Last week was #CoffeeWeek on the blog arm of Zagat, that venerable American restaurant polling & review house purchased by Google in 2011. Like many, we watched closely as Zagat's team of content bloggers put out a trove of new articles, interviews, city guides, polls and reviews, all searchable here.
Now that the fog of #CoffeeWeek has cleared, let's go back through for the blow-by-blow. All in all, a lot of great small businesses got shouted out, we learned a lot, and it was a heckuva wild ride. Here's what we think are the best (and least best) moments from Zagat's week of coffee writing.
The Best: “The United States of Coffee”
Are these the exact same 50 cafes we would have chosen? Goodness, no! But Zagat actually did a pretty good job of picking solid choices for this list, with only a few truly offensive missteps (Texas and Washington State, we're looking at you). Within the confines of only getting one choice per state, this feature keeps its head above water, even if your personal favorite wasn't picked.
Least Best: “What Your Coffee Drink Says About You“
Here is the first paragraph of this article:
Black coffee: You started drinking coffee at age 11, about six months before you began sneak-buying Marlboro Reds from the vending machine near the bathroom in Bennigan’s. You eat Raisin Bran every morning, like a good medium-rare steak and own a complete tool set. You also sleep in the nude and have never worn corduroys.
The Best: “10 Destination Coffee Meccas Around The World“
Pretty boilerplate stuff, really, but fun to read. (And as an side, what's the coffee scene actually like in the city of Mecca? Is Mecca truly a coffee Mecca?) The choices from feature writer Anna Hylcek are actually pretty playful, and it's good that she's balancing experiences from across the coffee spectrum (Oslo, Addis, Seattle). Just one quibble: she misses big on recommending Havana (where shortages have made common the use of some pretty gross coffee substitutes) instead of Miami, where the cortadito flows like wine, and you can go gloriously low-end (any neighborhood pastelito joint) or luxuriously high-end (Panther Coffee).
Least Best: “The 10 Most Annoying Coffee Trends“
In which some truly hideous quotes from Zagat's survey takers appeared, such as:
*”3rd Wave coffee laboratories that are nothing more than cafeterias of snobbery that use Rube Goldberg-style contraptions to make coffee and sell it for ridiculous prices to the very gullible.”
* “People need to realize that coffee is a drink – not a lifestyle!”
* “It ain't 20-year-old single malt Scotch.”
There was also a moment in this article when James Mulcahey and Anne Roderique-Jones incorrectly called a DeLonghi Exclusivo Magnifica “the Lamborghini of home espresso machines.” This is inaccurate; it is in fact the Kia of home espresso machines.
Even if you don't agree with results, public polling like this is valuable, and far too scarce. Zagat found that 30% of polling participants liked their coffee black, 38% prefer independent “neighborhood” cafes to chains, and 53% do not put additional sweetener into their drinks – though if that drink is a Vanilla Mocha in the first place, where does that leave us? Some more good news, as 31% of those polled are willing to pay up to $5 for what Zagat calls “normal coffee”; we'd bet that number was much lower 5 years ago. Pretty fascinating stuff.
Least Best: “Caffeine Buzz” E-Guide Compendium Thing
And now we're into the baffling omissions phase. Citizens of Los Angeles, your Cognoscenti Coffee, Handsome Coffee Roasters, Short Cake, Intelligentsia and G&B locations are nowhere to be found. Philadelphians, there is no Ultimo, no Bodhi, no Town Hall, and no Shot Tower. Aside from the entries for Blue Bottle, San Francisco's entry is bewildering. We offered this unofficial addendum in vain, and the joke could have stretched out a lot further than four fake locations. These are like coffee recommendations for our moms, except our moms use Trip Advisor now. Burn! No but really, the lists in this article for every city but New York are atrocious.
And that's that! We'll see you next year for #CoffeeWeek Part 2: Return From Skull Island.