Confessions of a Former Coffee Purist

13 September 2022

I used to think that coffee should only be enjoyed in it’s purest form: dark drip or straight espresso. Any adulteration to this purity was blasphemy. But I’ve been rehabilitated.

These are the confessions of a former coffee purist.

My coffee purity fanaticism started in my freshman year of high school. My English teacher Ms. Kanshaw said “You should learn to drink [coffee] black, you won’t always have cream and sugar”. I took that to heart. I wanted to seem tough and mature so, when I began my life long addiction, it was all black.

Throughout college, I would only ever drink black coffee. Mind you, it wasn’t good coffee, usually whatever dark roast I could find at the grocery store. My regular drink at Starbucks was a double shot of espresso, straight, sometimes with a few extra shots if it had been a long night. I distinctly remember my brother’s graduation where his girl friend and my mom went to pick up coffee and were surprised when my order ended up being a little cup of black liquid. I was so cool right? (No not really.)

My grocery store and Starbucks days went on for a few years, but eventually, I got wind of the 3rd wave coffee scene and all the delicious fruity, chocolaty beans that came along with it. Around that same time, I also took up cappuccinos. Probably something about cappuccinos being ingrained in Italian coffee culture. I even looked down on things like Philz. Their added flavoring seemed to be spitting in the face of the roasters who studied their craft to draw out those same flavors. I wanted to be someone who not only drank coffee, but knew coffee. Coffee was an integral part of my personality. My addition was becoming an obsession.

But something in me slowly changed. I’ve come to realize that while there are good and bad cappuccinos, all the good ones taste the same. Locally roasted ethically sourced Ethiopian single origin will always be delicious, but I’ll take a cup of Folgers if it gets me the caffeine I need. Well roasted beans can bring out interesting flavors but Philz’s added flavoring is just as novel a taste. I’ve even come to accept flavored coffee drinks and other derivatives and I’d like to tell you about some of my recent favorites.

Coffee Bar

One of my frequent haunts is Coffee Bar Kearny on Kearny St. in San Francisco. I’ve chatted up the barista a few times and I’ve found that they make both their vanilla syrup and caramel in house. You can see the vanilla beans suspended in translucent jars just across the counter. He also told me they’re coming up with a spiced ginger inspired syrup soon. I’m hoping to get to try that on my next visit.

This here is their vanilla latte. It was deliciously sweet with a whiff of vanilla creeping up my nose and through my mouth. Not much coffee bitterness, but delicious none the less.

Coffee Bar Vanilla Latte

Soon Soon Souvenir Shop

Soon Soon Souvenir Shop

A new coffee shop for me is Soon Soon in San Francisco’s China Town. They call it a souvenir shop but that’s probably just a play on the myriad of nearby souvenir shops that prey on the China Town tourists. (More power to you 阿姨, you take those tourists money.)

Soon soon has a couple of flavored drinks but the one I tried is the Tiger mocha with flecks or orange syrup floating on top of a foamy mocha. I’ll say, I’m not too big a fan of mochas, the cocoa powder can be a bit grainy. I’ll also say though, the acidity of the orange syrup really complimented the richness of the chocolate.

Tiger Mocha

By the way, I love their double happiness cup design.

The Coffee Movement

The Coffee Movement

Finally, one of my favorite coffee shops, The Coffee Movement on the outskirts of China Town. My friend Gan who lives around these parts also really likes this place. He has yet to lead me astray. And just look at the line in the photo! Solid coffee and $3.50 cappuccinos. That’s cheap for the city.

This coffee shop used to have an old VW bus parked out front that you could drink your coffee in, but it got replaced by the parklet about a month ago. The parklet is more spacious but the bus had better vibes.

I got to try an orange coffee cream soda here! Isn’t it a beaut? That day was quite hot so it was nice to sip on during my walk to work. Orange cream soda is already delicious and adding coffee to the mix just makes it that much better.

Coffee orange cream soda

And here it is all mixed up.

Coffee soda stirred

I’ve been drinking a fair amount of “coffee soda” lately. At the office, we have these little bottles of Blue Bottle cold brew that I’ll mix with lemon sparkling water. Don’t knock it till you try it. Coffee soda is quite the refreshing way to feed my addiction.

I hope you too can find some love in drinking delicious coffee drinks (or find love in general for that matter).