By R. Justin Shepherd, http://spencersbg.tumblr.com
Friday, November 9th, 2012 9:00 AM CST
Few people consider it wrong to add salt, pepper or other spices to even the best cut of beef; likewise, I’ve met almost no one who enjoys their salad sans dressing. But when it comes to doctoring coffee — especially in the “specialty coffee” world in which I live — adding cream and sugar is considered a no-no.
Yes, coffee should (and that’s the optimal word) be enjoyable without additives: Good beans, brewed well, should offer a beverage that’s complex yet comforting, strong but not bitter, tangy and not tepid. But the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of coffee is bad. Whether it’s stale or overroasted or underextracted, coffee is a drink that people take for granted — and as any woman will tell you, being taken for granted is not the way to build a good relationship… And it’s not the way to brew good coffee. So when you’re stuck at a Cracker Barrel with the in-laws and in need of a wake-up call, cream and sugar may be the only way to go.
Cream and sugar are also gateways to the wonderful world of coffee. Most of us didn’t start out drinking black coffee, yet we cringe when we see others doctoring their drinks, as if it’s somehow above us. I’ve done it — I confess it, repent of it, am willing to do penance over it. The coffee farmers of the world don’t care how people drink their coffee, they’re simply grateful to have the customers. And even if it’s toned down with milk or sweetened, coffee’s still a much healthier, more refined beverage than Coke or sweet tea.
Don’t hear me wrong: At Spencer’s, we’re committed to serving coffee that is, on its own, good. And we’re willing to bet you a cup that, even at its blackest, our brews will be smoother and figuratively sweeter than most others you’ve had. But if you need cream and sugar to enjoy it, we won’t roll our eyes or whisper behind your back about it. Because a great steak is still great, regardless of whether you like yours a little saltier than we like ours — we don’t see any reason to treat coffee differently.
NOTE: Next week, we’ll play devil’s advocate and give you a few choice reasons to choose not to doctor up your coffee — or, at a minimum, not to doctor up ours.