Coffee trends come in waves

For a while Monday night, the lead story on The New York Times website did not involve Angelina Jolie, Benghazi or a single politician.

The hot, hot news?

Intelligentsia, the Chicago coffee company, is opening a coffee bar in Manhattan.

I can't recall anything involving imported food or drink from another city ever being featured so prominently in mainstream Chicago media unless it had to do with hot dogs or hamburgers.

But Manhattan's different. Food trends there are treated as seriously as theater and real estate, so it's not shocking that the opening of an Intelligentsia coffee bar in the new High Line Hotel merits a major headline.

The Times article, which spent most of Tuesday on the most emailed list, quoted Stephen Morrissey, director of communications for Intelligentsia:

"In addition to offering a daily coffee on a pour-over bar equipped with Wave drippers from the Japanese manufacturer Kalita (the current darling of high-end coffee), the baristas will select a second coffee that they think 'pops,'" he said.

Go ahead. Take a moment to process that sentence.

Got it?

Morrissey continued:

"When the morning shift comes in at 5:30 a.m., they'll cup the coffees. Then they'll pick how to make it. It's not that one brewer is better than another brewer. It's that they might decide, 'I'm loving the toffee notes in this, I bet it'll be awesome in a Cafe Solo.'"

Translation: This is not a 7-Eleven cup of joe.

Coffee is a restless creature. It is forever demanding a new incarnation and a more discerning audience.

Latte, cappuccino, doppio macchiato?

So groundbreaking when Starbucks fixed them in our daily language. So 1999 by now.

Now, the newest thing in coffee is an improved version of something really old: coffee brewed and black.

The excitement over Intelligentsia's Manhattan debut (the article also mentioned Portland's equally trendy Stumptown coffee) made me think back on all the coffee trends I've known.

I grew up in the percolator generation. All across America in that bygone time, children awoke to the gurgle of their parents' Maxwell House bubbling into sludge.

There was no happier sound, no smell more hopeful.

The sight of coffee splashing into the glass knob on the pot's top filled me with bliss, though that may have had less to do with coffee than with the fact that morning was the one time my parents were guaranteed to be in a good mood.

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