Lunch Meets | Coffee edition
[Ed. note: Welcome back to Lunch Meets, our weekly online column where TOC's Food & Drink intern, John Irvine, infiltrates the anonymous lunch masses in the Loop and asks the tough food questions. This week, to coincide with our story on micro coffee roasters in Chicago, John asks the men and women of the street this question: Do you do coffee? Find the answers—and find out why everyone, including Quinn (pictured here) is a caffeine addict—after the jump.]
Quinn Clark, 23, in the North Art Institute Gardens
How do you take your coffee?
So what does that say about you?
I guess it says that I like bitter things. I like bitter, not sweetness. Like with my literature. I don’t like sweetness.
What are you reading?
Farewell to Arms by Hemmingway. Kinda bitter. It’s like black coffee.
Makes sense. Black coffee doesn’t have the best aftertaste… sorta like the book’s ending?
Are you more of an espresso drinker or do you go for the regular drip?
I’m a drip coffee kinda guy, but I just got back from West Africa and there is espresso everywhere. So I’ve been kinda getting into the espresso thing. With that, though, I like the cream and sugar.
Yeah that can be intense. I’m not built for espresso shots.
I can do black coffee, but straight espresso? Too much.
Do you get lattes or how do you order it?
I just get shots of espresso. I always like local joints because they give you a mug. It makes me feel like I’m at home, but I’m not—but I still get to drink out of a mug.
Do you go for artsy ones with open mics and aspiring singer-songwriters? Quick and efficient ones? Or ones where you can stop and read?
I guess I’m a sucker for the sort of, sit down at a coffee shop, drink a book, um, drink a book, read a coffee. [Laughs.] You know. That type of thing. I like that. I like places with comfy chairs and tables and mugs where I can nuzzle in.
Not into a stark cafeteria coffee shop? You want the atmosphere? That’s demanding.
Yeah, definitely. It’s not just about the coffee. I want to get cozy.
Do you brew coffee at home? Do you tend to be a pretentious, French press person?
No, I’m coffee illiterate, really. I can taste that there is a difference and I like it, but I guess I’m just not that enthusiastic.
There are all these implications with using the French press...
You know those folks. “I never grind the beans the night before, only the day of.” Come on, it’s coffee.
Eric Fleischauer, 34, in the South Art Institute Gardens
How do you get your coffee?
It depends, I either make it at home or I grab it on my way to work. Yeah, so I usually sleep in, so if I’m running late I’ll just grab it.
So coffee is your crutch to get you through the day?
Yes, I’ll admit that.
How do you order your coffee?
I really like a particular kind. I get it at Intelligentsia. I like the pour-over method. So when I’m downtown and I’m on my way to work I head to one of the Intelligentsia’s downtown because I work down here. And I go to one of those and I get a pour over, but during the summer I get iced coffee.
So basically what you’re telling me is that you’re pretentious about your coffee.
I don’t really like that word. I like to think that at this stage in my life I only like to drink good coffee. I’ll skip getting a coffee at Cosí or something. I’d rather wait.
Why is it better though?
The pour-over seems fresher. There’s something about it and the way the flavors come out. It’s just, like, fresher. And also you don’t need so much. It’s a little bit more...I don’t know if it’s stronger, but it’s more clean and fresh and in your face.
Ah, it wakes you up more. OK. That’s a reason to like it.
Yeah, you could say that. I do pour-over at home too. I bought a little cone and do the pour-over at home. I got into it a few years ago.
Did Intelligentsia get you into it or what?
Yeah, I mean they do that pour-over. It’s how they serve all of their coffee, so I bought my pour-over cone there and now that’s what I do at home.
So you totally bought into it.
Yeah, it’s just that good.
And then how do you drink your coffee: cream, sugar, or black?
I drink it black. Always black. The flavor is so pungent and prominent that I don’t like the cream or sugar, I just take it straight.
What do you think that says about you as a person?
It shows that I’m just a particular person. I’m a Virgo and I have my particular ways and maybe that has something to do with that.
The habit of drinking is explained by your sign?
Yeah, you could say that.
What kind of coffee shop do you go for, then? Do you go for an artsy, open-mic shop or a fast one?
I go for one with comfortable chairs and free wifi. I like to work in coffee shops so I like my wifi and a comfortable chair with a back.
A chair with a back. You’re so demanding! Only joking. Where do they have comfortable chairs with backs?
I live in Logan Square and so I like Star Lounge. They have good coffee and it’s a nice vibe in there. I also live near New Wave Coffee. They’re all right. It’s kinda a weird cafeteria vibe, though. It’s like hipster cafeteria. I don’t hang out there much.
Wendy Mendoza, 35, in the South Art Institute Gardens
Where do you get your coffee?
Well, I usually make it at home or pick some up from Starbucks or McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts.
So it’s about the quick, utilitarian caffeine boost for you?
Yes it is.
You’re an ever-day, coffee addict?
What happens if you don’t get your coffee?
I definitely get a headache and usually am incredibly crabby.
How do you order it?
Cream and sugar, but lately we’ve been doing cream and Splenda.
What does cream and Splenda say about you?
I think it says that I like my coffee loaded. All-out, in every sense. Balls to the wall.
Okay girl! Do you go for lattés or mochas?
Absolutely. My favorite foofoo latté is a macchiato. It’s got the foam and the espresso.
The foam is the best part. I like the cappuccinos because they have so much foam.
Yeah, okay, I’m into that.
It seems for you that coffee is sort of the crutch to get you through the day, though.
Yeah, it’s what gets me going.
And I’m guessing you don’t bother with the French press or nice coffee beans?
No, no. I only do French press when I’m at a hotel or something, and normally I just do my drip. I don’t need to be pretentious about my coffee. It’s whatever gets the job done.
Have you always been a coffee person or is it a learned trait?
Always. I think ever since I could drink coffee I’ve been drinking coffee. I started in high school. My mom would make coffee in the morning and I think it was during my junior year that I just said, “I gotta have some of that.” So I would have that with my breakfast and that explains the caffeine addiction.
I am a self-diagnosed Diet Coke addict, so I feel your pain.
I know—it’s hard! I’ve tried to kick it a few times. I’ve been there. I know that.
Becky Bivens, 27, in the South Art Institute Gardens
Are you a coffee drinker?
Yes, I definitely am.
How do you order your coffee?
If it’s good coffee, I get it black. But if it’s bad, I get cream and sugar.
What’s the difference there?
The cream and sugar serve a utilitarian purpose in the case of bad coffee. It’s not about the taste when it’s bad coffee; it’s about the caffeine.
Are you normally a black coffee person or do you get cappuccinos and lattes?
I usually go for black coffee or a macchiato—never as much milk as is in a latte.
I agree. I am into the foam, not the milk. Do you get a flavored macchiato?
No. No, no, no, no, no.
So you’re all about the simplicity, I see. Where is your favorite place?
Well, I work at the Intelligentsia in Millennium Park so I would probably have to say there.
Ah, yes. Allegiances. Where do you go to sit and relax with a coffee?
I like The Wormhole in Wicker Park. I like the staff and the coffee.
Did Intelligentsia convert you to pour-over coffee, then?
I would say so. I like it better than French press and definitely better than the drip. It’s just cleaner and you can actually taste the coffee flavors. Rather than just some bitter beans.
And are you a caffeine-riddled addict?
What happens if you don’t get your fix?
I don’t know. I haven’t tried it. It’s probably dangerous.
We wouldn’t want you or anyone around you to get hurt...
Totally. I’ve always been a coffee person. I think it’s like a self-medicating type of thing. I’m also an academic so it’s what gets me through long nights and early mornings.
It’s always a depressing moment when the café in the library closes and you can’t get your caffeine fix.
That is awful.
So do you have a favorite bean?
I am a Yirgacheffe coffee person. It’s the coffee of Ethiopia.
Zev Norotsky, 33, in the North Art Institute Gardens
How do you order your coffee?
That’s such a hard question. I usually order an ice caramel macchiato.
With soy milk and an extra shot.
What do you think that says about you?
I think it says that I have a caffeine addiction and that I overpay for a sugary nonessential.
As an addict do you drink coffee everyday?
Yeah, I’m a caffeine junkie.
What happens if you don’t get your caffeine?
I get extremely angry and irritable.
Oh, yes. How much caffeine do you get in a day, then?
Between coffee and energy drinks I’d say probably four to five servings.
Sounds about on par with me. So can you hang with the black coffee?
No, I always really gravitate towards that caramel flavor. Gotta dress it up a little.
Yeah I like to add extra shots to make it a little stronger. Get the extra kick. That way I don’t have to get a large and I don’t have to feel as bloated and I don’t have to drink as much milk.
That’s thoughtful. And where do you go for your coffee?
Just out of convenience I go to Starbucks. I don’t have a barista relationship or anything like that. Coffee is a commodity.