On a business trip recently, I went with my colleagues to a fantastic little coffee shop in Silicon Valley called Chromatic Coffee. My colleagues were very excited about the way they grind, brew, and pour the coffee. It turns out there is a lot more to coffee than I ever knew. For instance, there is a process called a “hand-pour” or “pour-over” in which you weigh coffee out and “pre-infuse” it to let it release carbon dioxide and allow different flavors or scents to develop. Then you slowly pour the water over the coffee in a filter suspended over your cup, taking three to four minutes to complete the pour. The result seems to be a beverage that is more similar to tea or wine than the cup of coffee you grab at the convenience store.
Some of the descriptions of the coffees reminded me of an oolong tasting class I went to. One was described as having floral and balsamic notes; another with the words “nectarine, juicy, cherry cola.” One was even characterized as having notes of black tea. Having never thought much about the depth of flavor and different notes within coffee, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that there is a true coffee connoisseur culture that is interested in the “nose” of the coffee and the undernotes as well as the initial flavor and the caffeine buzz.
So when I went to this shop, I was a little apprehensive about ordering a tea. Would they give as much care and thought to preparing a cup of tea as they did to a cup of coffee? Or would the experience be ruined by a teabag plunked in a cup of lukewarm water?
When I asked what kind of black teas they had, I was thrilled to find that my choices were a Keemun and “Bailin Gongfu” black tea. I opted for the Bailin Gongfu, as I sometimes find Keemuns too astringent. I sat down at a table to wait for my tea, and noticed that they prepared it with loose tea leaves, steeping the tea for a precise time in what I assume was water of the correct temperature. I was then presented with a cup of lovely, dark golden tea, with a sweet, almost bready aroma.
The tea didn’t disappoint. After a few days in meetings drinking Lipton out of a paper cup, I was rewarded with a light, yet rich, tea with a good depth of flavor. As I sipped the tea during our meetings, I was able to have a moment of peace and calm, just enjoying a wonderful beverage.
So for this trip at least, tea and coffee culture were able to co-exist quite happily. I am very pleased to find a place that my coffee-loving colleagues adore that treats their tea-drinking customers so well. There’s hope in this world for peace just knowing that!