The Best Part of Waking Up

I’m not usually much of a fan of Starbucks coffee–the kind you take home and brew yourself, anyway. It just never tastes right. (Except when grailquestion makes it. But I can’t aspire to that level of mastery every damn morning.) Sometimes I even prefer my in-laws’ total committment to Folgers over gritty, bitter SB, though my real preference is Seattle’s Best Coffee. Yes, I’m aware they are now owned by the Big Mermaid. But it still tastes different, and they still give you those little chocolate bars with your mocha…

Where was I? Right. New Starbucks blend. Because, oh boy, this Casi Cielo stuff is marvelous. I only bought it because they said it was invented at the Canlis (a really top-shelf restaurant in Seattle I never, ever got to go to, and where my Dad proposed to my stepmother, thus making me believe at the tender age of four that it was the Most Romantic Place on Earth) but it really is everything the package says: chocolatey with a slight citrus edge to it, really smooth and creamy. Usually there’s lies, damn lies, and what Starbucks claims their coffee tastes like on the back of the bag, but this genuinely measures up.

Some of you may know that I used to work for Starbucks. During my rather blighted community college days I worked something like 50-60 hours a week just to get by–opened Starbucks at 4:30, went to class in the afternoon, closed down a local movie theater till midnight. Then up and over again. I can’t believe I still have a brain after that. Now, Starbucks and I, we just didn’t last. About four months into the job I was called into the back room and told, in the single most hilarious firing of which I have ever had the honor of being the subject:

“Cat, you and Starbucks just don’t…mesh.”

And my boss made the little nesting motion with her hands where you lace your fingers together. I blinked. I know that gesture, and it’s usually not job-related, at least in my line of work. Was she suggesting that I was trying to fuck Starbucks? I backed slowly out of the office and on to better things.

The point is, I’ve been through Starbucks training. Which is a really grueling affair, that included many hours of “classes” in an office park across town, one of which involved tasting all of Starbucks’ blends and learning to describe them “properly,” i.e. as if they were fine wines and we were starring in some kind of crappy Sacramento-based late teen version of Sideways. I will never forget the Ethiopian Harrar tasting.

One of the other baristas-to-be sipped his little dixie cup of fresh-brewed Harrar and promptly grimaced as though he has just swallowed a fragrant spoonful of rancid goat butter. He spat it back into his cup and wiped his tongue frantically with the back of his hand.

“It tastes like twigs!” he sputtered.

“No, no,” assured the Starbucks trainer, “it tastes earthy. With a hint of blueberries. Can’t you taste the blueberries?”

He looked at her in horror, as if she had just suggested that if he would only try it, he would find that giraffe spunk really tasted like peppermint candy. Quietly, he pushed back his chair and walked out of the room. We never saw him again.

The rest of us just noted on our little yellow legal pads:

Twigs = earthy.

And every time I drink Starbucks coffee, I think about the Twiggy Special Brew. So I say to you, guy who refused to lie even a little bit about how bad the product tastes, wherever you are: Casi Cielo ain’t half bad.

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