Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Express Education

One of my standard I'm-more-sophisticated-than-thou lines has been that Starbucks espresso is but a poor and bitter imitation of the real thing. Real Italian espresso is strong but mild, you don't need to wince as though you're swallowing your medicine when you drink it. Starbucks espresso... you need to wince and gulp it down fast, making sure it doesn't linger too long on your taste buds. Well, now this line of mine has been harshly discredited.

But first I'll digress. For me, espresso has three functions. The first, that can be fulfilled even by Starbucks espresso - is to provide a legal high. A happy, energetic feeling that I get when I drink it around 3 in the afternoon on an empty stomach. If you haven't tried it this way, I highly recommend... The empty stomach part is very important, the espresso's effect is completely diluted if you have, say, a piece of zucchini bread to go along with it.

The second - also perfectly fulfilled by Starbucks - is an appetite suppressant. Back to 3pm, when I'd really like to have a slice, or two, of zucchini bread. An espresso seems to take that desire away, and to carry me, almost, thru to dinner.

The third function - fulfilled only by true Italian espresso - is sensory pleasure. A truly wonderful flavor. Definitely not achieved by Starbucks. And something I loved to pontificate about. Why is it that Starbucks cannot just copy Italian espresso and give us good taste along with that mid-afternoon high and stomach quietener?

Well, that was until I visited Napoli a few days ago, and discovered, to my horror, that Starbucks coffee has an actual true Italian source. Bitter, almost undrinkable Napolitan coffee. I tried in vain going to more upscale coffee shops, discussing this issue with the proprietors, talking with the man on the street. It seems that once you get south of Rome, the espresso becomes pure Starbucks.

So I can no longer sneer at Starbucks. They do have it right. At least for those southerners. Pity that we all have to suffer...


At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Andrew said...

I agree. I have to work in Starbucks sometimes, as my office is my laptop, and there is very little there that is drinkable, but a double espresso, is all I can tolerate there. Most Italian Espresso I have had does not scorch the palate with that bitter -what Starbucks refers to as "City Roast." Perhaps Starbucks bought Napoli and told them to start brewing.

I enjoyed your blog very much. A 44 year old male, formerly of LA, now of San Diego, as TV has decided not to use writers any longer.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger cosmopolitan life said...

Thanks Andrew!

At 1:10 PM, Blogger cosmopolitan life said...

Thanks Andrew!


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