Friday, May 25, 2007

Seattle Espresso

Just outside the Auckland ferry terminal sits the "Seattle Espresso" coffee shop. Being U.S. expats, we tend to notices all things American here in New Zealand. Needless to say, walking past Seattle Espresso every day is a bit of a head trip. On my way to an interview a few weeks back I was dragging, so I decided to stop in for a bit of Seattle Espresso and purchase some performance enhancing drugs there.

"What's the deal with the Seattle branding?" I asked the woman behind the counter. I expected them to say that the owner was from Seattle. Or maybe they had a sister in Seattle and they fell in love with the espresso there. Possibly they'd come clean and admit that it was just a marketing gimmick. Nope. "We import our beans from Seattle," she replied.

You've got to be kidding me, right? I suddenly felt very sheepish standing there with my cup of espresso. I'm no geographer, but I'm pretty sure that coffee is grown nowhere near Seattle. Yup, Central and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia, and Madagascar seem to be where most of the brown stuff comes from. I realized, chances were better than not, that my coffee:

1. Was grown somewhere south of the equator.
2. Was shipped via container vessel north to Seattle.
3. Was offloaded from a container vessel, divided up by a middle man, and distributed to some coffee roaster in Seattle.
4. Was roasted.
5. Was packaged into some sort of flavor-retaining packaging.
6. Was then probably air-freighted back across the equator to Auckland and delivered via courier to Seattle Espresso.
7. Was ground up and put under high pressure steam to extract only best oils and flavors from the well-traveled bean, was mixed with some frothy milk and put into an insulated paper cup and served to a guy who used to live (relatively speaking) very close to Seattle.

Sustainable? Only in Dick Cheney's wildest fantasies.

I'm not ready to give up my newly found addiction, but I think I'll be making a conscious effort to buy coffee that was at least shipped raw to New Zealand and roasted here.