Perspective

on March 19 by

The tastes of Coffee and Food are both subjective. While I have traveled far and wide, I do not believe there is one absolute best for anything. Many a time, my favorite food items were things that cost less than a dollar and were found incidentally by the side of a street. Thus, there are many things that can be superior and unique within the way it presents itself. A great hamburger does not have to sit second fiddle to one made by Ferran Adrià, Grant Achatz, or Thomas Keller just because it is a burger. It can simply be enjoyed within its genre of food and the particulars of the way it is prepared. An Ethiopian bean does not have to lord over a Colombian one or vice versa.

So whether it is food or coffee, it is not the price nor even the quality of the underlying ingredients that determine my liking. Nor does the healthiness of the food, or lack thereof, detract me. Fatty pork is by no means a healthy item, so whether it is hormone-free or not affects my taste and liking less than the way it is prepared. A nice, crusty, roasted skin is so good whether it is done Filipino-style, like lechon, or Cantonese suckling pig style. Because they are meant to be different, one is not better than the other, so I try to compare within the regional flavors and its genre.

Sometimes it is the heart by which it is served that humbles me. Once, shortly after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan China, I along with a team of eight walked past some elderly women who had all lost their homes and in some cases family members. There they stood eating their noonday meal of plain white rice. All they possessed were the clothes they wore and the bowl of rice. There was no meat, vegetables, or sauce of any kind. It was plain, and they had been surviving on this for over a month. When we passed by, a woman who had never seen us before waved me over with a smile and offered me her bowl of rice with two hands holding the bowl out towards me. That was clearly the best rice that I could not bear to eat. But I taste sweetness and fragrance beyond compare when people who have little or none offer all that they have. Sometimes it is these X factors that affect our experiences.

Coffee

Coffee beans and the resultant extraction have so many flavors and variables. For the raw bean, its species, its origins, the terroir, the time of harvest, the time to roast, the roasting profile, and the time to market to be used and ground. At the time of use, how fine the grind, how much to grind, how many grams to dose, and how hard to tamp. At the time of extraction, how hot is the water, what is the brew profile, how long a pre-infusion and at what pressure, how much flow of water for each stage of extraction, how much time and what volume of water during infusion, and the same for post-infusion before blinding.

What this site does not do is attempt to find the best coffee in the world. Rather, it is one perspective of the café split into three realms of criteria. Coffee in this blog simply means how well a particular bean and roast are ground, extracted, and presented in an espresso-based drink. You can take the best organic, grass-fed beef and overcook it. At that point a hormone-laden, grain-fed cut could be more delicious to the palate.

So go ahead and try these places for the particulars I have observed. Feel free to agree or disagree, for really the freedom to taste and experience coffee in all these places is what truly makes me a lucky person. So enjoy your journey as I continue to embark daily on new ones. Each day is a special day for our days are numbered.

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