Thursday, August 6, 2009

If I can't take my coffee break...

When it comes to coffee, I am a Dunkin' Donuts devotee -- although most of the time, it's home-brewed. My parents started brewing DD coffee at home years ago, when I first developed my morning-coffee habit, and when I got the husband hooked I made him a DD fan too. Now he always makes the coffee at home, because he's much more serious about it than I am (there's a trick to measuring the beans I can't master, or honestly even understand). And it's always from Dunkin' Donuts.

Here's how addicted we are to Dunkin' Donuts coffee: we went on a three-day private retreat earlier this week, for which we rented rooms in a tiny lakefront cottage. We left behind many creature comforts -- which was sort of the point, it being a retreat and all -- but we knew they had a coffeemaker in the cottage, so we brought a bag of Dunkin' Donuts coffee grounds with us...because what were we going to do, just drink the coffee they had there? Please. There's asceticism and then there's mortification of the flesh.

So anyway, we like our Dunkin' Donuts. But lately we've been seeing all these ads for their flavored coffees, and they leave us scratching our heads. I mean, hazelnut I can understand, and even caramel, but who wants their coffee to taste like raspberries? Or blueberries? The other day I saw a print ad on the side of a bus shelter with this image: a cup of DD iced coffee covered with a square of red-and-white-checked fabric, like it was a jar of homemade jam. Which was a cute idea, except: who would find that appetizing? I don't want my coffee to be jammy, for heaven's sake. And if you do, you should probably switch to some other beverage.

Given all that personal history, I very much enjoyed Nathan Heller's piece at Slate this week taste-testing and ranking coffee from Starbucks, McDonald's, and Dunkin' Donuts. It validates my own preference (there's no contest, seriously), and I'm pleased to see such a frank and unapologetic acknowledgment that Starbucks coffee is really very bad. But the writeup is also very entertaining.

Dunkin' Donuts' eagerness to put flavor-obscuring agents in its "joe" is ironic, because the chain's drip coffee was our tasters' favorite. (Dunkin' also earned our highest score overall.) Although we found the coffee more watery than we would have liked, it was the least oily of the three samples and—more to the point—the least unsettling to behold. ("This one is all presentation," someone said—an odd observation about something delivered via a paper cup and one that gives a loose sense of our grading curve.)
They're right about its being more watery than is ideal. But that's why we brew it at home, where we can get the grounds-to-water ratio just perfect. (Ask the husband for the secret recipe!)

I will say I'm confused about Slate's decision to also sample cappuccinos from each vendor, because does anyone really expect any of these places to serve a decent cappuccino? Why bother?

In other customer advocacy journalism news: David Pogue at the New York Times is on a crusade against needlessly long automatic voice-mail instructions. You know how when you get someone's voice mail, an automatic message comes on after their recorded message to tell you what to do next? The companies put that there to make you spend more time on the phone. Really, that's why! And David Pogue is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. He has some good tips for coping and complaining, but mostly I just enjoyed seeing him vent about something that's been making me crazy for years.
Do we really need to be told to hang up when we’re finished!? Would anyone, ever, want to “send a numeric page?” Who still carries a pager, for heaven’s sake? Or what about “leave a callback number?” We can SEE the callback number right on our phones!
Truer words were never spoken. Godspeed, David Pogue. I'm off to write my senator -- because if there's one person we can count on to take this cause to the federal level, it's Chuck Schumer!


Sarah D Bunting said...

I know it sounds crazy, but the blueberry coffee is really really good. And so is the coconut. I don't go in for that sort of thing usually, but my brother got me a blueberry java by mistake once and I've loved them ever since.

katherinef said...

DD leads the pack here in Korea too! They're the first to open a local roasting facility (otherwise beans are roasted somewhere ... else ... and imported).

The English speaking community's only major complaint is the choice of "Roasting" as the ad buzz word (tee hee). There are no "r"'s in Korean, producing an unintended comic effect:

Mollie said...

Sarah, I reject your attempt to break me out of my preconceived notions. ...Seriously though, I will probably have a coconut iced coffee sooner or later. Why does that sound less crazy than blueberry? Who can say.

KF, thank you for the overseas dispatch! If instant coffee is really the standard in Korea, then DD may truly be the greatest gift Western imperialism can give to the East.