Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Simple Way to Make the World a Better Place?

Give me a cup. A proper cup. That's all. When I order a cup of coffee, place it in a cup made out of porcelain, something sturdy and firm and with a little thing on the side, you know, to hold onto. Because in a world of paper cups, I do need something to hold onto.

"Is that for here or to go?"

"For here," I said.

And still, not three minutes later, after I'd taken my seat, what do I get? A paper-cup. The guy sets down a paper-cup in front of me, along with a plastic top, and a cardboard sleeve (complete with advertisement) to keep me from burning my hand. Why did I think it would've been different?

"Am I going somewhere? Would you like me to leave?"

I thought to look around for a sign, some modern equivalent of WHITES ONLY, but with me on the wrong side of the prejudicial divide.

"Because I did say 'for here,' didn't I?"

I had come to one of two independent coffee shops on my strech of Ventura Boulevard, which rougly runs from Tujunga Boulevard to maybe a half-mile past Coldwater Canyon. Between these two points there are three or four Starbucks, two or three Coffee Bean and Tealeafs, and one Peet's Coffee, all corporate chains that care greatly about maximizing earnings potential. But this was Lulu's Bee Hive. A one of a kind place where customers sit at kitchen tables that have four chairs. It's very communal and inviting. Can I sit here? Please, go ahead. You don't fall into your own seat and turn your back to someone else. It's nice. But still, these damn paper cups. Why, Lulu? Why you too?

I ordered an espresso and a fruit tart the other day at the Starbuck's at USC. The espresso was placed in a 8 or 10 ounce paper cup.

The fruit tart was served in a flip-top plastic container. My utensil? A plastic fork.

When the lady gave me all this, I wanted to say, "Have you heard the phrase 'environmental footprint'? Because all I wanted was a little coffee, maybe something sweet to keep my blood sugar up during class, but now you've got me thinking about how there are hammer-head sharks swimming off the coast of Cornwall and these massive chunks of ice floating toward Jupiter, Florida. All you wanted was a Pepsi? I wanted a cup, just a proper cup."

At least I'm not alone.

But is there any place where there are more than a few of us? The Paper Cup Syndrome is sweeping across Europe, because so much of Europe believes in so much of America, namely, the economy above all else. You're either with us or against us and goddammit don't forget your cup, because we're on the move here, going through the drive-through next, and honey, grab my cel-phone, one of us should call the kids, I think I left Little Jenny with the toaster and little Steve in the tub, and damn this coffee's hot! Someone shoulda put a warning on my cup.

But there are parts of Europe not yet in Europe, Europeans who don't even consider themselves European -- Ukrainians, say -- and they, they most definitely do not drink out of a paper cup, they still believe in the dessert cart -- okay, I'm making that part up -- but they do still believe in the cup, complete with saucer. The proper cup. I know. I used to drink out of one just like this.

Did America ever drink out of a proper cup? If so, it must've been so long ago I don't remember. And how do little girls even have a tea party these days? Do they set down a tiny little paper cup before their doll? What size? Venti? Grande? Is this really the world you want to leave your children? Or is it all just nonsense?


Anonymous said...

That's Starbucks for you. Soon they will be invading Ukraine. Coffee Americana (Percolated coffee served at a classy roadside dinner.

You should try Italian Style coffee. Those Italians really know how to make coffee. There a re a few and only a fee places in Ukraine that really know how to make a good coffee. It's not so much the coffee beans or the machine (although they all play a part along with the quality of the water) but its the person who makes the coffee that makes the difference (along with a real mug/cup). We (a company I use to work for) once employed someone from Northern Italy to run our bar and I kid you not the number of coffee sales over the following two years doubled. He made the best coffee, coffee I have not had since I was in Rome. When he left the quality of the coffee declined along with the sales.

In Ukraine 'Cafe Dom' makes a good brew but the best place I found i Ukraine was in Uzhgorod 'Under the Castle' alias "Pid Zamok". They were recommended by the old Lonely Planet Book - not sure if they are included in the new book.

So when is your wife coming to live with you or was your wedding just a chapter of fiction? something to add to your book to be. :)

PS I love the new design/template. Award winning stuff. :)

The Author said...

A bad cup of coffee in a good cup is better than a good cup of coffee in a paper cup. I sent an email off to Starbucks last night, tilting at windmills. Will post it if they get back to me. It was essentially calling into question their business model and ethic.

The Ranger said...

I have had some of that Uzhgorod Under the Castle coffee. My wife and I have a home and family there. A good cup of coffee there is very hard to come by. In a few of the hotels the coffee is drinkable nothing to brag about.

Gotti said...

face it tis the my generation *myspace* i want it now..........back to IKEA for you......whatever......I'm going shopping!
tis all quantitative , remember tis not the pseudo quality tis the converts to quantity

i'm going to watch clueless

as if

The Author said...

Hey, Gotti. I hope there's still at least a proper cup to be found in North Beach. God help us if there's not.

The thing I forgot to mention was this was a Viennese espresso. So you've got this drink with all this whipped cream inside, below the rim of the cup, and it's like -- what am I supposed to do? I can't drink it like this? I've got to stir it all up to even have a go at it.

Big Sis' said...

Well, at least you get your coffee in a cup at IKEA. I know of a few places in Sacramento where a good cup o' coffee can be had in a cup, you can even get espresso, latte or whatever you like. Good point bro'

The Author said...

Ikea always has cloud-berry jam, did you know that? Pretty good, and with the new rules on carrying liquids on board flights, it may be the only way to get anything like it without flying to Norway.

Anonymous said...

Ceramic cup equals dishwasher, more rental space, more wages, health permits that may not be given because no proper water/kitchen facilities. You can pay more for coffee if you want.

The Author said...

Ceramic cup, besides being more environmentally friendly, besides not inculcating an attitude in people, especially adolescents, that everything is disposable, also equals more business, or at least -- the business of myself and others like me. As for all the other stuff -- space, permits -- if that's over-burdensome, I'd recommend someone not getting into the business of running a cafe. You require a sink, an industrial washer, some counters. We're not knocking down walls to get this done. That said, I'm sure there are plenty of regulations that are ridiculous, and if they contribute to going the paper route, I'd love to know about it.