I am sitting in Peet's Coffee on Polk Street near Broadway, the crisp (yes not foggy) early morning California sun is shining down as I sip a cup of America's best coffee. On an eating trip to this amazing food city, sneaking out for coffee before the day starts, I feel like I am spending the morning with an old lover. My favorite coffee house, I haven't seen you in over a dozen years. You still look great, a little older and maybe a touch worn on the edges, but still beautiful. I remember falling in love with you and the years we spent together. And I sadly remember having to leave. I have missed you. Only at this moment do I realize how much. I absorbed the loss and made my own way and am happy. But here with you this morning, drifting back to what was, I see how it could have been, how our entwined paths would have led to a very different life these years later. For an hour this morning, I imagine the last decade with you; stopping in for coffees on the way to work, chatting with friends at these tables, bringing my kids by on the way to the playground, quick work meetings at the tables on the sidewalk. It would have been a beautiful life together, me and Peet's. Soon we'll return to our own ways and I'll mull over what might have been and whether you feel the same.
I love this coffee. The beans are great, the roast is dark but not burnt, the brand is engaging but not cute, and the coffee is really freaking good.
When I was at Berkeley, I met Peet's. The other members of Ken Raymond's research group were obsessed with it. To my taste, it was burnt and too strong. But over time Peet's wore me down and won me over. Maybe it was the scent of eucalyptus trees or the Pacific breezes or the endless artichokes for free from Ken's garden. But that strong coffee is as Bay Area as any scent/taste memory I have. When I left California almost 13 years ago, I had to leave it behind. Later, I re-discovered Peet's when they implemented their shipping program and I jumped aboard. But while the coffee is great at my house, it is not Peet's from the shop on the corner.
But today I'm here. Digging the 60 degree breeziness. Watching the sexy barristas make coffees. Digging on the stream of casually dressed office workers, young mommies, artsy/student-y/hipsters, neighborhood hanger-outers, guys in bike clothes, and other beautiful San Franciscans. Peet's is firing up a day that will include a long walk through Chinatown, an early dim sum lunch, a late afternoon meal at Slanted Door (a recap of last night's amazing dinner), and dinner at Bong Su. I'll have at least two more cups of Peet's today, maybe three. I'll eat great food and sample great cocktails and continue to enjoy an amazing day in California.