Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Coffee in the Key of E Flat

Not all coffee cups are the same. Some are in the key of C. Some are in E flat.

We aired a Fresh Look at coffee competition. Yiching and John Piquet, owners of caffe d'bolla (across the street from the Salt Lake City Main Library) were headed to Denver for the Mountain Regional Barista Competition.

That's right, baristas compete.

They make twelve drinks -- four espresso, four cappuccino and four specialty drinks -- in 15 minutes and are judged on technical skill, cleanliness, presentation and, of course, taste.

And people watch.

At last year's World Barista Championship in Tokyo, three thousand people showed up.

To watch somebody make coffee.

No doubt, really good coffee.

I thought this story needed a soundtrack, and so I played one with coffee cups.

Paper cups for rhythm.

Ceramic for melody.

And this is what I learned:

-No matter what you think of Starbucks, their carry-out cups have a nicely rounded tone.
-It seems like most ceramic cups are tuned to C or B flat.
-If you walk into a thrift shop and start wacking coffee cups with a spoon to find the best-sounding ones, people will give you a little extra personal space.
-And when you bring home a plastic box full of thrift store cups, especially the ones with goofy pumpkins and golf sayings on them, your wife will laugh. At the coffee cups, of course.

I sampled my cup collection (my thrift store set and the to-go cups I've been hoarding in my closet), a coffee drip or two, and, of course, the obligatory espresso machine steam burst and played it on a keyboard.

I needed a bass line, so I strung a rubber band across a cup to make a miniature washtub bass and processed it with a simulated guitar amp.

And I learned one other thing.

Maybe I should reserve my coffee cups...for drinking coffee.

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