Every man has a breaking point, and I've reached mine. I cannot get a good Americano served to me before 7 a.m. in Tacoma. It's ridiculous. File this story under "First World Problems" and "High Maintenance Espresso Consumer."
Over, oh, the past month or so, Amanda and I have sought to get an Americano from the many good coffee shops within a half-mile of our house. We live in Tacoma's "most concentrated neighborhood for java," according to the News Tribune. We probably have 10 easily-accessible coffee shops, not including Starbucks, within a 2-minute drive. The problem is that few of these are open before 7 a.m. Who are these lazy owners who don't open their shops when people need caffeine the most -- in the MORNING?! I want to punch all of them in the face.
Last week, we tried going to the new Bluebeard cafe. Thankfully, they were open early. The Americanos were excellent, but the service was S-L-O-W. If you want to take five minutes to crank out a double tall espresso on a Sunday at 11 a.m., fine. But if you take that long on a weekday morning at 6:30 a.m. to pull shots, you might as well throw a closed lane into my commute because I've missed my bus connection in Seattle by the time I've paid for the drink. Speed is an essential part of service in the weekday commuting hours, and I will sacrifice taste is it means I'm not late to where I need to be. It's not like I'm asking for a complex drink. Pull the shots, add the water and send me on my way in two minutes. I'll go back to Bluebeard, but only if I have time to watch the sunrise.
Before Bluebeard, we went to the the tried-and-true Starbucks drive-thru across from the middle school, but even THAT sucks in Tacoma. How is that possible? It's Starbucks, where I don't expect the best drink but at least good consistency. I ordered an Americano, and guess what I got back? A soy latte. WTF?! Thanks for the speed and price break on the more expensive drink, but it's not what I ordered. Where is the competency in pouring the right drink in the right cup? Now, I go to the Starbucks in Bellevue frequently. Then know my name. They know my order. The service is phenomenal. In Tacoma, they can't keep my simple drink straight.
I know it can't just be a workforce talent issue in Tacoma. My and Sergio's favorite coffee spot, Satellite, is excellent. They pull shots with the best of them in Seattle - Fiore and Vita - and serve beans from Stumptown. It's a great cup of coffee and a great experience all around. Of course, I confirmed today that they're not open before 7 a.m., so I have to wait for the weekend to get the best. Amanda suggested we head down the street to the coffee bar outside of Stadium Thriftway. OK, it's a Thriftway. There has to be a standard of coffee here consistent with the food product in the store.
Wrong. After a 15-minute wait to ensure the way-too-hot Americano didn't destroy the inside of my mouth, I gave it a taste and the shots were burnt. It totally ruined my morning. Not that drink in particular, but the notion that I can't get a worthwhile Americano in Tacoma from corporate, chain or local shops.
I bitched about how bad the Americano was for the better part of our commute to Seattle - 45 minutes - and suggested aloud a number of solutions to the problem, the best being the idea that anyone pulling shots in Washington State should be licensed to do so. The idea of getting bad coffee in this state is bad for tourism at the least and bad for our caffeinated economy. If hair stylists need licenses, it's not a stretch for baristas to take a day class and get licensed. Am I wrong?
Amanda kept quiet while I vented, but she didn't hesitate to communicate in other ways:
Wives are good at reminding their husbands that compromises are necessary, so I'll make this one. Tacoma coffee industry, I'll improve my outlook and attitude and you start opening earlier and pulling a decent shot!