Just read an interview on Salon.com with the author of a new book on coffee, "God in a Cup," with some comments that echo our own feelings on coffee.
"Coffee has had few champions in the culinary world," journalist and "self described coffee obsessive" Michaele Weissman tells Salon. "Unlike wine, a beverage to which coffee is often compared, the professional culinary elite and foodies in general have paid little attention to coffee. If you don't believe me, check out the coffee at most high-end restaurants. ... Coffee doesn't really have a place in the culinary pantheon, but I strongly believe that is beginning to change. At least I hope so."
Weissman also extolls the virtues of buying from local roasters, both from a flavor standpoint and from the standpoint of trying to make sure coffee growers are treated fairly ("Fair Trade," she says, doesn't necessarily do the best job of that):
"The thing to do is buy local. And, I would add, buy delicious -- meaning that high quality which takes an effort to achieve should be rewarded. Coffee, of course, doesn't grow locally. More and more, however, it is roasted locally. So if you want to make sure that you are buying coffee that rewards farmers fairly, I would say get to know your local roasters. And you don't have to pay a fortune, by the way. In fact, you can purchase a great pound of coffee from which you can brew 30 or 40 mugs of coffee for, say, $13 or $14 a pound. Skip Starbucks for three days and you can afford to buy some of the world's best coffee. Compare that to a bottle of wine that two people polish off in an evening!"
We're fortunate to have several local roasters in the Birmingham area. Primavera Coffee Roasters has a coffee shop and small roasting facility in Cahaba Heights. O'Kafes is opening a coffeehouse in the Martin Biscuit building within the Pepper Place complex. There's also Higher Ground Roasters in Leeds, which sells its coffee through local grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Publix. All three allow you to buy coffee online, and are available at V. Richard's, too.
We'd love to see some of our excellent local high-end restaurants offer coffee from these small local roasters, just as they offer produce from the likes of Jones Valley Urban Farm and Snow's Bend Farm, cheese from Wright's Dairy or Belle Chevre, or stone-ground grains from McEwen & Sons.