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i'm just trying to wake up
and someone has to pay
by dathan wood
pop culture

I hate not knowing who I should be pissed at. Do I blame Starbucks or do I blame those assholes who just can't get it together until they've had their first non-fat-no-whip-half-caff-soy-vanilla latte of the day? I love my coffee. That's coffee as in "Large coffee, please." I don't understand the obsession with the whole caffeinated smoothie craze that has ruined the American coffee shop. It's my one vice. My other one used to be an occasional cocktail. Occasional pretty much meant three or four nights a week for about nine hours at a stretch. Work, marriage, and now fatherhood put the brakes on that vice. So now, I focus all my attention on my coffee.

I work in San Francisco where there is a boatload of wonderful coffee to be had. The problem is that none of it is in my neighborhood. Well, there's Peet's, but I'll get to Peet's in a minute. For the last four years I have been getting my coffee at Specialty's right around the corner. Don't worry if you've never heard of it, it was a small, independent chain. Specialty's has been selling me a very drinkable cup of coffee for 50 cents as long as I bring my own cup. Great price and good for the environment too!

Last Monday, Specialty's went corporate (I have no idea who bought them out yet but now they have to wear these stupid hats and aprons), and suddenly my 50-cent cup of coffee jumped to $1.75! There is now no discount for saving trees by bringing your own cup. I was told that the new prices were because of the new gourmet coffee they now serve. I bit the bullet and tried it since I was already there. Very mediocre.

In my neighborhood there are no independent coffee shops, so now I am forced to make a choice. Oh, you may think there are some independent shops, but I'm not about to buy a cup of coffee that I have to pump out of some nasty airpot that's been cooling on the counter for god knows how long. So it comes down to this, I can stick with Specialty's, go to Starbucks, or go to Peet's. Well, on principal I can no longer go to Specialty's. They sold me out with no warning and are now the most expensive cup of coffee in the neighborhood. Bad investment. I can't wait for the idiots who bought them out to feel the sting of alienating loyal customers. Yes, Johnny Corporate, that is my foot in your ass.

Also on principal, I can not go to Starbucks. I believe they started this whole expensive coffee fiasco. How could they charge 3 bucks for a latte with 50-cent coffee on the menu? They needed that room on the fence for people to say, "Well, a coffee is $1.55 anyway so why don't I just splurge and get the latte?" Oh my lord how I hate them for that. By the way, their coffee tastes burnt. Billions of beans roasted everyday and they can't pull them out in time. Emperor's new clothes syndrome is my guess as to how they stay in business. Where do I sign up for the poor-product-yet-the-sheep-just-can't-get-enough business model?

So Peet's ... Peet (not sure if there really is a Peet) makes an awesome cup of coffee, even the foam is dark brown when it's poured. If you aren't used to Peet's, your first cup will be like a punch in the mouth. Most people think it is too strong but I think most people are stupid so I'm not concerned with that. Peet charges me $1.65 for a large but will give me a dime off if I bring my own cup. It's a start, Peet, we'll have to talk later about bumping that discount up. So Peet charges the same as Starbucks for the environmentally conscious. I really can't fault Peet's quality but there used to be an extra-large coffee on the board. Where did that go, Peet? I'm a quantity type of guy.

When it's all said and done, I think Starbucks and the latte assholes should share equal blame. Why can't a person get a good cup of coffee for fair market value in this neighborhood anymore? Why can't people just drink a freaking cup of coffee without all that crap in it? It's coffee, not a dessert. Dessert is something you can have with your coffee but it shouldn't all come in one cup! I used to say that I was going to become a millionaire when I started my business, Fries and a Coke. We would only serve fries in one size and Coke in one size; both sold at a buck even, tax included. I rethought it though, since I don't drink soda and I would get kind of sick of frying up fries all day. I think I may turn it into Coffee and a Bagel. With a great cup of coffee going for a dollar, I'll crush Starbucks and help bring some dignity back to the morning.


Currently working with Pony Boy on staying gold.

more about dathan wood


i was almost the man once
by dathan wood
topic: pop culture
published: 2.27.04


sandra thompson
11.7.03 @ 8:18a

Hung on the cross of coffee!!! I admire your principles. Don't cave. You may find yourself buying a Mr. Coffee and some fresh ground beans one day and just doing it yourself, or is that heresy? I've found that nobody else's coffee is as good (or as strong) as my own, so now I've spoiled myself. How uncool is that?

erik myers
11.7.03 @ 9:17a

No, see.. there's a difference.

Dathan, you're singing my song. I love my coffee. And when I say I love my coffee I mean I love my coffee in a very sexual, and life-partnerish kind of way.

I currently make my own coffee at home. They've forced my hand. There is no good coffee on my way to work. I could stop at one of the chains around here(Caribou Coffee, Starbucks) or at one of the independent coffee shops, but I can't justify waking up an extra half hour early to do it, because then I'll just need more coffee, and spend an extra $2.50 a day to do it.

Making coffee at home? Yeah, sure, it's cheaper. Yeah, sure, I can control exactly what goes into it. But it's not the same (especially because I like espresso).

The coffee shop that I used to stop in every morning up in Massachusetts? They knew me, and it made me smile. They'd see me pulling into the driveway on my bike, and by the time I got to the counter, my coffee would be ready. It was fantastic, and it made me smile, and maybe I was just paying my $3.50/day for the, "Good morning! How's it going?" that came with my espresso, but damn it was worth it.

joe procopio
11.7.03 @ 9:33a

Occasional pretty much meant three or four nights a week for about nine hours at a stretch.

I have no idea who bought them out yet but now they have to wear these stupid hats and aprons.

Most people think it is too strong but I think most people are stupid so I’m not concerned with that.

I rethought it though since I don’t drink soda and I would get kind of sick of frying up fries all day.

All. Gold.

This reads like it has 9 cups of coffee behind it already. Beautiful.

I'm a 9 cup a day man myself. And I work next to the city police station. The coffee is okay but the donuts, and I'm not joking here, are extraordinary.

tracey kelley
11.7.03 @ 10:30a

Krispy Kreme!

Mmmmmmmmmm, chai.

I hate coffee. Never developed a taste for the stuff.

dathan wood
11.7.03 @ 11:10a

There's a woman in my office who actually makes her own coffee at her desk every morning. It's so tempting to do the same but I would miss the ritual of going out for coffee too much if I did. I have my whole thing where I come in, read my e-mail, return a phone call or two, check the headlines then say, "I'm going to get coffee." Making it at home or at work would destroy part of the magic.

russ carr
11.7.03 @ 11:49a

To say nothing of the several minutes you get to exempt from your workday under the auspices of the coffee run, the modern equivalent of the smoke break.

I like coffee, and could truly use a mug of steamy black brew right now -- no cream, no sugar, no foam, and chock full o' caffeine. Trouble is, I won't pony up the cost of Starbucks and I don't feel like driving to get it anyway...and the thin brown water that comes out of the corporate percolator isn't worthy of the name "coffee." Even though the best part of coffee is the smell of it, if it's all aroma and no flavor, it's not worth drinking. I'm with Erik: give me espresso, and make it a double.

erik myers
11.7.03 @ 12:03p

And you know, the thing is, I just can't make espresso at home.

I mean, you can, but it's not the same.

tracey kelley
11.7.03 @ 12:09p

See, I don't get that. While I have my chai preferences, (that Pacific powder stuff is naaaasty, and no where at local Denver cafe joints could I get anything good -the spice mix was all wrong) there are some really good espresso machines and coffee choices, aren't there?

erik myers
11.7.03 @ 12:13p

Well, at some point you have to make a call in terms of cost vs. ease, too:

Yes, you can buy an espresso machine for home - though the REAL espresso machines range in the hundreds to thousands of dollars, since the real good ones hook directly up to your water lines so that it can use steam as it pleases.

Then, yes, you can buy good espresso beans, which require a good espresso grinder. Both healthy investments.

Now, once you have all of the equipment, it might be more cost effective to make your own espresso at home in the long run, but overall isn't it just easier to walk down to the coffee shop and get some there?


matt morin
11.7.03 @ 12:14p

I'm with Tracey - I hate coffee. Can't stand the stuff no matter how it's prepared.

tracey kelley
11.7.03 @ 12:21p


Chai. Easy to make ('cause I can make really good stuff from scratch), good to drink.

Yeah, I don't know what part of my taste buds rotted out when it comes to coffee. Heavens, sometimes the mere smell of the stuff makes me ill.

Course, that didn't stop me from spending $10 on that coffee thingme where you get two free packets of coffee and a big 'ole 10-cup coffee maker. Gevalia? Geneva? Sumthin. Is that stuff even any good? Anybody want it?


dathan wood
11.7.03 @ 12:22p

Adding to Erik's comments... the cleanup factor is huge too. Part of the beauty of a restaurant is that after your meal, someone else does your dishes. Making coffee at home can be a messy business. I had some spillover issues last Sunday morning and dealing with that before you even have your first cup can make a grown man cry.

Matt and Tracey, I'll bet I could convert you with one cup. I have perfected the art of milking up coffee for beginners.

tracey kelley
11.7.03 @ 12:24p

Many have tried, dear. It ain't happenin'. I just now converted to drinking juiced beets after hating beets for my entire life, and even then I still hold my nose.

russ carr
11.7.03 @ 12:36p

Juiced beets sound nearly as disgusting as beverages based around wheatgrass. Come on, people, there's already a whole-grain beverage out there. It's called beer.

And here in St. Louis, you can even get beer brewed with coffee in it (Kaldi's Coffee Stout). Could there be a more perfect drink?

erik myers
11.7.03 @ 12:58p

I have nothing to add to that.

matt morin
11.7.03 @ 1:13p

Hey! You got your coffee in my beer.

No, you got your beer in my coffee!

dathan wood
11.7.03 @ 1:19p

Also known as the Hippie Speedball! One of my first jobs out of college was in one of those kick ass (now virtually non-existent) "hip" companies where starting around 4 p.m. on Friday's we'd play pool and alternate drinking beer and coffee before going out. Out of all the booms I think I miss the dot-com boom the most.

robert melos
11.8.03 @ 2:08a

I avoid as much caffein as possible. The only coffee I've had in the past 15 years is Dunkin' Donuts Decaf Iced Coffee, large with extra extra extra sugar and extra extra extra cream. It's basically a milk shake with a hint of coffee taste, and even that ends up burning in my stomach for far too long to justify drinking the stuff on a daily basis.

On the other hand, I worked with a guy who used to go through a pot and a half of our office's ten cup pot. He was the only coffee drinker in the office. Come to think of it, he bought the 10 cup pot into the office.

Now decaf chai I like.

juli mccarthy
11.8.03 @ 9:08a

Am I a coffee lover? Click on the email link by my name somewhere on this site to see my email address, and you'll see why this column just SINGS to me!

I am a coffee purist - I want no cream or sugar sullying my brew, no vanilla or hazelnut reek, and for gawd's sake, no FOAM. Keep your fancy coffees, too - and you hit the nail on the head there with Starbuck's, Dathan, that shit is burnt no matter what they say - and gimme a good old fashioned cuppa joe (not to be confused with Joe.) Espresso is wonderful, especially with cheesecake, but it's not that same thing as morning coffee. Dunkin' Donuts still has the best brew going when it comes to drive-thru coffee, and at home I drink Stewart's or Gevalia. Tracey, I will happily take that off your hands - I'll trade you for a big batch o' homemade cookies and/or a cute, homely little Brown Betty teapot.

lee anne ramsey
11.10.03 @ 1:20p

Dathan, you should check out the Coffee Bean (Fillmore and Sacramento - you didn't say which neighborhood you're in).

I've always said that one of the most important qualities to look for in an apartment is the ability to walk to a coffee shop in the morning. One of my favorite simple pleasures is NOT having to make coffee at my house. I love walking out someplace and having them make it for me.

dathan wood
11.11.03 @ 11:12a

I'm south of Market, at 2nd & Mission. Filmore & Sac would be a bit of a hike. The problem with my office is that it's all commercial over there so on the weekends it's a ghost town. I would guess independent places have to count on being able to do business 7 days a week.

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