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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Comments

I would point you in the direction of sweetmarias.com and look under their library or blog section for articles regarding coffee. You will fill your coffee cup there, I'm sure.

I might think about the teapot, I do drink tea and the Chinese cast pots are quite nice.

The greater questions is it at an inflated mall price, do I get the tea and, nothing personal, do I get a "Mike is not a solicitous attractive young lady" discount.

If so email the shipping included price and I'll have thought on it. Or, you could print off one of my fabu antique motorcycle pics. I'd offer to do it and trade but my printer bit the bullet last week and will remain unfunded for a month or two.

As with Ctein & tea, I am a coffee geek/gourmand - not connoisseur.
I found Sweet Marias (http://www.sweetmarias.com/index.php) several years back and roast my own on a weekly basis now. Lots of information there about all things coffee and pleasant reading. Compare the coffee bean prices to your local coffee emporium & you will be pleasantly surprised.

That is a lovely teapot, which I would be delighted to have--plus the story that goes with it. Mail me at the address below with what you think would be a fair price, and let's work something out.

- Will

Delightfully written, Mike. This latest is the perfect bookend to Ctein's equally wonderfully expressed thoughts about tea.

Mike, you'll find this interesting, on Seth Robert's blog -

http://blog.sethroberts.net/category/tea/

It would apply just as well to coffee. It's about developing connoisseur-ship. To sum up, one needs to make comparisons very close together in time, among similar variations (like changing the brew time). This is how you train you brain to recognize differences and develop preferences.

I like to cut to the chase when it comes to connoisseurship. So I polled a few coffee lovers, and most of them pointed to Peet's Coffee and Tea. I have been very happy with their quality, flavor, and service. Check out the very brief bio of Alfred Peet in Wikipedia. You'll like him; and whether you do or not, you'll like his coffee. There would be no Starbucks were it not for him. The founders of Starbucks, one of whom now owns Peet's, first sold Peet's Coffee out of their Seattle store.

I also recommend their Snow Leopard white tea. Once you convince yourself you can taste it, it's pretty good.

Coming from a Latino background, I was instilled with a love of good coffee- not always guaranteed even in more upscale cafes and coffee shops (and I'm not talking Amsterdam- but I digress). For that reason, I always get an expresso, cappucino or latte when outside, one of the few luxuries I allow myself. At home I make my own with a small cappuccino maker, usually Italian Roast (ground for expresso, natch).

"a beautiful whole-plate size view camera"

It was the Single Use Device, it's Use was simply not what you thought.

It gave you another opportunity to learn how to differentiate between things that are interesting and/or attractive and those that are useful.

My own technique, which has proven surprisingly effective - when I actually use it - is to back away from the purchase, for at least a few moments, and envision myself using whatever it is. Which things that attract me to it are actually meaningful and which are not useful, or even detrimental to actual use?

With a camera, for instance, I close my eyes and imagine myself in various shooting situations I've experienced, using the camera in question. I recall how I use/used present and past cameras; what worked well and what did not or frustrated me. I imagine how the new camera might work in those situations.

Someone watching may even think I've lost it, as I hold my hands up, manipulating an invisible object.

It is remarkable to me how quickly this sort of exercise can separate the wheat from the chaff in my desires.

I have friends who go through cameras so quickly I can't keep track, and others whose resistance to changing seems to me to limit what they can do. I feel I've followed an intermediate path, changing only when the next camera offers real improvements in capabilities over the current one.

Canon 300D, 7/2004 - inexpensive intro to DSLRs, can use all my many OM mount lenses.

Canon 5D, 5/2006 - Yes, DSLRs are for me, and there is finally a full frame one that's affordable and has great IQ.

Canon 60D, 4/2011 - Too many factors to mention here, but I'm still in love 5,300 shots later.

This technique has served me well in countless choices. Where I find myself with something foolishly acquired, it's almost always because I didn't follow my own advice.

One might even try it for relationships.

Moose

No tea connoisseur here -- and so long as the coffee has caffeine, I can be happy with it...

On New Year's resolutions, though, I tried a twist on the usual theme last year. My list was of things I wanted to incorporate into my life by Dec. 31st. Will take a look at that list again after the 25th, see if I accomplish ANY of the goals, and try again in the coming year with those I didn't get to.

Great post, Mike. And, yes, I am sure I have done the same thing in the distant past re pretty sales-ladies, but the details escape me at the moment. I had a good laugh to start my day off. Cheers. David.

Mike, I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but it's OK not to like tea. You sound like some photographers I've encountered who struggle to shoot exclusively with primes, which they attempt to do because "it's the proper thing to do". *I* shoot mostly with primes, but I do so because I like it, not because it makes me part of an elite group or anything. In fact, I wouldn't want to be part of a photography group that would accept me because I shot with primes (to paraphrase G. Marx).

What I tell these photographers is to shoot with zooms if that's what makes them happy. And if that means snobbish prime photographers stop talking to them, they should count their blessings they no longer have to put up with the fools.

As for you, stick to coffee! The last thing we need around here is for the Editor to become even more of a curmudgeon because he's not drinking his favourite brew.

But you were on a massive weight loss regime right? That's a pretty big deal for anyone, young or old.

Pak

Great piece, made me laugh. Always beware of fantasies & wishes that include an idealised self - that's the warning I (try to) heed, considering the numerous dead end streets I have moved into in the course of my life. Some were great fun, too, while they lasted. As to that ...

Mike, we've been pretty well pleased here at the Swamp using a Keurig single brew coffee maker using K-cups. Six ounces of water and the K-cup flavor of your choice, three minutes of time. We too have tried grinding fresh coffee beans, various types of coffee makers - and the Keurig seems to be a good compromise.

I do have an old family recipe for the perfect cup of tea:

1/2 ounce of tea, six ounces of hot (but not boiling) water. Steep tea in water for three minutes (but not more than three!).

While tea is steeping take a heavy, leaded glass and add six ice cubes. Add three fingers of Jack Daniel's whiskey.

When the tea is brewed toss the tea into the sink, drink the whiskey.

(As an alternative you may substitute bourbon or single malt scotch for the Jack Daniel's).

HTH

Jim

David,
I'm glad I'm not the only one. [g]

Mike

Here is an idea for 2012 that kills the proverbial birds with one stone: find your local (i.e. not Starbucks or any other national chain), preferable one-of-a-kind coffee purveyor, talk to the barrista (for you coffee challenged that is the person making your coffee drink) and try a different coffee beverage once every week or so. You will be supporting your local businesses, learn a lot about coffee connoisseurship, make a resolution you can probably keep, while allowing yourself to get out of TOP global headquarters and perhaps make an image or two along the way!

"But you were on a massive weight loss regime right? That's a pretty big deal for anyone, young or old."

Yes, and that's going quite well, I must say. I've changed my diet radically.

Mike

Coffee? It is fairly simple, there are two types; Espresso and Instant. Instant is a coffee-flavoured substitute for the times when you are too far away from an Espresso machine to get a real coffee. You can't hike with an Espresso machine.

Espresso is produced by forcing pressurised water-vapour through ground roasted coffee beans and collecting the resulting drips in your cup. Everything else involving coffee beans is just a failed experiment along the path towards Espresso.

Espresso is always fresh and cannot sit in a pot for half a day. Milk can be added in the morning in varying degrees of frothiness (latte, cappuccino) but Europeans will generally drink it black in the afternoon. It is meant to be a quick pick-me-up so you get a little cup or glass, not a big mug. Anything that comes in sizes like grande or with flavouring is a completely different beverage that just shares a similar sounding name.

Espresso coffee is normally made from a distinct type of bean rather than a blend of beans from different sources. There is no English Breakfast Coffee (or if there is it comes in a tin). Half the fun is trying the different types to see which one you prefer.

Great piece Mike,and I recognise my own shortcomings in every line,we could be brothers.
You'll never know how good it feels to know one's not the only smuck on the planet,no offence intended,I warm to your humanity,and anyway there's always next year for the view camera.
I'm sure I'm not the only TOP reader who would like to see some large prints from that basement darkroom.

Hilarious, that kind of writing makes you so likable. As for coffee connoisseur-ship, I also went down that road (or tried to). The problem is that you get to a Leica-dilemma very quickly: http://tinyurl.com/cy44w4n

And of course you need a _manual fully wooden_ mill to grind your own coffee, otherwise it is like shooting an MP with color negative film and giving it to a cheap lab.

I passed on the Elektra, but got such a mill to use with my cheapo espresso machine (like shooting an M6 and do own developing). The coffee is far from perfect, but the experience is deeper than just pressing a button. For perfect coffee I go to Reisinger's (http://www.cafe-reisinger.at) for some special blend which the owner imports from Italy and still sells for normal prices (like having Ctein doing your prints, $40 each).

And then there is Kona Coffee (http://www.konacoffee.com/) from Hawaii, which is quite expensive, but worth every cent in my opinion. Of course tastes will vary, and Kona is very different from the usual espresso, it is more creamy, has almost no acid and a nutty and earthy taste. That along with some really dark chocolate makes a heavenly treat.

Hope this helps...
Andreas

Mike,

Have you tried the Steaming Cup in downtown Waukesha. I recommend the dark blend and a chocolate brownie. I've been there a few times on a Sunday morning which is a good time for people watching, especially if Carroll College (oops University) coeds are present. Bring along the sunday paper so it looks like you are reading something in it.

John


I've been devoted to coffee for the past 50 years. A few opinions:
--Starbuck's "city roast" is a poor start to making a good cup of coffee. The more the beans are "burned," the more you can mask inferior product. (Let the flame wars begin.) Medium roast is the way to a basic cup of good coffee.
--If your coffee requires milk or cream, you're not making good coffee. I don't exactly wince when I see dairy products combined with coffee, but it's not something I'd ever do.
--Grind your own beans, preferably with a conical burr grinder.
--Sugar? Disgusting.
--You can't make good coffee without good tasting water.
--Robusta bad; arabica good.
--Always HOT. Wide cups might look nice, but they dump heat a lot faster than somewhat tall cups.
--Never reheat; never leave on a burner or "warmer." Make it; drink it; make some more.

As for choice of beans, equipment, and method, it's a lifelong journey of pleasure seeking.

Mike:

With my half-Finnish ancestry, I have a one pound per week medium roast habit. I am no connoisseur, but I recommend that you find a good local roaster, buy recently roasted whole beans, grind it yourself immediately before brewing, and down it while it is fresh and searing hot.

John

Hmm... they must be employing pretty saleswomen as matter of practice. Not that I'm complainin'

I was in the same situation as you, Mike, but I cheapened out and went away with a free sampler of some very sweet and pink iced tea.

But that teapot is nice. At least you got a good "keeper" still-life, if not tea-vana ("tea nirvna", geddit)?

*PS posting w/ one name only and no web page reference. One of the precautions I take to keep my marriage intact.

@ John Camp...

The best book for drawing for me (I was terrible) has been Betty Edwards' 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,' just released in its 4th improved edition. It's very inexpensive through Amazon. Many of the principles apply to photography, e.g., drawing upside down, much like a view camera image (except not reversed). She is a good teacher and explains the techniques and rationale well. She also suggests a few useful tools one can order, although these can be self-provided.

This is the conundrum I live with. My wife drinks a lot of tea, I drink a lot of coffee. I know that tea is better for you, I know tea tastes like dishwater. I have gone into tea stores and prefaced my asking for a tea by stating that I am a coffee drinker... I get chi or some other equally vile liquid. The chinese, the Japanese and many cultures have been drinking tea for a zillion years, they have refined it celebrated it, venerated it.... we have Nestea, Redrose and many other bland nondescript solvent based drinks. I have not given up hope that there may still be a tea for us coffee drinkers!

What, a pretty face caught your eye and sold you something you didn't need? Never heard of THAT before. Although there was that bottle of Cristal that one time in that nightclub in France. Sheesh. Feck it, you only live once, right? As to Coffee, buy a burr grinder, even a cheap one (I hear the starbucks one is ok) and a bag of any basic Italian espresso beans (not Starbucks- Lavazza are widely available, and perfectly good) and your coffee will improve exponentially, whatever your preferred brewing method.

Mike, You know, once I had a longish conversation with a Teavana store manager at a bar. I think everyone there makes commissions on sales, so you made her day's pay in more ways than one.

There's a really vibrant coffee community online. A lot of it is overly technical, and overly geeky, but a nice page with links to a bunch of how-tos is here: http://brewmethods.com/

It's my one area of real expertise. If you want me to write a guest post about how to start brewing coffee at home, I'd be more than happy to do it for you. I've been making coffee professionally since 2002, although I left a year or two ago, and now I only make coffee at home for myself and friends.

But you know, in the end, coffee is all about conversation, and friendships. http://www.flickr.com/photos/coffeespoonr/5284045519/in/photostream That's my friend Sara when we went on a field trip to Minneapolis to check out this new coffeeshop/bike shop with our new friend Kristen. She brought a Canon 5D but with a dead battery, so I shot this on a Leica with Ektar 100 in it. Pace Kirk Tuck, coffee promotes handholding stability.

This post made me chuckle because, like you, I too fell under the spell of a Teavana girl and bought the same teapot you did (along with $50 worth of tea).

I kicked myself later when I went to my local World Market and saw the exact same teapot for $15 and the same tea for $10.

Lets turn the telescope backward. I am a salesman/manager for a large US retailer. I try hard to be sincere when dealing with customers.

I admit that my ability to be sincere can vary depending on what kind of behind the scenes work load upper management has placed on my overburdened shoulders.

I also admit that if your teapot salesperson came into my store it would be possible for my sincerity levels to spike for a short period of time. Happens.

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease (no gluten = no beer) I was certain I would become a wine snob. When g-free beer showed up and I tasted it, I was still convinced I'd prefer wine. Yet.. I really didn't. It was a surprise to me, but not a bad one. I occasionally console my failure at wine snobbery with a shot of Irish whiskey or cream, so things aren't so bad after all.

Mike, how many material objects do you have around the home that are as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as that cast iron teapot? How many do you have around the house that are associated with such a pleasant and memorable buying experience? I presume, but I daresay very few indeed.

I'm all for spending money on experiences, but sometimes, a few dollars embodied in a material object is a great value, in and of itself. Kinda like a Leica camera to collectors, y'know?

Find a mantelpiece, small table, or desk to keep your little curio on, and get on with drinking coffee.

Regarding which, may I recommend the almost impossible to find India peaberry? Haut coffee snobs will retreat in embarrassment at your impossibly esoteric taste in coffee.

Here's another vote for Sweet Maria's as a source of coffee lore and supplies.


Delightful piece. I fool myself that I come here for the topics; I really come for the prose. Thanks.

My views may be tainted by the fact that I believe that we are born with very little, and that almost all of our personal traits are learnt, albeit often in the very first 2-3 years of our life.

However, I think that optimism or pessimism is largely a result of our expectations - if I expect the world, then clearly I am going to doubt that I will get it, and I will be disappointed if I do not. If I expect nothing then I might think it likely that I may get slightly more than that, and I will be happy for any small things that I do get.

To use the glass metaphor: If I expect the glass to be full, then I will be disappointed when it is in fact half empty, but if I expect it to be empty, then it will seem like a bonus if it is half full.

Therefore, to become more optimistic, one would only have to lower ones expectations.

Some people seem to think that this change of attitude is possible http://www.effective-mind-control.com/pessimist-to-optimist.html

I think perhaps people are confusing difficult with impossible, and are not going about it in the right way.

The way to truly change your ways is to act as if you already had, and to keep yourself busy enough that you are not thinking about it. In this way you will get used to others reactions to this behaviour, and form a habit.

Being interested and delighted by things is perhaps more tricky to instigate, as it requires a pro-active action, where simply not being interested requires none.

However, I think once you start the process - by initially feigning delight and investigating something, then it will become a catalyst to itself - things *are* interesting to people, and usually, the more time that they spend learning about them, the more interesting they become. And of course once this process has been completed once, the person will remember this, and will likely become interested in things in anticipation of learning about them.

I'm not saying it is easy to change your ways, but I think it is possible. You not only have to decide that you have changed, and also act as if you have changed, but you have to genuinely convince yourself that you have changed. The way to do this is to make it a game, keep acting as if you have changed, until you get so wrapped up in it that you forget about it and wake up one morning and find that, without realising it, you have in fact turned into a different person.

When my first marriage was on the rocks, I used to frequent a particular restaurant in town and ensure that I had a particular waitress wait on me. So yeah, I understand.

There does seem to be a pretty big overlap between photo people and coffee people.

Allow me to direct you to http://coffeegeek.com/ which will answer all the questions you have now and most questions you will ever have.

I usually use an AeroPress for my own coffee. It's very easy, very forgiving brewing system. Faster than anything else short of a spoonful of instant (gag) as well, and cleans up in a flash. An AeroPress is about forty bucks.

The grinder is worth spending money on. Blade grinders are worthless - you will never get an even grind from them, so some particles will always be overextracted and the result will be bitter. Baratza make good burr grinders. I use the Virtuoso, around $200 most places. The next step down is fine too. The Virtuoso will last longer though.

Beans, as a general principle you will not find quality beans at a supermarket, nor at a Starbucks. Some good names are Fratello, Intelligentsia, Phil & Sebastian. It varies by region, most of these roasters are pretty small and have limited distribution.

The only downside of getting used to good coffee is you end up not being able to drink coffee almost anywhere other than at home!

I once bought a Nikon F4 like that. Well, I wanted the F4, but wasn't really interested in the extended warranty I was mesmerized into buying.

It turned out OK, though. A couple of years later while shooting a football game, my cold fingers dropped a roll of film right onto the shutter curtains. The extended warranty covered the resulting mess and more than paid for itself.

I bought a Nespresso machine for the office, tried some of their variants, That's as far as I'm willing to go into connoisseur territory. At least I think marginal revenue turns negative after that for me.
On changing our temperaments, paroxetine. It made me a new person. I never felt a normal person in my life, now I do.

Connoisseurship is a funny thing. I almost got caught up in it with coffee. I researched methods and thought seriously about going so far as not only grinding my own beans, but home roasting. (It's not that hard to do).

Then common sense kicks in.

I could get into it. But it's not important and I don't have the time. With a full time job, a house & yard to maintain, and a family, I can only make time for a limited number of extracurricular pursuits. Photography is the main one.

I did get hooked on "decent" coffee on vacation years ago when we visited a coffee roaster in Kingston, Rhode Island called "Majik Coffee". I bought from them, then Barrington Coffee, then a couple others, then started buying fair trade coffee from Deans Beans (Dean Cycon has written an interesting book about his travels and efforts to raise awareness about the coffee industry) and now tend to forget to order it in time (shipping costs have gone up, too) and am back to buying from the grocery store. The difference, now, though is that I think I can tell from squeezing a bag of coffee and smelling it whether it's stale (most of it is). And no offense, but all Starbucks coffee just tastes burnt to me. I like dark roasts; LOVE a good Vienna roast, but Starbucks is like HDR ;)

I don't grind my own beans (which means I can't buy too much coffee ahead of time). I'm not too far along the path to coffee snobdom. I know I could, but I'm happier not.

Maybe when I retire ...

One tip: if you add cream to coffee (I don't anymore) and it turns gray, as it does any time you get coffee at a church social (I don't do those any more, either), it's not good coffee.

Well, it may take two cups of tea to raise your IQ above single digits, but the first cup of coffee recapitulates phylogeny.

"Somewhere in the back of my mind I did realize that the young lady's solicitous delight in my company was perfect in every way except one: it was not sincere."

Mike, how do you know that? Perhaps she truly did enjoy chatting with you. I would venture to guess that her chatting with you was probably at least as sincere as your purchasing the teapot from her was.

As for me, my New Year's Resolution for 2012 is somewhere around 24 megapixels. :)

Mike,

Wonderful post in which I saw a bit of myself, too. I'm sorry I'm too late to relieve you of that lovely tea pot, although I don't really need it either, despite the gallons of tea consumed in my household.

I just read a fascinating and oddly inspiring article about coffee connoisseurship in the New Yorker from November 21. It's here: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/11/21/111121fa_fact_sanneh

They won't let you read it online for free, but you must know somebody with a subscription.

Beverages...
Here in Ontario province, Tim Horton's rule, Starbucks are trying, hard. Their coffee is very expensive and to me resembles liquid road tar, tastes similar too. Once was enough. Mickey D's is trying hard too; their brew is somewhere between Tim Horton's and Starbucks.
Coffee made in a French press, freshly coarse ground is good only in the morning. Still when brewed from fresh beans, kept in the refrigerator, the results can be excellent, one cup only please. No additives, either.

The remainder of the day if I have time
it's tea. No such beverages after 18:00 hours

Tetley from England, not the floor sweepings that resemble most tea in the USA. Have friends in the UK who keep me well-supplied. The problem with any such beverage is by the time the brew is ready, you're doing something else.

Now cucumber sandwiches, and any number of sugar-laden sweets will quickly take the edge off of just about any beverage, including the above mentioned road tar.

Oh and all Tim Horton's have fresh steeped tea (fresh every 20 minutes) ready for takeout. Come to Canada, we do it better!

I'm sadly and selfishly heartened that you've not gone all in on large format work this year, i've an embarrassment of riches in 4x5 but have yet to do more than use it as the world's most expensive instant camera:) rather more impressive is the shift in diet; as a carb-craving diabetic I'm a bit aware oh how hard it is to shift eating patterns--I've been trying for 24 years with varying degrees of success:/

Mike,
You can’t go wrong with a Pyrex coffee maker. The Chemex type brews coffee in much the same way you make tea and the old school stove top percolator works well if you’re willing to stand still long enough to watch water boil.

I prefer the meditative approach of the percolator. You stare into the clear glass like it’s a crystal ball and ponder your day while waiting for the chance to modulate the perk.

Well yeah, but you should still drink better coffee than Starbucks. Try this...

http://www.justcoffee.coop/

George Howell, founder of a Boston chain called "Coffee Connection" used to call Starbucks "Charbucks" until he sold out to them. After that you had to go to Dunkin Donuts if you wanted mild roast coffee.

Slow down please. I'm still pondering the oxymoron "tea/Americans"

I'd heard of this SF Bay area thing so Ctein's piece wasn't altogether a surprise as I understand that such eccentricities are de rigeur in those parts.

Unfortunately the tea bag has conquered Australia too, although there is a vestigial leaf tea availability in supermarkets and there are specialty tea suppliers.

I never thought I'd ever see Australians using tea bags, but I never thought I'd ever see them having Sunday lunch at McDonalds either.

The Fiat of coffe brewing is a Nespresso

My advice for the view-camera resolution:

You undoubtly have some friends/family-heavy days still in front of you (think Christmas and New Year's eve). On those events, set up the view camera in a corner of the room, with a good chair in front of it, a single lamp next to it. Focus the camera so you can easily take a portrait of the person in the chair. Then, as the day progresses, take each person present apart for 10 minutes and shoot shoot a holder or two.

You may not get to 42 frames, but you'll have a nice set of portraits of people close to you.

Mike,

Doing the experiment/trying something new is the important bit. You know a little more about yourself now. This is valuable stuff. The S.U.D. is not you at the present time. You don't quack like a duck ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_test ).

Doing something is better than spending days researching that something. Hurrah for learning through doing. I'd still be searching for just the right cast-iron teapot (along with a clay one for other teas) and never actually get to make a cup of tea.

A toast to the next 12 months. Let's learn something new about ourselves, good or bad.

Well it's hard for tea to compete with a good coffee. By the looks of the comments here it seems that Americans don't drink that boiled coffee they used to be famous for. The stuff that has to drain through bits of paper. I can't remember what it's called. I am happy to hear that it has been superseded at last.

Mike - All coffee and tea talk aside - I could go on and on about that, but will spare you in favor of this - I am troubled to hear about your disappointing experience with the 'big camera'. Funny thing, I got my 4x5 camera about two years or so ago and it's taken me quite awhile to warm up to it. That is to say: I was all excited and aglow when first I beheld the camera and all it's attendant paraphernelia. Then I actually used it a few times. I was afraid that maybe the IDEA of using such a camera was turning out better than the actual EXPERIENCE of it. I was disheartened and sad. Only through a little dogged perserverance (more to justify the whole thing to myself than anything) did I truly realize that LF Photography was itself a process more than a practice, at least in the beginning. It is an ever ongoing one too and might be a more palatable pursuit to you if viewed that way. Pardon the pun. - In that same interim I have traded my M6/'Cron combo for a (gulp!) D2X/85-1.4, so that's telling right there, for me anyway. All that's meant by that is while I am beginning to really adopt digital into my style, B+W film will always be present. But I digress.

I no more consider myself a LF "shooter" now than I ever have. Partly because (I suspect) I would always prefer not to attract any undue attention to myself under any circumstance and making a photograph with a view camera, unless you're out in the woods alone (ala Saint Ansel), which is not really my style, it's pretty hard to be discreet with such a contraption. The unfortunate fact that the prevailing population tends to see the photographer and camera as almost the exact equivalent of an eccentric old cooter driving around in a Model A Ford, notwithstanding. (Not that I care so much what people think, as the aforementioned unwanted attention itself.)

Still, I find, as long as I occasionally go out and "do it", often with a preconceived notion of the picture I want to make (in that way, different from 35mm and other formats) I get a GREAT satisfaction from using the view camera. I don't even go for all the movements most of the time, just use it like I would any other camera on a tripod.

I'm taking the long way around here I know, the only point I'm trying to make and the only idea I really want to express to you is this: Don't give up too quick if LF photography seems counter to everything you've ever done, or wanted to do with a camera. You say you're not a "LF Photographer". I'll bet that's more or less true for anyone who wasn't born in 1889. To call it an 'acquired taste' isn't really right either. I guess I'm just saying that if you are just a little diligent and make the time once in awhile, it'll grow on you little by little. You will more often than not find yourself looking at those big, beautiful negatives and the rich, detailed prints you get for your efforts with a sense of satisfaction and pride that no other "format" can equal. Perhaps through that slow and ongoing process you'll find that you really are a Large Format Photographer. At least some of the time. Don't give up Mike, everything about LF is slow, including the worthwhile journey!

Such an enjoyable and amusing article Mike, both the piece and the comments.

Cannot recommend any coffee supplier in the States, of course. But if you want something well along the way to the connoiseurship, you might try cold brew coffee. Some people swear by it.

"Grind and Brew" coffee pots! Best thing since sliced bread. You put the whole beans in the night before, then wake up to fresh ground/brewed coffee. I use the stand-alone coffee grinder only for really "special" coffee that I make in the French Press, one cup at a time.

Mike... if you're gonna be lazy about picking good coffee and drink Starbucks, drink tea.

Not tea in a tea bag, of course.

*sigh* ... bloody stinking Starbucks.

Anyone thinking of teaching themselves to draw or paint (or really learn anything), and who wants inspiration to stick to it -- or depression for having given up, or put off starting -- really ought to check this out this guy's diary of learning to paint:

http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=870

Check out the beginning, and then skip ahead a couple of years, e.g. to page 65 or so.

Once again to quote:
"Somewhere in the back of my mind I did realize that the young lady's solicitous delight in my company was perfect in every way except one: it was not sincere."

Well, as I read through all these comments which, as always, are great, I thought to myself, that had you left the store with the young lady you would have a much more pleasant memory. But then we would not have a wonderful post about teapots, would we?

As for Starbucks, I am with those who think all thier coffee tastes burned and is just too damned hot, but my vote for worst coffee ever though is McDonald's... What sort of petroleum product gets mixed into that swill?

You might have been suckered into buying that pot, but at least you got a damn good photograph out of it.

Espresso = pregrounded Illy red plus Aluminum Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop.

Walter.

Why not sell the view camera as well...

Things have improved in recent years; for decades I was constantly annoyed that coffee was free (or at least included refills), but anything decent to drink cost money. Now, more employers provide more variety, including cold drinks, and more places do refills on cold drinks; much better!

Because I hate coffee. Don't like the taste, don't like the smell, don't like it in ice cream, don't like it with chocolate. Ick! And don't seem to get any noticeable effects from caffeine, either.

+1 for what Landorien said, almost to the word.

Proving that I'm a gearhead (and a philistine), I've accumulated three of those cast iron teapots over the years after getting one as a gift, but (don't tell Ctein) make tea in the microwave.

Mike,

Pathetic? No. More like human.

As to coffee, the brand "Intelligentsia" (despite the off-putting name) direct-mailed from Chicago is an excellent source for building a base of experience and taste.

Each foil bag is roast-dated; I found three days past the date of roast to be the best time to pop it open and start grinding away.

Unfortunately, their prices grew beyond my budget but it was worthwhile. Now I know what coffee should taste like.

The Aerobie Aeropress, mentioned in an earlier comment is a marvelous single-mug coffee maker. It is a bit bizarre -- sort of like a cartoonish version of a mammoth hypodermic syringe. See it at Amazon for about $26 last time I bought one. Mine is used at least three or four times daily.

The combination of really good, recently roasted coffee and an Aeropress will provide everything you might hope for short of genuine espresso (or the salesperson at Teavana).

As for the teapot -- keep it. Photograph its changing moods once every six months. It's more than just cold, cast iron.

Resolution? Stay the course.

The easy and inexpensive way to make good coffee is with a French press and good technique. A French press maker will set you back as little as $15.00. (I don't even bother with the press - I make mine by pouring hot water on ground beans placed in a thermos mug, and straining the brew with a tea strainer into the cup. Most of the grounds come out with the first cup)

Here are the key techniques:

1) Coffee should be brewed at 190F maximum temperature. Anything higher and you extract bitterness. Get your water boiling, and count to about 10 before pouring in a thin stream (to allow further cooling)into your French press or thermos. You can actually brew very good coffee at room temperature if you wait long enough, but who likes tepid coffee?

Let the coffee steep for a few minutes, then press down the strainer if using a French press, or pour out your first cup, using a few washes through the tea strainer. The first catch of grounds will contain a lot of the 'crema', the light tan supernatant which is heavenly, hence the washes.

2) Go to town with good ingredients, but it is all for naught if your water temperature is too high. This is why perked coffee, for one, tastes terrible - brewed coffee is actually reheated to boiling in the process. Hence, once your coffee is made, don't leave it on a hotplate. Ergo, the Thermos.

3) If you start to get into it, a burr grinder is a good investment as it allows precise and uniform grind size, and accomplishes this without subjecting the beans to too high a heat.

4) Espresso grind works out very well for a steeped coffee method, although you will get a fine, smooth deposit on the bottom of your cup.

5) You don't need to use dark espresso roasts to make espresso grind coffee of any technique. Its a matter of taste only, and my experience is that darker roasts are often used to hide inferior beans. I go with lighter roasts. Find a local place that roasts their own beans daily, and you will be extremely happy. I have been making very good coffee of late from CostCo home brand decaf - like I said - it's all in the technique.

6) A real semi-automatic espresso machine - the Rancho Sylvia (http://coffeegeek.com/proreviews/firstlook/ranciliosilvia) is a high-quality choice - will allow you to truly perfect your game if you catch the bug, but... one of these and a good burr grinder costs as much as a good lens!

Extending Nico Burns thought...

"That said, perhaps buying these things wasn't such a mistake? People often become interested in things by trying them out."

...in another direction...

You learned you don't care much for tea! You made an attempt to like it but...

In the end, you have completely resolved for yourself that YOU are not a tea drinker.

Similar for photographers...
You purchase a unique lens (per John Camp's post) with the intent to use it and find that you simply aren't motivated to engage in that style of photography. Now you can move on and focus more on what you do care for (or explore some other facet of photography that you haven't tried before...).

Perhaps you have identified a great new year-end tradition...
Reviewing the past year and looking upon what did or didn't happen to better identify who you are! At the end of every year, you try to identify something about yourself that the past year has taught you.
(It sounds quite self-absorbed but I think the world would be a better place if everyone had a better understanding of themselves.)
(This could also be extended to family and friends depending on your social tastes.)

Another thoroughly entertaining and provocative post - love the writing and the voice. I once bought a tie under the same guise. Wore it once.

Ceck out the Aeropress http://aerobie.com/products/aeropress.htm. It's the pinhole camera of coffee makers. Makes a darn good espresso.

Mike, I would second Pak's comment. Your diet changes such as cutting out sugar are a very big deal and very admirable. Just because you haven't named them as a new year's resolution doesn't diminish them. Congrats!

I tend to want to try every variation of food or drink just to see what's out there but you could use the advice my wife gives me- if you like one better than the others you have tried, then stop trying new things. ie, if you like cafe Verona better than others you have tried, then keep drinking it. Just let your tastebuds tell you what to drink, not a pretty woman. (Damned evolution making us listen to pretty women!) My wife is great at sales and marketing because she knows what to say to people and how to make them feel happy. It's definitely an innate thing. But when I hear her do it to people it sounds so phony to me because I've known her so long and it's a different tone of voice than what I'm used to hearing. I guess that means my wife is never solicitous with me!

New year's resolution- sell the whole plate camera and use the money to buy what camera or lens you know you'll use a lot and enjoy a lot. Then the personal growth will come easy because you'll be out using it all the time.

Vintage Cafe Racers.......ah-well, I'm 44 with a wife and two kids, and no experience with motorcycles. But I really like the looks of them, must be the aesthetics. I'm not going to get a bike, but maybe I should find a rally and go take some pictures of them...that may satiate my desire for the dream of the open road and wind in my face and the roar.....maybe.

For a really good coffee, try New Mexico Pinon Coffee. It even tastes good coming out of a percolator, which is saying something. That will give you a starting point for what good coffee can be. Its good enough to get me to consider having coffee at home again, after an absence of several years.

As for green tea, try some Dragon Pearls, and steep them correctly! 2:30 at 80 degrees Celsius is what I use most mornings, although the temperature can vary from 75 to 85 without drastic harm coming to the leaf.

And to whoever it was that even considered ice and single malts, for shame! A splash of water is all that is allowed!

If you're looking for a good coffee and espresso resource, I highly recommend www.espressovivace.com/archives.html. The articles by David Schomer go into great, scientific detail about how to brew a great cup.

For years, much coffee. In the end, medium roast in a French press -- better than any machine.
Tea: loose Indian blends with a sprinkle of kamal marsala powder ( like tea curry) in a big Rockingham Brown Betty.
When I drink tea I want to be refreshed; when I drink coffee I want to keep going.

You can get a tea pot water boiler and infuser in one machine. It has an auto basket which drops and lifts the tea-leaves in and out of the water and heats the water to the temperature of your liking. It is model no. BTM800 on this web-site: www.breville.com.au (Aside: I believe I'm getting one for Christmas). As a result of this OT discussion above, I also discovered a tea shop in our local shopping centre which I didn't know existed, even having walked past it umpteen times. It had the cryptic shop name of "T2" and I had previously thought it was just another trinket shop. So I went in today and purchase some leaf tea in various varieties to try out, come Christmas. I also found out at the same time that buying tea in this matter is a lot more expensive than your supermarket brands

Fantastically written and a lovely counterpoint to Ctein's post.

As I reached 40 I suddenly found that all young women below the age of 25 had become beautiful to me - and if friendly and polite a great joy to chat with. And no I have no more desire to bed them than I desire to bed a beautiful vista.

I flip-flop between tea and coffee, but certainly drink far more tea. I found myself pondering some loose-leaf bodem tea pots yesterday. The salesman was a young man, if it had been a friendly young woman my resistance would have crumbled for certain.

Mike,

A little late to reply but I wanted to add that you shouldn't feel committed to a single bean coffee. Having been in the business before, my most successful blend was a Costa Rican and Sumatran mix; 2 parts Costa Rican to 1 part Sumatran.

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