Friday, January 24, 2014

Peet's K Cups redux

As if French Roast and House Bland in expensive, fast-staling and completely un-recyclable packaging weren't exciting enough, here's the newest  Peet's "single serve"  offering:

The product description is here.

Bill McAlpin of La Minita pretty much said it all about this kind of coffee years ago, in a comment to Florence Fabricant of the New York Times: "I love the unwashed long as you're not talking about coffee."


  1. Hey Kevin . . . busy these days? Your fans want more cranky updates on the various ludicrousnesses of contemporary coffee culture. Especially, I would love to hear what you have to say about the "new" flavor wheel from Counter Culture, with their heavy emphasis on fruit "notes" and the virtual absence of dry distillates and caramels. But then again, you're in Mexico, and probably completely absorbed in the proper appreciation of Margaritas. "Distinct notes of lime and tequila".

  2. Hi Robert - just back in México for abour a month after nearly three months in Arizona and New Mexico, during which I had the chance to drink a lot of coffee, including quite a bit from various Third Wave roasters.

    I did see the Counter Culture flavor wheel and I think it's quite beautiful. Initially I thought they didn't cover taints and faults, but they have a great chart for those as well. I think Counter Culture, as a roaster, is really one of the best of the newer companies, with well-selected coffees and a classic full-city roast for many of them, vs. the current fad for roasting everything (including coffees intended for espresso) in the cinnamon-to-City range.

    As for third wave lunacy, I coudln't posssibly come up with anything as crazy as Intelligentsia's latest offering (a third of a pound of coffee for fifty bucks):

    No point in more satire when they're getting so good at parodying themselves...

  3. Hi Kevin,
    Apparently, Peet's "single cup" offerings are not K-Cups, at least according to the strict definition of what a traditional K-Cup is.

    To quote a Peet's regional manager, "The Peet's Single Cup is NOT a K-cup. We make it ourselves in our own Gold LEED Certified roasting facility where ALL of our coffee is roasted to order. We pack more coffee in the cup and use a mesh filter instead of the industry standard paper filter. This allows a much fuller, bolder cup of coffee. It is a true cup of Peet's."

    I haven't tasted Peet's "single cups" but I'd be shocked if these produced a "true cup of Peet's".

  4. Hi Jordan,

    Yes, I see they're careful to keep their references to Keurig to a minimum and to only point out that the Cuisanart single serve brewer they sell is "compatible with" K Cups. And I do know that Peet's did a great deal of testing and tweaking to try to optimize the flavor of this product, but - just as with the rest of the lousy coffee makers they continue to sell - there's no making a silk purse out of a sow's ear of brewers that don't get the water hot enough, don't hold enough coffee, etc.

    What the spokesperson should perhaps have said is that, just like stale pre-ground coffee sold in supermarkets and airports, these single serve pods are a "good enough" cup of Peet's. That really should be an oxymoron for a company and brand whose only hope of long-term survival is as a premium alternative to Starbucks. Instead those running the show seem to be doing everything they can to make Peet's into the next Tully's.

  5. Kevin - If you don't mind, I'd like to veer off "single cups" and ask you about Aged Sumatra coffee. Peet's appears to always have it yet it is typically hard to find at most other roasters on a consistent basis (with the exception of Martinez in Atlanta).

    Peets describes their Aged Sumatra as being "known for complex flavors originally developed on Dutch spice trade voyages, now imparted by our aging method." Would you know what their aging method is? Is this the reason it is seemingly always available while other roasters only have it for a very limited time?

    Thanks in advance.

  6. Hi Jordan -

    Traditionally the coffee is kept in large, fairly well-ventilated warehouses called "godowns" for at least 18 months and often longer, and is raked or mixed during that time so that it ages evenly. It's important that it be done under native conditions of relatively high heat and humidity. The goal is to replacate the appearance and flavor of coffee the way it was in the days of clipper ships, where it "sweated" in the cargo holds during the long sea voyage.

    Peet's and Starbucks used to be able to buy parcels of aged Indonesians on the spot market when they were smaller, but have long since had to pay to have coffees aged to their specifications under lock and key due to their size. This is of course especially true for Starbucks, which has to have aged Indonesians for their Christmas Blend.

    Having aged Sumatra year-round, like having a semi-aged Sulawesi, real Yemen Mocha, a consistent Sumatra with classic flavors and the like, is one of several traditions going back over 40 years that the Peet's green coffee team keeps alive. As I've said before, if they were running the show (and their marketing, strategy and consumer equpment folks were all given pink slips) it'd be a much better company.

  7. Hello Kevin,
    I want to thank you for the recommendation of the Ethiopian Super Natural from Peet's. It took me a week to appreciate this coffee, but when I did, it was 'Wow!'

    Since then, I've had the Arabian Mocha Sanani and the Bali Kintamani, but I'm hankering for the taste of the Super Natural. I've inquired about the Ethiopian Queen City, and they say they don't have a date when they would be offering it. Why is it so hard to find Harrar coffee?
    Also, I've asked Peet's why don't they have a dry processed Ethiopian year round and they said there is not enough dry processed produced for them to be carrying it full time. Can that really be true?
    In any case, I always look forward to reading and learning from your blog!
    (Sorry, if I've veered off topic also but I wanted to thank you.)


  8. Hello Aye -

    Thanks for your comments.

    I agree with you about the Ethiopia Super Natural and the Queen City Harrar. And it's ludicrous of anyone at Peet's to say there isn't enough dry-processed Ethiopian to carry year-round when they manage to carry Yemen Mocha - which is infinitely harder to get! - all the time. If they were more conscientious they'd carry either Yemen Mocha (on the rare occasions when it is excellent) or a first-rate dry-process Ethiopian grown and processed to their specifications, and they certainly have the buying power and cupping capabilities to make this happen. The Yemen coffee they do carry is far from being the best that the country has to offer (which come not from San'a but from Ismaily, Mattari and Harazi), and I've tasted over a dozen fabulous Ethiopian naturals from both small roasters and home roasting supplier Sweet Maria's this year. It's certainly a major missed opportunity, and all the more so as this kind of Ethiopian coffee is even more popular with Peet's employees than it is with connoisseur customers like yourself.

  9. A co-worker alerted me to this and I thought I would share.

    Essentially some New York people making their own compatible capsules for Nespresso machines. I fear that these are nothing but the same under-roasted acid bomb shots you can get everywhere here. Also I am suspect of the freshness and quality. They claim they hermetically seal the capsules, however no nitro flush. I think Nespresso grinds and seals them in some sort of NASA like room with zero oxygen and uses those water cooled grinders. I can't help but see a bunch of hipsters manually grinding beans with a Virtuoso and using a chopstick to level off the pods before capping them. But, what can I say? I will most likely try them. Still bummed not to see any Indonesian beans in the blends.

    1. Hi Patrick -

      Thanks for sharing this link. From perusing the web site these guys come across as very sincere and enthusiastic, though with no coffee background to speak of. What you say about Nestlé's manufacturing process certainly rings true to me, and I share your doubts about coffee quality and freshness from a tiny start-up like this. At the end of the day, the question is: what can they do better than Nestlé can do it, and I'm afraid I can't think of anything. That said, I do think they're correct that the Nespresso system is the best out there (except of course for home-roasted beans from Sweet Maria's in an Aeropress at my house!).

  10. Just as a follow up to one of your above comments about Counter Culture. It seems they have really stepped up their game. I had an Kenyan from them in an aeropress a couple of months ago and it was rather "old school". Mouth full of blackberries. It was wonderful!

  11. Based on what I've tasted Patrick I agree with you, and a friend who's in the coffee business (importing side) who lives in Portland recently mentioned how much better-roasted Counter Culture's coffee was than anything available locally, which is saying a lot. As with my old alma mater Allegro Coffee, or, as another example, Batdorf & Bronson, Counter Culture suffers from being a wholesale roaster rather than a roaster-retailer, meaning that they'll never have the brand recongition or buzz about them that their coffee merits. Thanks again for your comments!