americano (no calories!) If I feel like splurging on the weekends I'll have a venti non-fat latte. Not too fancy, but I know what I like!

Lindy said...

I had my first latte in New Orleans and found it the only way to drink coffee, so on the rare times I go to Starbucks I get a skinny latte (skim milk) and put in some raw sugar. Only way to drink coffee! I drank tea with milk and sugar until I read that all the benefits of drinking tea are wiped out by the milk, so I have learned to drink it without milk

Kate Collins said...

Sheila, I've never heard of Peets but will have to check it out.
Linda, I am so going to try mocha-java from that website. I love to grind my own blends. My husband always did his own secret blend. It was a standing joke between us that he wouldn't give me his recipe. I sure wish he had, but it's fun coming up with my own.
Chai tea -- I'm a HUGE FAN. And Constant Comment, oh, man, during a long afternoon of writing, when I've had enough green and black tea and my morning coffee, nothing better than a cup of that or of Chamomile. I like Stash brand but another fav is Revolution. They have the best English Breakfast tea ever.
I love coffee and tea -- but only the best. When I was pregnant with my two children, I could not even walk into a room if there was a cup of coffee in it. That's when I learned to love tea.
Of course I had to put a coffee-and-tea parlor in Bloomers Flower shop. Doesn't that make the ideal pairing? Fresh flowers, hot coffee or tea and a scone.... ahhh.

ev said...

DD if I am on the road, but I prefer it iced all year round. I tend to not drink alot of it away from home as i like it with milk or half and half and have to have lactaid or else. (Or a lot of pills with me).

I have all kinds of beans to grind depending on our mood.

I also like tea- hot and cold- year round.

But my fave caffeine is Diet Pepsi.

As for McDonalds- now that they went to Newman's Coffee, I can handle it. Used to be I would drink it on long, boring drives on the Thruway just to keep awake.

If I have to do Starsucks, I get something besides coffee. Just don't like theirs.

Annette said...

Don't mess with my morning. It's Community Coffee with cream and sugar. My afternoon coffee, usually flavored beans. My favorite use to be Texas Orange Blossom from Barney's. They are gone from our area and I haven't been able to find it. My husband buys some delicious Hawaiian Blend beans. I drink different flavored teas on occasion and Southern sweet ice tea all day on hot summer days.

Janet said...

For coffee flavors, i like both Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's blends. I now prefer tea to coffee recently, I drink rooibos peach tea and it is awesome. Found it online, and am quite pleased with this herb tea.

Suzanne said...

I've never had coffee and though I am sometimes tempted, don't plan to start. I do have a plain, one sugar decaf tea at work during the winter. I also like iced tea.

Have only been in Starbucks about 2 or 3 times, mostly to use the restroom. My father must just order a black coffess, he's over 80 and I don't think he will mess with the ordering names. I usually just grab a bottle of water because I can't figure out how to order anything.

Mandy said...

While I am not a coffee fan, my friend are all addicts. As a result, I end up quite often at Starbucks. The Vanilla Bean Frappachino is delicious!! I'm experimenting with teas right now. So far, not so good, but I've got a few more boxes to go through before I give up.

Kate Collins said...

Vanilla bean frappachino sounds heavenly! I'll have to try that next. Am I, too, am a huge fan of hot chai tea. I got hooked on that until I found out how many calories Starbucks and Nordstroms' chai had and then I cut it out. It doesn't taste good unless it's loaded with cream or soy and that's what adds the calories. (sob)
I haven't tried pod coffees. Seems like I'd drink way too much if I had a Keurig.

Great comments, ladies.

Michele L. said...

I am a fan of tea. I have never enjoyed coffee. My husband loves coffee though. My favorite place to go for my tea is in Chesterton,Indiana, where I live. It is a shop called Molly B's. They sell tea loose and it is wonderful! They also sell candy in bulk, spices, snacks, flours and even coffee beans! It is a fun place to go!

tea lover said...

I am definitely a tea person, never liked coffee, liked it even less when I worked at Starbucks (coffee permeates EVERYTHING). At the end of my shift I would reek of coffee. UGH. And it was a nightmare when customers would order long and complicated drinks, like lukewarm café mocha-sugar- free-decaf-double soy-no whip. I became an advocate of black coffee, the simpler the order, the better.
I drink lots of hot tea during the cold months/seasons, and cold/iced teas during the hot months/seasons. Bliss.

Linda McDonald said...

I don't drink cofee or tea. But, I do like the hot chocolate at Starbucks!

Vickie said...

I am a Star$$ junkee, but for my venti, nonfat, no water chai with one pump sugarfree hazelnut. I make my tea in the morning before I head out from one of the collection of boxes in the pantry. Irish Breakfast, Oolong, Darjeeling, whatever strikes my fancy. I work down the road a bit from the Celestial Seasonings plant, so I have access to all kinds of yumminess when I visit the gift shop.

KH said...

I became a serious coffee drinker in Costa Rica, and a serious tea drinker in Britain. I like Costa Rican coffee made in a French press with a good addition of hot milk. And for tea -- good strong British tea; my favorite is from Fortnum and Mason.

Shushan said...

I'm not a huge fan of coffee, so if stuck for one at Starbucks I want the one with the most chocolate in it. :D So far the clerks seem to know how to interpret that request. ;)