Some of you may find this hard to believe, but coffee is “kind of a big deal.” Oh really Zulu? You think? Well, I could understand why you don’t think so; after all, I don’t drink it, but I’m also a guy from New England who doesn’t eat lobster, so the enigmas continue. Years ago, on my first trip to Seattle; home of Starbucks, I asked my cousin if he thought people in Seattle really drank more coffee than the rest of the world, or had the natives just portrayed themselves that way. He figured perception over consumption. For many coffee drinking visitors, a trek to the “original Starbucks” is the religious equivalent of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, or the Catholic journey to Rome. It was at this time I found out that another brand, Seattle’s Best Coffee; one of Starbucks biggest competitors had been bought out by Starbucks.
When I was planning my recent ski safari to Washington State, I came across a YouTube segment called the “The Good Life.” The idea was that although some friends were on a ski journey to the Northwest, they were also out to meet the locals, and experience the food and drink of the areas they skied. It was here were I learned about these small roadside-drive through coffee shacks. The Good Life stopped at more than one to get a cross sample of the best brew. I thought this sounded like a fun idea. My ski buddy drank coffee, and I would participate with some tea, or hot chocolate.
In our travels, we drove by many of the boxes. Some were fairly nondescript, and others had themes; Holland with a windmill on top, Cascade Coffee with a volcano on the roof and so on. It was some time into our trip before our schedule, desire, or proper side of the road granted us the opportunity to stop and partake. One morning out early in our drive, we decided today would be the day we try the coffee box. We saw more than a few to choose from. Some signs said “Best Coffee Ever, Joe’s Joe, and Brewing Right.” We laughed when one sign said “Family Friendly.” We laughed that one off thinking they also sold fruit juice so as not to feed legal stimulants to minors. Little did we know; but we soon found out what that sign meant.
At one point driving, we pulled into a lot to check our map directions. Over in the corner of the lot my friend spotted a shack that said “Cowboy Coffee.” ‘Let’s try that one” he said. I was thinking it had some western theme. I just hoped they weren’t dumping tabasco sauce in the “hot” chocolate. We pulled up to the shack almost the size of the SUV, and then we saw her; baristas as they call them. I knew the dress code out west is sometimes more relaxed than back in the “stuffy East,” but this was different. The young, attractive, smiling woman, who appeared at window was wearing black high heels and nothing else except colorful lingerie; top and bottom. I managed to do two things; one, relay the correct coffee order from my friend, and two, keep “said” friend from climbing over into my driver’s side to get a better look at the Dunkin Donuts gone astray. I decided this place wasn’t interested in hot chocolate (or probably coffee for that matter), so I passed on a cup. Keeping a straight face, and proper eye contact for politeness, I blindly handed my friend his coffee, and change, until I heard a voice say “should I tip her?” I turned sideways to my friend, and he had all his bills fanned out like Bob Barker on The Price is Right ready to forfeit all the cash for what’s behind “door number three.” I gently selected 1 bill from his paralyzed hands, and brain, gave the gratuity to the woman and drove off.
I’m not sure if my friend ever actually drank that coffee, but he said it was the greatest cup he’d ever had. Seattle’s best indeed!