Withering Glance: Coffee isn't his cup of tea

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 5, 2011 - 9:29 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

CP: You have visited two places this year -- Paris and Portland, Oregon -- that are renowned, among many other things, for the crazy outstandingness of their coffee. Yet you do not partake. This is, quite simply, wrong.

RN: Spoken like a true addict.

CP: Guilty as charged. In France, they serve up cafe au lait in a bowl, like it's actual sustenance. Which it is. A croissant without coffee? Why bother?

RN: I managed just fine in Paris with tea and a single lump of sugar, thank you very much. Besides, those au laits appeared to me as if they were really an excuse to serve a scandalous amount of cream, flavored with a shot of coffee. Why not just melt some coffee Häagen-Dazs into a mug and call it a day?

CP: Agreed. When the coffee is superior, black is best. That's why it seemed almost criminal, when lined up at a Stumptown Coffee in Portland recently, to see a patron dump five Splenda packets into his cappuccino.

RN: Eeew. I'm surprised someone didn't call the Beverage Police.

CP: Don't get me wrong, I love sweets, just not in my cup. But back to you: Did you at one point renounce coffee, or have you always been a nonpartaker?

RN: I've never developed an attachment, in part because caffeine does scary things to me. A half cup of French roast transforms me into Ray Milland, shaking off the DTs all the way to an Oscar in "The Lost Weekend."

CP: Why let a little thing like that stop you? If needed, I would take a Klonopin in order to keep drinking coffee.

RN: I used to feel the same way about Tab. Then I read something somewhere about its corrosive qualities and thought, "that can't be good." Isn't coffee just as bad for the human digestive system?

CP: No. Coffee, like red wine, is good for a body. Science tells us so. A quiet morning with newspaper and coffee, to me, is a peak experience. By the time the mug is empty, the world is reorganized. One may get on with one's life.

RN: But what about the cost, Mr. Coupon Clipper? Buying a pound of beans every week must translate into at least $500 a year. When you factor in all those Americanos you buy at Dunn Bros., we're talking a pretty serious dent in your 401(k).

CP: You are right. I'm quitting. Or maybe I'll wait till I'm dead. A couple of bucks a day is a small ransom for a bit of black velvet crack in a cup.

RN: I will admit to a lifelong affection for the scent of freshly brewed coffee. But I find the taste a tad harsh. Which is how I imagine you are, prior to your morning embrace with Mr. Coffee. Harsh, that is.

CP: You don't know the half of it. You never see me until I've got at least two cups in me.

RN: Thank heavens for small favors.

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