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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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March 28, 2008 6:31 AM

Coffee Talk

Posted by Nancy Leson

Trouble sleeping last night, so I finally gave it up at 5 a.m. -- an hour earlier than I like to get up. I went downstairs to do what had to be done: I made coffee. My morning coffee ritual is pretty sacred, and it's just that -- a morning thing. You won't find me in a coffee shop or a drive-through buying $3 lattes, and I rarely drink coffee of any sort later in the day. But each morning, I make coffee at home, or my husband sets it up for me if he's awake first. He's a tea drinker whose idea of a perfect cup starts with a trip to the Teacup on Queen Anne, involves a Chinese cast-iron teapot, and ends in a chair with the paper in hand and a very satisfied look on his face. He calls it "the only civilized hour in the day." He's right.

Over the years I've had umpteen different ways of making coffee: Melita filter directly into the cup; that awful cold-water extraction method, the messy Bodum press-pot and finally (and most easily) variations on the electric coffee-maker theme (Krups, Braun, and now a Cuisinart version). I've gone through plenty of coffee bean variations, too, including Zoka's Baltoro blend and my most recent obsession, Caffe Vita's Queen City blend. Each of those blends has that mellow smoothness and full-bodied flavor I like in a coffee (Man, I'm glad I don't have to write coffee copy for a living.)

I store my coffee in a Chock full o' Nuts can, just so I can spend the rest of the day singing: "Chock full 'o Nuts is that heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee. Chock full o' Nuts is that heaaaavenly coffee. Better coffee no millionaire's money can buy." But the most ritualistic thing about my coffee-drinking is the mug.

It's a heavy, diner-style, classic number that a former roommate snagged for me about 25 years ago from Simon & Seafort's, in Anchorage, AK, where she waited tables and was forced to wear an ugly green milkmaid's outfit, so help her God. I've never found a mug that felt so good in my hand (or seen a uniform as ugly). And it's hard to believe that mug's still in good use a quarter-century later.

So, inquiring minds want to know: What kind of coffee are you drinking? And what do you drink it in?

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Posted by Dontcallmelateforsupper

8:58 AM, Mar 28, 2008

Peet's -- the one and only! Any blend will do.

And I usually drink it in my bathrobe. ;-)

Posted by Clean Simple Clutterfree

9:22 AM, Mar 28, 2008

I love my Costco! In-store roasted, I usually buy the French-roasted Costa Rican. Can't beat the price, $7.99 for 2.5 lbs. It's rich and tasty, and so fresh. If you happen to be in the warehouse when they're roasting, it's just delightful. I've tried the Sumatran and Ethiopian too, but the French roast is my old standard.

I use a little 4-cup Krups machine I bought in college, back in 1987 or so. Still works great. I too have toyed with other methods, but always come back to my little drip maker. I like it black:-)

Posted by JG

9:53 AM, Mar 28, 2008

I'm the only coffee drinker in my house so I only make 1 cup at a time. I'm completely addicted to Lighthouse coffee. I make it in a stovetop Bialetti pot that I bought from Italy via a website with funny english. It has this little pressure-thingy in it that produces a bit of crema. And I then add warm milk and drink it in a nice, thick green mug.
But, if I wasn't drinking coffee at home (which I almost always do, I would go to Seven off of Greenwood - it's smooth and amazing!)

Posted by Ursula

10:04 AM, Mar 28, 2008

I'm delighted about your new blog, I've been reading your columns for years! Good work.
I bought myself a Nespresso machine, the simplest of all the models. I'm really, really pleased. It's easy, clean, and there's no leftover coffee that's either getting cold or too long on the hot plate. Every time a fresh, hot cup. There are so many different coffee capsules to choose from, with special editions a few times a year.
Also, the capsules can be brought back to the Nespresso stores for recycling. And every time I buy a new supply, I'm offered a free espresso in the classy little sitting area.

Posted by CindyW

10:10 AM, Mar 28, 2008

I've never been a coffee drinker. Like your husband, I spend each morning brewing up a great cup of tea (but in ceramic or clay yixing pots). For me, it's yunnan gold in the morning, then oolongs/greens/puerhs later in the day. :)

The Teacup is a really nice place to get great quality tea leaves. Between them and Floating Leaves (in Ballard), I stay very happy.

Posted by ivan

10:26 AM, Mar 28, 2008

my wife and i call it coffee time or porch time when weather permits. it is one of those things we always promised ourselves we would partake in. like your husband says "the only civilized hour in the day." an absolute necessity. thanks for bringing it up.

Posted by This is Ed

11:24 AM, Mar 28, 2008

It's not about the coffee, it's the Bailey's & Frangelico... easy on the coffee

Posted by Jane

11:49 AM, Mar 28, 2008

On weekdays, I have my one cup in the morning of whatever I'm currently sampling, dripped through the Melitta cone into a small, businesslike cup. On the weekends, we do a pot of drip and the cups change with our moods. If I need a vacation from winter, I use the cup from L'Esplanade in St. Martin. In summer, Minaki Lodge in Ontario, or the heavy mug from Caribou Coffee in Minneapolis for just a quick getaway. But the coffee has to be Murchie's Best, still ordered by mail from Richmond, B.C. (am I allowed to do that and still live in Seattle?), and now pretty darn pricey. After almost four years in Seattle and much sampling, I'm still looking for a similar mellow smoothness.

Posted by blondedevil

12:13 PM, Mar 28, 2008

Anything from Pegasus roasters on Bainbridge Island. Changes with mood and weather - from mild peaberry to deep and dark French roast as does my choice of favorite mugs.

Posted by ferry commuter

12:17 PM, Mar 28, 2008

i use the cuisinart model that you have pictured to brew my trader joe's french roast coffee! mmmmm. i commute by ferry though, so i take my coffee to-go in a nissan mug with an extra thermos. i drink it while watching the sunrise on my way over to bainbridge island.

Posted by my bliss

12:21 PM, Mar 28, 2008

For Joe

I dream of black
that blisters like the
equatorial sun.

Steamy pleasures
French and bold,
Transverse my mind,
Inhale, hold.

It’s dark, I’m not frightened,
Uninspiring whitened.

Pull me from my reverie,
render me awake,
morning is at stake.

Liquid voodoo
I surrender to you,
Imperious cup of caffeinery.

Posted by B.D.

5:31 AM, Mar 29, 2008

I've recently drifted away from coffee. It was wreaking havoc on my digestive system. Still, I enjoy a warm cup once in a while and when I do, either Kahlani Indonesian-Sumatran blend (the finest coffee I've ever had) or the local (Monroe) Vinaccio coffees are perfect. Both are organic coffees. What I seek in coffee is a strong flavor that's low on acids. Both of these, made in my French press, really start my day well.

Lately, though, it's been tea for me. Oddly enough I find myself enjoying a cheap Indian tea during the week and a nice darjeeling on the weekends. My wife enjoys lichee tea 7 days a week. And sometimes I sneak over to Koots in Lincoln Square for an afternoon Matcha Latte. Very peaceful.

Posted by mione

6:10 AM, Mar 29, 2008

It's practically a sin for me to admit it... ! But at home... even when I have a perfectly fine little espresso machine sitting right there on the counter... I will admit to drinking Tim Horton's French Vanilla Cappichino... instant and barely qualifying as coffee... when I am home.

It's served in a very nice cream mug... heavy mug... one of those ones from Starbucks. Black outline drawing on the sides and a lime green interior. It was a gift. I was disappointed in it at first because I was in the middle of a personal ban on Starbucks at the time and it seemed as though the gift giver didn't care about my feelings on the subject and insisted on spending their money there ... on me... anyway.

I have to admit as well that I still have a huge preference for my little coffee stands... There are three between my home and work... I frequent them on an equal basis... There's something comforting in knowing that as my car pulls up, my usual barista is already starting to make my latte...Just the way I like it.

Posted by Monique

8:09 AM, Mar 29, 2008

I have used all kinds of apparatus to make coffee, but for years now I have made it the way an old cousin of mine who lived in Switzerland made it and it is wonderful:

I boil water in a very small saucepan. Turn off the heat and put the coffee grounds (ground for French Press) in it, let it sit a few seconds and pour it in my cup though a sieve. It is excellent. When I think of all the money I spent on machines. This is actually the same principle as French Press.

Right now I drink the Starbuck expresso.

Posted by emma

12:55 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Coffee in the morning is a ritual that I need, desperately. But the caffeine, not so much. It's the aroma, the taste, opening the aper. Part of the ritual is giving one of my cats three (decaf) coffee beans. She's crazy.

I've been through so many decaf beans from so many places, and I'm a bit embarrassed to say my current favorite is from Starbucks - Caffe Verona. It's difficult to get good decaf beans. although Peets is a close second.

The mug is important. It has to be somewhat heavy, easy to hold,and large enough to wrap both hands around in the winter.

Posted by LSW

5:02 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Most any good strong coffee will do, but for my husband and me, it's all about the mugs. We collect coffee mugs when we travel. No other souvenirs, no t-shirts, just coffee mugs. The "rules" require that the mugs be a certain standard-size, not have any fake gold lettering or rims, and contain the name of our travel destination. Consequently, each morning is like a mini-vacation, reminiscing about great trips..and, oh yeah, enjoying the coffee.

Posted by mls

5:55 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Haven't made coffe in 16 months since I bought a serious espresso machine. It's on a timer. I'm up at six; Anita's (the machine - get's up at 5:30 so she's hot & ready. She's not automatic, but she needs time to get properly warmed up.

I used to enjoy trying different espresso beans, lighthouse is nice, Seven is better, but once I had Vivace's Vita - I stopped searching and began a happy LRT.


Posted by CoffeeJim

7:02 PM, Mar 29, 2008

Currently drinking some of my stash of Casi Cielo from Starbucks I still believe the best coffee I've ever had in my world travels are the blends from Torrefazione, mmmm

Posted by Sarah Yu

12:16 PM, Mar 30, 2008

Straight up dark!

After my boyfriend came back from a coffee plant in costa rica, he learned the true way to appreciate coffee is to drink it black - and I've done that ever since.

it's amost this subculture thing of coffee drinking. only the true coffee drinkers, the real afficionados of the flavourful brew drink it "untainted". :)

in fact, i feel a bit "hardcore" when the secretary asks me what I'd like to have in my coffee as she takes down everyone's orders in the boardroom and i nonchalantly respond with "nothing".

An eerie silence fills the room, all side chit chattering stops and even the blackberries are gently placed on the table to take in the moment.

I love my coffee straight up dark!

Posted by Mary and Scott

7:47 AM, Mar 31, 2008

We drink Hammerhead Coffee, as we own and operate it up here in 'Ham Land (Bellingham.) We like fresh beans and got into the business because we love coffee and where else can you find a fair trade/organic coffee business these days with a sense of humor...well, we are it. And we deliver (via Vespa or Priority Mail) and give back. You can find our coffee on line at or if visiting downtown, stop by Nimbus, the city's best restaurant and have a cup with one of their heavenly desserts. If you are going to buy coffee/beans, buy from your local roaster!

Posted by jbin kirkland

1:22 AM, Apr 01, 2008

First time ever at a blog response but feel compelled...............

Caffe Luca only! Italian style, loval company...Except for Lavazza (sometimes) brewed in a stove top Bialetti and poured over hot milk.

Yum.........two in the AM and thats it for the day.

Posted by ldrider51

7:00 AM, Apr 09, 2008

I buy green beans and roast'em myself. Usually use a drip maker, sometimes a single mug Melitta cone.

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