At least one person in the U.S. still drinks instant coffee. Me.
It’s not because I’m cheap (I am) or that I’m old (I am). It’s that I like being able to drink coffee whenever and I hate having to wash out a coffee pot. I bring a Thermos® of hot water to work, and I’m good all day.
Most people recoil in horror when they see my jar of instant coffee. These are the folks who will spend $4.00 for a cup o’ Joe at a Starbuck’s or the local Wawa (if you’re outside of the extended Philadelphia area and aren’t aware, Wawa is simply THE finest convenience store in the world, bar none). Both of these are wonderful, and I, too, will happily fork over my dollars in exchange for a cup, but I don’t seek them out. It is exceedingly rare that I stop at either of these shops for a cup of coffee.
The secret to instant coffee, as told to me by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (okay, it was in a book, but still, it was as if he was speaking directly to me), is to pour the water, stir, and let the cup sit for no less than five minutes. This allows the coffee time to “brew,” as it were. This is essential for instant coffee, no matter what brand, and it does make a difference. (Try it.) The other secret to instant is that you can tailor the strength of the coffee, simply by adding more or less.
For almost 40 years, I have been content with my instant coffee. I’ve tried several brands, from Eight O’Clock® to Taster’s Choice® French Roast, and currently, more often than not, I have a jar of Maxwell House® in my office. For a long time, I would even use a blend of two different instants in pursuit of a better cup. I use CoffeeMate® in my coffee, with just a dash – the merest dusting – of CoffeeMate® French Vanilla to top it off. Don’t give me Cremora®.
(Taster’s Choice® used to sell a French Vanilla Roast in a small jar, which was perfect. A teaspoon of my regular instant along with a dash of the French Vanilla was wonderful. Taster’s Choice®, in their infinite wisdom, no longer sells the small jar, but instead now packages the French Vanilla in a box of “tubules,” or single-cup servings. No thanks. I went so far as to cut open all of the tubules (20, I believe) and dump the contents into a small jar, but that’s just too much work for the little bit I got. It’s a lot of trash and wasteful packaging for a small amount of coffee. When they go back to selling this in a jar, I’ll go back to buying it.)
Up until this year, I was a smoker. Ever since high school (back in the early 70s), I have eaten one meal per day – dinner. Breakfast was a cup of coffee and a cigarette. Lunch was a cup of coffee and a cigarette. Only when I got home after work did I actually eat a meal. I really had no appetite, I ate to live. I was not the definition of healthy. People would marvel that I never ate during the day, and I was famous for ordering a cup of coffee for lunch when out at a restaurant.
The smoking has stopped, I now eat three meals each day, but coffee continues to be a constant in my life. And now my life-routine has been disrupted.
My daughter bought her mother a Keurig. Or, rather, Mom dropped some heavy hints for Christmas that she’d like a Keurig. Either way, my wife received a Keurig for Christmas.
In coordination with my daughter’s gift, my task was to buy some coffee to go along with that new Keurig. I picked out a big ol’ box of a Donut Shop decaf and some kind of a Green Mountain brew. I think these were 36-count boxes. The Green Mountain is long gone, but we still have some of the Donut Shop decaf around. And it didn’t take me very long to figure out that Keurig and Green Mountain were one and the same.
I started haunting the coffee aisle at the grocery store, standing and staring at the shelves.
Scan the shelves of K-Cups in all of their varieties, imagine that this space was full of different instant coffees – that’s how it was in the last millennium. Today’s selection of instants is a mere shadow of what it once was. With a $10 jar of instant coffee, I can drink up to 100 cups. With a $10 box of K-Cups, I get 10 or 12, and that’s not even a good week.
Early on in my brewed coffee career, I found that I preferred the bold roasts, the dark roasts. The Green Mountain French Roast was a good cup of coffee, and early on I latched onto a Peet’s French Roast – sort of a slap in the face in a K-cup. Pricey, but very, very good. I came to view the Peet’s as a treat – almost $1.00/cup (can you imagine?).
We went through a lot of boxes at $7.99 and $8.99 for 10 or 12 K-cups, and I began to think that perhaps we should look into “buying in bulk.”
About the same time, NPR had a program that dealt in part with K-cups. I don’t think that anyone, even John Sylvan, inventor of the K-cup who now regrets it, understood that there would be billions and billions of these small plastic containers being dumped into landfills every year. Now I am not an environmentally-sensitive sort (well, I kind of am, but I don’t preach it), but the mental image of all of these billions of K-cups put me off a bit.
With a very little bit of Googlin’, I came across Rogers Family Coffee and Tea.
This is a company in the San Francisco area that has purposely gone about making K-cups biodegradable and recyclable. Imagine that! At the time, they boasted that their K-cups were 97% biodegradable, while Green Mountain/Keurig promised that they were working on a solution and hoped to have it available by 2020. Also, oddly enough, Rogers’ K-cups were incompatible with the Keurig 2.0, but they happily provided a simple solution to that problem, and provided it for free – a very simple workaround that allowed their K-cups to be used in the Keurig, bypassing Keurig’s lockout. There were also lawsuits between the two going back and forth.
I like “the little guy battling the big bad corporation,” so I gave them a try.
My first order was for their Organic Coffee® brand of French Roast and Breakfast Blend. The former for me, a good, dark cup of bold, and the latter for my wife, a milder early morning cup. I thought that the Organic® brand WAS Rogers, and didn’t understand their various labels. But these were good enough that I re-ordered.
Rogers Family is also known as San Francisco Bay Coffee with a good variety. I can recommend the Espresso Roast, the French Roast, the Fog Chaser (yes, I like the dark roasts!), and I’m about to try their Jamaican Blue Mountain and Kona Blend coffees.
I now order the larger boxes of 36 or 80 counts and I easily meet the threshhold for FREE SHIPPING. Bottom line, I spend at most 50 cents per cup! From one coast to the other, it takes about a week and a half to receive my orders, and that is consistent. Also, unlike the sealed plastic K-cups, these coffees really need to be stored in an airtight container (which I prefer over the carousel K-cup holders, anyway).
Every day and all day Saturday and Sunday I drink brewed coffee. Monday through Friday I go to work and drink instant coffee.
It’s all good.