Wednesday, March 31. This was probably the most relaxed day of my Coffee Tour so far. I made my way over to Cenote, on East Cesar Chavez. On my way there, I noticed that right across the street is Flat Track – they roast their own beans and have a coffee shop. I had their beans when I went to Brew & Brew the other day… Hmm. Should I head over there, since they roast their own, or should I go to Cenote, which I hadn’t tried yet, and had heard good things about?
This place was probably the “funkiest” of all the places I’ve been so far. More eclectic, and homey (it’s actually in an old house) as opposed to the more sterile, stark interiors of the places I’d been up till now. They had a lot of outside seating, so I decided to drink my latte outside at a long picnic bench. When I went in to order, I was met with a slightly put-out person behind the counter. It reminded me of lunch the day before – Bruce had said that the waitstaff at Counter Café was giving off a “sense of disdain.” I got that here, too. Someone later seemed to imply to me that that is the norm for waitstaff in Austin. Really? What is this, New York? I don’t think so. It can’t be.
The weather was great for sitting outside. Overcast but not too cold. A slight breeze. I sat and watched the people and the cars while drinking my latte, which was – nice. Mellow, inoffensive, pleasant. Kind of like the weather…
Two observations have come up lately as I’m writing about this stuff every day. So I will share:
First, the definition of a “latte” varies greatly from shop to shop. The ratio of milk to espresso is kind of a moving target, apparently. I’ve been offered everything from an 8-ounce latte to a 16-ounce latte. I’m about to switch to cappuccinos for good and avoid a lot of potential problems. At least with cappuccinos, they seem to always be between 5-6 ounces… The preferred ratio of espresso to milk is a personal thing, I get that. It can really change the flavor of the drink however, and has been an area of debate in my household. I argue that no matter how much milk is in your espresso, you can still get the general idea of what the espresso tastes like and how good it is. But my theory has no “scientific” backing that I’m aware of and it’s entirely possible that I have no idea what I’m talking about. (I hope to remedy this someday.)
Second: My thoughts / observations have begun to somehow turn more towards atmosphere. An espresso drink tastes good to you or it doesn’t taste good to you – it’s all subjective. Obviously there are a lot of technical variables in making espresso – the roast of the beans (omg don’t even get me started on the technicals of ROASTING, we will never get through this whole blog post, either of us). The type of machine used. The temperature of the water. The number of grams of coffee. The fineness of the grind. And on and on and on. So you could be sitting in an isolation tank or you could be in line at the bank or you could be watching Earnest Hipsters in Austin and decide you like your espresso or not. But don’t you think you could have the best latte ever but you happened to be at the dentist waiting for a root canal, you wouldn’t enjoy it quite as much as you would if you were, say, on the beach in Belize… Of course. And we all know this. But it’s really hit home for me on this trip, because I’ve been to so many places in such a short time. The atmospheres of these places vary greatly and can’t be discounted when deciding how I feel about what I’m drinking.
One of the best lattes I ever had was at the Coppola Winery, outside in their courtyard, on a warm sunny spring day, with good company and good chocolate. After that I was all, “that was the best latte ever!” but I cannot remember anything about the latte itself. I just knew that it was great.
And in the end, does it really matter WHY you thought you just had a great latte? You can just enjoy the fact that you had a great latte, and call it good.