Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Feature! Coffee Reviews from Guest Blogger Greg Walker

My esteemed colleague and husband, Greg Walker, said to me the other day, "Since the name of your blog is 'A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book', you should have coffee reviews in addition to book reviews."

"Great idea," I said. "Unfortunately, my taste in coffee is so pedestrian that I'll drink Starbucks without batting an eyelash, so I don't know that I'm the best choice for a coffee reviewer." (Note: my taste is NOT so low as to drink Folgers and the like. *shudder*)

He mulled it over for a bit and agreed to take up the job. Being a coffee snob who's willing to compromise (i.e., he'll drink Starbucks, but he'll insist on lecturing you as to why it's inferior to various other coffees) and who is also something of a know-it-all, blow-hard and a great writer, I decided he was perfect for the job. Thus, here is his first guest blog here on A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book.

Coffee Review: Peet's Coffee & Tea Major Dickason's Blend

by Guest Blogger Greg Walker

You cannot have A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book without a cup of coffee! And I cannot imagine a better cup of coffee than a well-brewed cup of Major Dickason’s Blend from Peet’s Coffee and Tea. I first discovered Peet’s twenty years ago whilst living in beautiful Mill Valley, California. The café in the town square of Mill Valley back then was Peet’s, but it was long before they became a true chain. In fact, it was still when Peet’s was a respected café on the Berkeley scene, and before Starbuck’s had fired their initial salvo in their bid for world conquest.

So Peet’s had a huge variety of locally roasted coffees, but the one that they were best known for, their signature blend, was Major Dickason’s Blend. As a reviewer of coffee, I am hard-pressed to do justice to Major Dickason’s Blend – it is like describing why Robin Ford is a blues genius or why Monet’s Haystacks can stir one to tears. Breaking it down to its ingredients and individual characteristics makes it less that what it is, but when performing an analysis, that is what we have to do.

Dickason’s is the creation of Alfred Peet and his friend, and a regular customer of the old Berkeley store, Key Dickason, U.S. Army, retired. The two of them brooded and brewed over every combination of beans and roasts until they came to what is now their flagship blend. It is very robust. Handled carefully, it produces the most robust, strongest cup that I have ever sampled, yet it has no bitterness to it. The caffeine will hit you in the knees and the lower intestine, and, if you overdo it, you will be a shaky mess, but you will enjoy the trip. The acidity is modest – Peet’s calls it a medium acidity, though it is effectively somewhat lower. It is a moderately bright cup of jo, despite that overwhelming power.

Brewing Major Dickason’s Blend must be handled carefully and with respect. My preferred method is with my Bodum siphon fitted with a glass Chemex filter, so the brew touches nothing but glass throughout the process. I also like to use a good quality spring water or a well filtered tap water, free of impurities and odd chemical flavors. If you are not going to outfit yourself with a coffee siphon for the purpose of brewing your Dickason’s, I understand, though I cannot help but look down my nose at you a bit. A second choice in brewing would be a good quality Chemex coffee maker or a French Press such as those readily available from Bodum and numerous other manufacturers. Be aware of your water temperature when brewing – it should be between 195°F and 202°F – any hotter will cause excessive extraction and will result in unwanted bitterness.

When handled with care and respect, Major Dickason’s Blend produces and exceptional cup of coffee. Exceptional, in this context, means it is sufficient to gather a cult following unto itself. I know many who will drink nothing else, and I can sympathize with their prejudice! It truly is an excellent cup.

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