My near-obsessive love of coffee came a bit late, which may surprise those of you who assumed that my mother put café au lait in my sippy cup.
In college, I didn’t have extra money to spend on the good stuff, so the coffee was whatever was on sale and the pots of it I drank while waiting tables. In other words, not exactly the finest. There was the occasional splurge at Mischa in Old Town, Alexandria, VA. But it was Thomas who introduced me to Peet’s Coffee. Having lived in the Bay Area for a couple of years, he had become addicted enough to make sure that he received a steady supply once he'd moved to the East Coast. It was not a luxury he was willing to give up.
And then we moved to California and there was a Peet’s within walking distance of our house. The Starbucks was closer but, as Hannah once told a barista there, “Mommy doesn’t do Starbucks.” (She was three years old.) Both Hannah and Charlotte spent not small-ish amounts of infancy and toddler-hood smelling of freshly brewed coffee.
Charlotte’s pre-k is two blocks from a Peet’s. While she was still adjusting to preschool, I’d skulk outside the door for the five minutes it took for her screams to fade away, beat a hasty retreat to the end of the typically long line at Peet’s and then vulture for a table where I could work for a couple of hours.
Being a tad predictable in my coffee habits, I always ordered a non-fat café au lait and a plain croissant. After two years of this, one of the guys at the counter, Mike, started to just ask “café ole with a croissant?” But as the wait for a table got longer and longer, I began to think about finding a new place. And then my friend Elisa told me about Philz Coffee, which had opened down the street.
Philz is an independent coffee shop, founded in San Francisco in 2003. They have five stores there and have finally branched out, with cafes on the peninsula (Palo Alto), in the South Bay (San Jose), and the Easy Bay (Berkeley). I’m lobbying for another in Redwood City. There are currently 20 blends to choose from, which may seem intimidating at first, but the staff are able to suggest a coffee blend based on your usual coffee drinking habits. They also take care of the cream and sugar, so ensure a perfect cup of coffee. Oh, and if you don’t like it, they’ll make you something else.
I felt guilty about it at first, almost as though I was cheating on Peet's. But now I spend a bit of time at Philz, and as soon as I walk in, they ask if I want large Ambrosia. Yes, yes I do. Low-fat and no sugar, right? Yep. One day I’ll branch out, but for now, I like that someone knows what I want. Even if it’s “just” coffee.
The only problem I have with Philz, at least the Palo Alto cafe, is that if you have a Mac you generally can’t get on the network—free WiFi isn’t exactly helpful if you can’t access it. But I’m not going to blame this on my new favorite coffee shop. I’ll blame it on AT&T instead.
If you’re not fortunate enough to live in the Bay Area, order a pound or so. You won’t be sorry.