Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coffee Talk

I’ve already discussed cassoulet, for the “cassoulet” component of Cassoulet Café. But we really haven’t discussed the café part of it, have we? Be it the drink or the place. I mean, I’ve touched upon it, put in plugs for French and Italian coffee brands, talked about going to cafes, but I think I’ve really hidden how much coffee rules my life. Oh, it started out innocent enough. Trying to drink coffee at home, as an adolescent trying to feel like an adult, ending up with a disproportionate amount of creamer to coffee, to disguise the coffee-ness so it would be acceptable to a youth’s palate. Then ditching it for a Dr. Pepper.

Then Coffee-Mate came out with Hazelnut creamer. That is when my true coffee addiction began. It camouflaged the Folgers oh-so-well!

Then, as I started getting weary of all that non-dairy sweetness, we started to drink it black and a bit stronger. We moved on up to Yuban. But soon, we declared a ban on Yuban in our house. (Do you ban Yuban?) ;)

We were now in the midst of the Starbucks revolution and we adjusted accordingly. We thought that if we slurped down the burned tasting brew and liked it, we were true coffee connoisseurs. And certainly buying the beans and grinding them ourselves confirmed it! No more canned grounds for us, we said.

When we moved to France we suddenly felt like Coffee Pre-Schoolers . The coffee there was so strong that it shocked our palates and guts the first few mornings and we soon realized we only needed one cup to get going, as opposed to our normal three. After moving back to the States, we continued to make strong "puts-hair-on-your-chest" java, much to the dismay of our occasional guests. And when friends or family came to visit from France, we’d make requests for loads of Lavazza and Carte Noire to be brought to us.

Then my coffee maker sizzled out. Being the Google Queen that I am, I had to Google coffeemakers and read reviews on oodles of models. I came across a site about home roasting coffee beans. Roasting my own coffee? Why would I want to complicate my life more than it already is by adding another step to my coffee drinking regimen?

When FedEx came the next week to deliver my new coffee roaster, I was ecstatic but scared. Could someone like little ol’ me really take these green beans resembling lentils and actually come out with a product even close to Starbucks or Tully’s? I wasn’t so sure.

Fast-forward one year. We are officially coffee snobs. After taking that first sip of home roasted brew, Hubby and I looked at each other and could only say “WOW.” No after taste, no burnt flavor, and do we detect…chocolate notes? As home roasters often do, we now refer to that chain as Charbucks. Because, my friends, charred coffee water is not a sign of quality nor does consuming it make one the ultimate coffee connoisseur.

I’ve also switched from a drip maker to a French Press. (Do people in France really use these?! I don't know, but I think it ties in well with my blog...it's French and it's coffee.)
We serve up the best coffee in town and friends come from far and wide to enjoy a cup Chez Nous (at our house).

When Best Expat Friend was packing to come visit from France, she called to tell me she received my shopping list via email, but said I forgot to include my normal order for Carte Noire coffee. “Oh no,” I told her. “We don’t drink that stuff anymore. From now on, you’ll be taking my coffee back to France!”

And she did.

Reason #351 why I need to buy a ticket to France: she’s out of coffee.
ALERT! I was tagged by LaBeletteRouge and MyInnerFrenchGirl. So quickly, here are 10 Random Things About Moi:
  1. I could not stand the smell, taste or sight of coffee during pregnancy.
  2. I like Hawaii more than I like France. I wish I could live in Hawaii. :)
  3. I've held a real Acadamy Awards Oscar in my very own hands.
  4. McDonald's was my first real job in High School and it taught me to have a great work ethic that I appreciated ever since.
  5. I get migraines.
  6. My first concert was INXS, the Suicide Blonde Tour! :)
  7. I hate flying.
  8. I am pretty sure I came up with "$40 a Day" way before Rachael Ray did.
  9. The last concert I went to was Prince (Musicology)
  10. I had 20/600 vision before I had LASIK surgery


La Belette Rouge said...

Bonjour, CC,
So, when will you start selling Cassoulet Cafe? I am all for a coffee that doesn't require Coffee-mate(yuck-phew-blehk!!!).
Thanks for playing tag with us! Hawaii, huh? Any move to Aloha land in the planning?
À bientôt,

My Inner French Girl said...

Bonjour, CC!

Having only discovered coffee a couple of years ago, I haven't really had the pleasure of tasting any instant coffee drinks. I saw a doc on The Food Network a year or so ago on the history of coffee and was amazed to hear that 80% of the rest of the world (outside of the US) drinks instant. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since that appears to be the beverage of choice in Asia and Europe.

Hubby used to use a French press to drink his coffee, but now he can't be bothered. We haven't bought a coffee maker/espresso maker just yet, as we're content to visit our fave coffee house (different from the coffee house where I actually do my writing). In the 14 months since we moved here, we've visited the local Starbucks about five times, and only it was late. (None of the other coffee houses are open as late as the great chain is.)

I'm with you on the Hawai'i bit. Hubby had a job offer from a hospital in Honolulu last year, but the salary was just too low considering the cost of living. But we still have plans of maybe moving there someday.

Thanks for playing the game!


Cassoulet Cafe said...

I will start selling Cassoulet Cafe when I get to move to France or Hawaii and open up Cafe Cassoulet...lol!
No, really, I would never want to own a cafe. Too much work. But I seriously would love to work at Starbucks for just a week or so. Wouldn't that be fun?! I would experiment with all the coffees and syrups and CHOCOLATE! I'd drink myself into a frenzy and scare away the customers with my frantic, caffeine induce yammering, and then I would say something like, "You oughta try MY roasted beans!" And then I would be fired.
.....Hmmm...I need to finish my morning cup o'Joe...I'm getting delierious.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Marjorie-Yes I agree that the French Press can get old. Which is why I stopped using it all last week and got out the ol' drip pot. But, we're back to the press because it just tastes so much better.
I have to say, I still do go to Starbucks for a Mocha or when I'm needing a coffee fix and I'm out shopping. :) We also have a local coffee house that makes a GREAT Americano.
And about Hawaii, I totally hear ya on the salary vs. cost of living. Hubby had a job offer there too, once, and it was such low pay for what housing and food costs, we just couldn't do it. Within the last year I've had four friends and two family members move there and I'm so jealous!!! I could TOTALLY be a beach bum. ***sigh*** What island do you want to live on?

My Inner French Girl said...


I found it funny when I was in Dublin last year that the Cafe Americano was a weak concoction of watered down coffee. If you wanted a decent brew, you had to spring for an espresso. And this was at every coffee house! I wondered if perhaps Europeans prefer their coffee extra strong.

I'm with you on the coffee house idea! I would love to have one of my own, and hubby agrees, but at the same time, we're realistic enough to know that we would never have the discipline and energy required to maintain it. But it's one of our better entrepreneurial dreams.

I would love to live on the Big Island, where we honeymooned. It's much less developed than Oahu and seems more spiritual and laid back than the other islands. Also, I love the volcanic black sand, while my hubby loves volcanoes in general. Unfortunately, we haven't come across any job opps for him there. The job offer he got on Oahu would have given us a decent standard of living, but we would not have been able to buy a house. The Big Island, however, seems to offer more reasonable housing options.

What about you? Which island tickles your fancy?


Thea LaVigna said...

Thanks for the fun post about roasting your own....I want to try that someday, and you make it seem very possible!

Cris in Oregon said...

I'm not a coffee drinker but my hubby is. Sounds like a lot of work roasting and grinding your own coffee beans. It MUST be good. We did have a French press and he liked it... But it didnt seem to make it from California to Oregon.
Interesting post today.

Loulou said...

I just discovered you today and love your witty, charming writing.
Thanks for making me smile on a dreary, grey day with the euro at 1.469. *sigh*

Betty C. said...

I have never, ever seen this type of coffee maker in France.

I got tagged for the same...was it by you or by Inner...I think I'll be doing it this weekend, but I've already started thinking about it.

My first job was at Jack in the Box. I had so much fun I went back for all of my college summers! Everybody thought that was really strange...

Cassoulet Cafe said...

LBR-Do you want me to send you some coffee? :)

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Thanks for answering about the French Press. I guess it's lumped right in there with "French Toast" and "French Kiss" and all those other French things that aren't necessarily French.
No, I did not tag you. I'm new to this tagging thing, so after I posted, I didn't think to tag someone else.
Jack in the Box!!! I have wonderful childhood memories of Secret Sauce! We lived in San Diego (home of JB I think!) and we didn't get one here until a few years ago...and guess what? They do not put secret sauce on anything now! You can get a packet of it though. It's just not the same nowadays.

wcs said...

I'm with betty, I don't see very many of those French presses, except for in my house where I think we have three.

As for Charbucks, the first time I tasted what they call coffee was the last time. I drink coffee black (except for espresso, then I add one lump of sugar). That stuff they sell is bitter and burned tasting. I guess it has to be to stand up to all that stuff that people put in it, like sugar, soy milk, cocoa powder, vanilla, etc.

At that point, IMHO, one is no longer drinking coffee, but something more akin to a McDonald's milkshake. If you left the coffee out, I'm not sure many people would notice.

But let me tell you what I really think... ;) Rock on!

French for a While said...

Great site. On my resume I list my hobbies as: 'sports, politics, coffee'. I might have it in the wrong order. Thanks for stopping by our blog -- I'll going to add your site to my list.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Loulou and French for awhile, Thanks for coming by and for the nice compliments! :) You both have interesting blogs and I'm going to post them in my faves!

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Rock on?! THANKS!!! YOU rock! :)

The reason Charbucks chars their coffee, so I've heard and it makes sense, is because they buy inferior beans (CHEAP) and then burn out all the unappealing qualities and flavors that may have been there. That way they get a uniform taste in all their coffee houses around the world.
When we roast, we roast lighter (about a Full City roast) so we can enjoy the flavors of the bean that come from the region they are grown in.
Right now we are roasting a high altitude Bolivian (AAA grade) and it is the very best I've ever tasted! It's bold, chocolatey, and smooooooooth...no after taste whatsoever.

My Inner French Girl said...


The unfortunate thing is that Starbucks usually has the best coffee in town if you compare it to what you get at most other coffee places (Denny's, IHOP, indie coffee houses, etc.), especially if you're unlucky enough to live where the coffee house institution isn't established or the competition crumbled in the wake of Starbucks' entry into the market.

There was a long documentary on either the Food Network or the Discovery Channel about Starbucks (probably TFN) and where they source their coffee. Maybe it was just a PR stunt, but it appeared to be a very complex process involving an army of coffee connoisseurs doing various taste tests before they roll out the beverages. I don't know what happens between Seattle and the rest of the world, but they do have at least a semblance of quality control at HQ.

Their Fair Trade and organic coffees are excellent, but they're so rarely offered. I think official policy is that they'll brew a pot on demand, but implementation at the store level varies considerably.

Having said all of that, I almost never go to Starbucks and just haunt local coffee houses, most of which not only offer Fair Trade but have only organic milk to boot! Wahoo!