I only ever drink tea at Starbucks, but I admit that even as an expat Brit I've come to accept that coffee has to be a part of my life here in the USA. It's unavoidable, like obesity and republicans. But I'm no expert coffee brewer, and I've yet to be sucked into the world of home-roasting and degree-perfect temperature monitoring. That's probably never going to happen, not because I can't see the point, but because I like tea too much to go totally native.
This is not to say that tea doesn't have its own science and even mythology, predating coffee as it does and coming as it does from an older, wiser and generally less stressed culture. Do you warm the pot or not? Rotate or invert? Filtered water or tap? These are questions which most modern English tea drinkers resolve by chucking a pyramid bag in a mug, something that I suspect coffee lovers would really like to do but which doesn't suit the medium. For coffee lovers, things are more complex.
According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the perfect coffee has a brew strength of 1.15% to 1.5% of total dissolved solids and an extraction rate of coffee flavor components of 18% to 22%. Not 23%, mark you. And it doesn't stop there. Not only are there the fundamental issues of water quality and temperature, precise altitude and barometric calculations, moon phase and astrological casting, all of which apply at least equally to other beverages (except, perhaps, McDonald's tea, which is equally bad at all altitudes, temperatures and times of the month). There is the question of how you grind the stuff, and how you brew it, and in what. And here, coffee streaks out ahead of everything else in the many choices that abound, and the intense fan support that grows up around each. Do you pump it, squeeze it, allow it to drip, stir it up, let it soak?
Thankfully there is a site such as Brew Methods to help the novitiate through a choice of methods and machinery, at least. Here you can learn to make your brew anywhere from the stove top to the Aeropress, in glorious video provided mainly by YouTube and Vimeo links. This won't teach you all there is to learn about coffee - you'd need to stay awake for more than a few nights to achieve that - but it's a great place to begin if Aunty has given you an Aeropress for your birthday and you don't know whether to push it down or invert it and push it up (opinions vary). And come to think of it, it'll explain to male readers that maybe they aren't using the Aeropress for the purpose for which it was intended. Read the instructions, guys.
Since many of these links head off to places like YouTube, you'll inevitably be sucked into other clips on the same subject. So, a good starting point for those of you who want to become coffee lovers, not just good friends. Me, I'll probably stick to tea when the opportunity arises. No offense, it's just more civilized.
By the way, did you know that over here McDonald's gives endless free drinks refills to restaurant customers? But only of coffee, and sodas. Tea drinkers only get refills of hot water, second and subsequent times around, and have to re-dunk the original tea bag. I'd like to see them try this on where I came from, but oh well, they're foreigners, you know.
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