Blue Bottle Coffee – Cupping with Coffeedouches

6 Nov

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A visit to the mother ship of third wave douchey coffee, the Webster Street roastery of Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland for one of their twice-weekly cuppings.

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Being a coffeedouche, I have loved Blue Bottle Coffee from its days as a wee coffee cart at the SF Ferry Building farmer’s market. Not living in the Mission District, however, I still really love their coffee, unlike true coffeedouches who are over BB. I’m sure recent news of their sale will only further get these coffeedouches in an uproar.

Anyways, BB on Webster Street in downtown Oakland has free public cuppings on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 2pm. I’d never been to a cupping so I wanted to check out what true coffeedouches do to convince themselves that paying $5 for a cup of coffee is worth it. [ed. Note: although for the record, BB charges a very reasonable $2.50 for a cup. Cf. Cafe Demitasse or Cafe Dulce or Intelligentsia.]

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We started with ground coffee in these cups. There were probably 30 of us milling around, and we each took turns sniffing five different coffees.

The five coffees were actually only three different coffee beans, but two of them were presented with different washing processes. This is where the douchery really started to take off with detailed descriptions of the various methods used to process the beans on the farm.

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On this day, James Freeman, the owner and founder of BB was on hand along with two owners of coffee farms in Latin America from where our coffee today came. They elaborated about the various considerations and technical details of growing and processing the beans we were “enjoying.”

I say that because the cupping process is weird. After step one (smell the grounds), step two was to pour hot water in the ups and everybody took turns smelling the coffee sludge. Then we took spoons to “break” the sludge that had built up on top to smell that. And finally, we would each take a spoonful of coffee and forcefully slurp it. This would make a loud sound, explained to us as “aerating” the coffee to appreciate all the flavors.

It was as if someone were trying to mock winedouches by creating a process just to make fun of the practice of swirling and sniffing and swishing and spitting.
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But the self-seriousness of the whole process is what made it so surreal. Hipsters in goofy glasses and ironic tattoos would chime in with very technical questions about acid levels and differences in the processes. The conversation about what flavor notes people were picking up involved at least one instance of someone saying, “I was just about to say anise and honey!” it felt like sketch comedy except noone seemed to be laughing.

Anyways, I think it was still a fun experience. And even though it was a little boring and a little gross (sharing the cups with strangers), I still got to buy a cup of pour over coffee at the end and a fresh bag of 3 Africans coffee beans. Sweet.

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