Friday, November 13, 2009

Whole Foods Aged Coffees

Oh look: Roasted on October 2, 2009.

I'm driving around Baltimore seeking out coffee from local roasters and it's days like this that I really start to feel that "Smalltimore" is really "Sprawltimore" as there is no concentration of coffee roasters in one part of the city.

First, it's down to Highlandtown to pick up a coffee from Higher Grounds where the coffee had to be roasted that morning because it's still warm in my hands. Then, after a little sleuthing, it's over to Greektown where I've found the roast facility for Bluebird Coffee in an industrial complex that is both scary and the perfect movie location. Sadly, Bluebird is closed and it doesn't look like they keep any sort of regular hours making it near impossible to plan a visit for coffee.

And here's one from September...

However, Bluebird's website states that I can buy their coffee at the Whole Foods in Mount Washington, so off I go. Now, some of you in Baltimore may be asking "what about Zeke's?" that now famous, nearly ubiquitous Baltimore coffee roaster. Zeke's is located way over in Lauraville, which is a bit of a pain in the butt to drive to and since they're still at the Towson Farmer's Market on Thursday, I'll just go there.

My intent really is to go to the roasters themselves and ask them, much like I asked the girl at Higher Grounds, which coffee are they most excited about this week? Which coffee best exemplifies what they do? Whatever that coffee is (as long as it's not a blend or flavored), I'll take it. It's why I drove down to Highlandtown and Greektown and why I'll wait for the Zeke's guy to set up his booth in Towson.

Then there's the well-known Baltimore Coffee & Tea in Timonium. I've been going there for miscellaneous odds and ends for years but I fear going there because every time I leave I smell like chemical flavoring. In the showroom, they leave their coffees in open-topped barrels for all to see and they have a sea of flavored coffees, filling the space with the noxious aromas of inter-mingling hazelnut, peppermint and whatever ungodly chemical concoction people like having their coffee sprayed with. If only they had cap hop service...

Wow. May. Wow.

Figuring that I might as well go for it, I reluctantly head to Whole Foods. To be honest, in spite of my penchant for quality, I almost never shop at Whole Foods. I much prefer what's fresh and in-season at the farmer's markets to the rabidly overpriced, rich white suburbanite and sanitized experience that is Whole Foods. That's not to say that the stuff they sell isn't of decent quality but I have to be in a real pinch to go there.

And here's the reason why. Lameness. White Suburban Lameness. A visit to their coffee rack and they've got a selection of local roasters like Mayorga (DC), One Village (Philadelphia), Higher Grounds and Bluebird. On Bluebird's website they list a selection of single-origin coffees but at Whole Foods all they offer is blends.

Blends. The choice of Lame Suburban America, which really isn't a choice. Hell, I don't think these people can tell the difference between Dodge Podge and Shorebird blends. Arrgh - I'm not going to get into it but there are no single-origin coffees to choose from.

I'm about to consider a blend when I spot the roast date on the bag of Santa Lucia Estate Coffee: October 2. Please tell me that's October 2, 2009 and not earlier. It's the middle of November. That coffee is dead. I decide to check the other bags of coffee and it only gets worse. September 19th on a bag of Bluebird but the one that takes the cake and breaks the back is the bag of Higher Grounds Coffee dated May 2nd. I left empty-handed.

Glad that I went down to Highlandtown for my bag of Higher Grounds...

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