Monday, May 11, 2009

McCafe and other, much better cofee

Back in college I was addicted to iced mochas (mocha over ice, not blended). If I didn’t have one by 3pm, I would suffer the most excruciating caffeine-withdrawal headache. Then I got into the bad habit of making coffee at home before going to work, having a cup once I got to the office, then taking an afternoon break to get my 3pm iced mocha. The constant dependence on caffeine became too much for me and in 2002 I quit coffee cold turkey. It was hard, but I made it through and resisted coffee altogether for a few years. These days, I love a properly pulled espresso or macchiato and the occasional Ice Blended Mocha from CBTL on hot summer days. For me, coffee is a rare treat that I usually only indulge in on weekends or when I’m on vacation (in Paris, or Costa Rica or Hawaii – some of the best places in the world to drink coffee) – or if I stayed out too late the night before and feel sluggish at work.

Cut to last week. I had been suffering with a bad cold/flu (not the swine flu!) and stuck at home unable to do much but watch TV. After watching countless hours of pointless TV, I could not help but be drawn in by McDonalds’ McCafe commercials. After all, they spent a record $100 million on a marketing blitz to promote their new espresso drinks, and after watching so many McCafe commercials and seeing billboards everywhere across town, I just had to have McCafe.


But there was a hurdle – I don’t go to McDonalds. I hadn’t had a meal there since elementary school, and did not revel in breaching those golden arches. But Vanessa said she’d go with me, and pay, so I decided to take her up on her offer. I got the Iced McMocha (they should call it that!) with nonfat milk and Vanessa got the McCappuccino with whole milk. Peering through the window at the drive-through I watched the lady press a button on the espresso machine and out-flowed our drinks.


First sip – ugh. The chocolate was good, but there was some kind of spoiled milk/chemical aftertaste that I just couldn’t stomach. Down the drain the McMocha went. Vanessa thought that her McCappuccino was lackluster. Foam/milk/espresso ratio was off and the espresso: rancid.


After wasting $5.55 on bad coffee, we started discussing how many of our clients put so much effort into their coffee programs, and how thankful we are for that.



  • At La Grande Orange, (just opened in Santa Monica), they use Mr. Espresso brand beans which are roasted over oak wood in Oakland and favored by great chefs like Alice Waters and Bradley Ogden.

  • At Morels they’re making Shakeratos all summer long, my favorite Italian iced coffee in addition to brewing several varieties of sustainably produced beans from Equator Estate Coffees in individual French presses.

  • At RockSugar they make my favorite Vietnamese Coffee, brewed at your table and mixed with sweetened condensed milk – tastes like chocolate.

  • At Zucca, you can have a classic Italian espresso made with Illy.

Don't all those options sound nice?

1 comment:

kauaiiansun said...

Good post, and thanks for the heads up. The ubiquitous advertisements were about to break through to my no fast food policy as well. I am a big fan of CBTL myself, and of the smaller but just as expert coffee houses, like 'Kalaheo Cafe' in my hometown of Kauai, Hawaii. Their chai tea with soy is my favorite!