Peet was the founder of Peet’s Coffee, my preferred brand of java. As a master roaster in the San Francisco Bay area, he also influenced the founders of Starbuck’s and changed the way America drinks coffee.
From the SF Chronicle:
He immigrated to San Francisco in 1955 and took a job with coffee
importer E.A. Johnson & Co. He favored high-altitude coffee from Costa Rica, Guatemala and East Africa that his father used to buy, and although there was no market for it in the area, he decided to create one.
“He went to a great deal of trouble to find only the best beans,” said David. “He knew his business like nobody I ever met.”
Importantly, David added, Peet introduced customers to coffee they didn’t know existed.
“We would drink it and it put us in a new realm. It had complexity and richness – that’s the best way to describe it,” said David.
Along the way, Peet influenced younger roasters like James Freeman, owner of Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland. “He really opened the door for the specialty-coffee industry,” said Freeman, who said Peet made a radical departure from the roasting style of the day, with smaller batches, darker roasts and higher-quality coffee.
“He really showed that people in America are willing to spend a little bit more money to get a little bit better when it comes to coffee,” said Freeman.
I had known that there was a relationship between the early days of Starbuck’s and Peet’s, but this is the first time I’ve read the full story and the story of Alfred Peet.
I feel bad that the coffee I’m drinking right now was made with Starbuck’s beans. Of course lately I’ve been enjoying the Peet’s from Giant Eagle, but I ran out and was at Target, so…. I’ll pick up some more Peet’s today.
Oh! My parents have recently started drinking Peet’s now — again, because it’s at Giant Eagle. My dad apparently prefers it to Starbucks. He has always had a preference for strong coffee. Another convert.
(Photo copied from the NYT obit, property of Peet’s Coffee & Tea)
If my recent raptures about Peet’s Coffee have tempted you to try the stuff, but you’ve been wary of the high cost, please take note. Until tomorrow (July 25), Giant Eagle is offering $3 off Peet’s. Note that you must have a Giant Eagle Advantage card to get the discount.
And! They have Major Dickason’s Blend in whole beans now, as well as the House Blend. Woo!
Look what I discovered at the local Giant Eagle this weekend:
Two unfortunate things: Most of the Peet’s varieties on offer here are pre-ground; only the House Blend comes as whole beans. And the price is higher than any of the other coffees in the store.
But even at this higher price they’re less expensive than mail order. I’m trying to drink less coffee these days, but a cup of java in the afternoon has suddenly become tempting again.
I’m drinking 100% Colombian from 8 O’Clock Coffee again today. (See previous posts for background.) Have had about 2.5 cups, which amounts to about 20 oz as I use 8 oz Irish coffee mugs for my daily brew. No headache so far.
The coffee tastes much the same as yesterday: It’s nothing to write home about (although apparently it’s noteworthy enough for me to describe to my faithful blog readers in excruciating detail). I think I will relegate the rest of the bag to emergency backup status, meaning it will languish in my freezer until the next time I run out of coffee unexpectedly and need to bring in the reserves.
The question is: What do I buy next? The 8 O’Clock Original Roast, which Jeff described in the comments yesterday as nothing special but which still costs less than $5 per pound? Or some Starbucks roast that I’ll enjoy but hate myself for enjoying? I can’t get any Peet’s beans by tomorrow, so choices must be made.
Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling answer!
An update on the previous post: After three cups of coffee and despite having had lunch, my ears are ringing and I’ve got a squeezing headache.
Does 8 O’Clock Coffee carry more than the average dose of caffeine? The beans look less roasted than those I typically use, and less roasting typically leaves more caffeine in the bean.
My brother Anthony is about to have some of this new coffee — we’ll see how it affects him.
UPDATE: After two sips, Anthony has declared the 8 O’Clock Coffee “bad” and “tastes like Folger’s.” He may not be able to drink enough to determine its caffeine content.
I drink a goodly amount of coffee — between half a pot and a full pot a day. I don’t get headaches if I miss a day, and I can drink a double espresso at night and still fall asleep. It’s a reassuring constant in my otherwise topsy-turvy days.
I’m particular about coffee, prefering to drink only what I’ve made myself or what my brother has made (now that I’ve brow-beaten him into making it exactly the way I make it). Of the critical elements of good coffee — fresh, well roasted beans; filtered water; correct grind; correct ratio of beans to water; not cooking the coffee after it’s made; and on and on — the one that causes me the most trouble is the beans.
My favorite beans come from Peets Coffee & Tea. I came to depend on them when I lived in San Francisco, and since then have gone to lengths to keep myself in supply, including starting a coffee club in grad school to share expenses. Peet’s has a program called “Peetniks” for people who place recurring orders, so I know I’m not alone in this.
But shipping costs raise the price of a pound of Sierra Dorada Blend from $11.95 to $15.95 (plus tax), and if ever I add up what I’ve spent on coffee at the end of a year even I start to feel I’m being extravagent. My usual substitute is a Starbucks blend, which I buy at the grocery store. I resent buying it though, in much the same way I resent having to install Microsoft Office on my lovely Mac. It does what I need it to do, but it makes me feels like I’ve given in to The Man.
Last night at Giant Eagle, on my way down the coffee aisle, I spotted racks of 8 O’Clock Coffee. I remember my mom buying 8 O’Clock Coffee at the A&P when I was a child, grinding it right there at the store. What an awesome smell fresh ground coffee has! (Fun trivia: My grandfather’s family ran an A&P grocery store back when it was called Atlantic & Pacific.) And I seem to recall that Consumer Reports rated the brand highly among grocery store coffees. According to the label it’s “America’s best selling whole bean coffee.” And the price? Merely $4.47, about a third of what a pound of Starbucks would cost.
So into my basket the 8 O’Clock 100% Columbian went. I’m drinking it now. It’s kind of sweet, kind of nutty, but on the edge of bland. Fine in a pinch but not something I’ll look forward to every morning. I may have chosen the wrong roast: the website indicates that Original Roast is more full-bodied, and the Dark Roast is a “dark, Seattle roast.” So the experiment will continue.
Bonus: If you’d like to experiment too, here’s a coupon for $2 off 8 O’Clock Coffee.
Friday was a three-coffeeshop day.
I started at Cummings Candy and Coffee, not working but writing, trying to restore to memory what I’ve done so far in the writing of my novel. Cummings has terrific booths with classic wood seats and marble table-tops, and a warm small town vibe, which makes it ideal for writing (or pretending to write).
From there I moved on to the Panera in Highland Park, just south of the PA Turnpike. It also has a warm and welcoming vibe, although none of Cummings’s history. My Fat Plum partners and I have been meeting there for months. We like it for the endless refills on the coffee and the way the tables can be rearranged for multi-person meetings. Also, we can get something substantial to eat there — a little too substantial, actually. I lay the blame for at least 10 of the 15 pounds I gained last year on the shoulders of Panera Bread.
We put in a couple of hours, discussing business and life and bringing everyone up to speed on recent writing progress. We brainstormed the ending of my novel for a while with great results. No actual ending, but several good pieces which will gel soon I’m certain.
And then, on the way back to Butler, I stopped at a Starbucks to check out the long-anticipated Chantico Drinking Chocolate. The Chantico was announced months ago but not to be released until 2005. Well, 2005 is here, and I thought I’d do some reconnaisance on it for my Cummings employers. After all, chocolate is the Cummings game. We like to be aware of modern coffeehouse developments.
I first checked for posters announcing the Chantico. Nothing. Then I searched the chalkboard menus. Again, zilch. I resigned myself to the idea that it was being introduced in big cities first and wouldn’t make its way to little suburbs like ours for some weeks.
At the counter I told the girl that I’d read a newspaper article about a new chocolate drink they were introducing. Was it available?
She knew right away what I was talking about. "It’s not on the menu yet," she said. "I can check whether we’re allowed to sample it." Before I could say anything she’d walked to a nearby manager for a conference. He immediately looked stern and shook his head, saying something as he looked to where I stood at the counter, checking what sort of person I might be.
The girl came back to deliver the bad news. "We’re not allowed to sample it out until next week."
She seemed relieved that I wasn’t upset and quickly typed in my alternate order for a vanilla steamer. (Actually, according to Starbucks terminology I ordered a vanilla creme, which is steamed milk with vanilla steamer. At Cummings, any flavored steamed milk is a steamer, and it’s about a dollar cheaper than what Starbucks charges. It’s also less likely to be burned. Although my vanilla creme was yummy, I have to say.)
Still in my innocent chocolate enthusiast persona, I asked the Stabucks coffee girl whether the new chocolate drink was hard to make.
"No, it’s easy. You steam the chocolate. But there’s milk in it too. We sampled it earlier — it’s really good."
I thanked her warmly, secure in the thought that Cummings could match or exceed the Chantico offering easily, even without having sampled it.
On my return home I rechecked the press release to find that the Chantico would be released officially on January 8 — I was a mere one day off.
Actually, I then also stopped by Cummings to pick up my paycheck for the previous two weeks. I didn’t have a coffee because after my bottomless Panera cup I felt positively fried — it turns out there is a maximum to my coffee intake after all.