Monday, September 26, 2016

Taste wars...

My kingdom for Peet's!

It's time for a Monday morning rant.  It may seem like a really silly rant, but I'm going to express myself anyway.  Why?  Because I have nothing better to do.  Before you start reading, bear in mind that this is a rant and isn't meant to ruffle feathers.  I am simply venting, as I feel I have the right to do in this particular forum.  If you see yourself in these comments and are feeling pissed off or attacked, I advise you to take a deep breath and back away slowly.  Still with me?  Good.

So, I have mentioned before on my travel blog that those of us in Germany under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) are subjected to rationing of certain luxury items.  If we shop on American installations for liquor, coffee, or cigarettes (I think, anyway-- not a smoker, so I don't actually know), we have to present a ration card.  Gasoline is also rationed.  Supposedly, these items are cheaper on the installations.  I know gas is and booze probably is.  I'm not sure about coffee.  You can buy Starbucks coffee on post and not have to use the ration card or you can get it in a German store with no rationing worries.  It's all about the German Kaffeesteuer, a tax to which coffee sold in the commissary and BX/PX is not subjected.

Anyway, coffee seems to be the big thing here.  People have certain brands they love.  Bill and I happen to love Peet's coffee.  Last month, I wrote a blog post about the process of ordering it from the States and paying duty for it.  It was expensive to get our Peet's, but well worth it for us.  We have really been enjoying having Peet's again, for however long it lasts, as well as some excellent Ethiopian coffee that Bill picked up on his last business trip.  We don't like most of what is available on the installations and we have yet to find any European coffees we enjoy.  It's just a matter of personal taste.

Every once in awhile, a newcomer will ask questions about coffee.  I know I did when we moved back here in 2014.  When we lived here the first time, we had coffee sent to our APO mailbox.  It was and still is illegal, but the rule was not enforced.  Lately, they have been cracking down.  I have not tried having coffee sent to my APO this time and, for two years, we've been getting by on the coffee available locally.  We don't like it and, after living here a total of four years, see no reason to actively keep trying to find one we like.  That's why I ordered my beloved Peet's.

When someone asks about coffee and wants to know the process of getting their favorite American brand, I share my experiences.  I know there are people out there who simply want the information about buying American coffee and not pressure to try something new.  Also, having been here awhile, I know that it's easier to bring coffee with you in your shipments than trying to have it sent through the mail.  At the very least, having that favorite brand of coffee (or whatever else you love from home) at the beginning can ease the effects of culture shock and leaving all that is familiar in the United States.

Invariably, there's a huge chorus of comments from people who swear European coffee is better than American.  Sometimes they even go into lecture mode about the importance of "expanding your horizons" or "broadening your palate".  That kind of talk especially pisses me off.  Most people affiliated with the military have had the experience of moving multiple times.  I would guess many of them have had to step out of their comfort zones more than once.  Sometimes people simply want what they want.  Having now lived in Germany for a total of four years, I know by now that I'm not a big fan of the coffees I have so far found here.  So I get what I want.  That doesn't make me picky or small minded.  I simply prefer Peet's to Illy, Jacobs, Dallmayr, or Tchibo.  Sue me.

Yesterday, this topic came up again.  Sure enough, there was a huge barrage of commentary from the community.  Quite a few people went into didactic mode, writing about how *good* German coffee is.  Actually, I shouldn't call it "German coffee", since coffee isn't produced in Germany.  The beans come from elsewhere and are roasted according to local tastes.  Folks, I'm here to tell you, that not everyone thinks German style coffee is great.  You might enjoy it very much and that is your right.  But please don't tell me I have a limited palate because I don't like it.  Tastes differ.  And please, unless I request it, don't offer to show me which brands are the "best".  You may think they are the best, but that doesn't mean I will.  Your tastebuds are not superior to mine or anyone else's.

I finally had to turn off notifications for that post because someone else, claiming not to be a "coffee snob" wrote that she much preferred the local coffee to American.  Then, she went on to explain that she is a "beer snob" and German beer is the *best* in the world.  She mentioned the German beer purity law and why that makes German beer so "good".  Then she dissed most American beers wholesale.  As a true beer lover myself, I had to laugh at that.  Actually, I was a little bit offended by it.

It's true, German beers are uniformly of excellent quality.  However, having tasted my fair share of German beers, in a blind taste test, I'd be hard pressed to be able to tell one brand of German beer from another.  They all pretty much taste the same, no matter which brewery makes them.  Only the styles are somewhat different.  By that, I mean a Hefeweizen is different than a Dunkelweizen, a Kolsch, or a Pils.  Even still, they aren't that different, at least not in my experience.

For sure, German beers are much better than many of the mass produced American beers like Budweiser or Coors, but I can think of many, many American craft beers I'd choose over a German lager.  There are some small craft breweries in the United States that are doing amazing things with beer and they are not bound by the Reinheitsgebot.  Even Germans are recognizing this fact and are trying to get in on the craft beer craze, with varying results.  I surmise they are having a hard time letting go of those purity law conventions and letting loose with their creativity.  But they'll catch up eventually and then, look out!

If you really want to impress me with your beer snob cred, tell me about all the Belgian beers you've tried.  Or hell, the Portuguese beers...  Portugal has some surprisingly good beers.  You can also find good suds in The Netherlands and the United Kingdom and in various other countries around the world.  And yes, you can find them in the United States, too.  You are not really a beer expert if you haven't tried a shitload of American craft beers.  If you are only basing your beer "snob" cred on having compared mass produced American beers to German beers, in my opinion, you still have a long way to go, my friend.  Even still, I would be wrong to tell you that you should stop liking what you like and "get with the program".  Tastes differ, and that's certainly okay.  And, like I said before, no one's tastebuds are necessarily superior to another person's.

I refrained from leaving a snarky comment to the self-proclaimed beer snob because I figured it would only stir up shit and I was already feeling pretty perturbed.  There was a time some years ago when I referred to myself as a beer snob and really hadn't tried enough beers to call myself that.  Actually, I still don't think I'd call myself a beer snob, per se.  I think of a snob as someone who is unwilling to try other things because they think they've already found the best.  By that definition, I probably am a coffee snob.  But I am definitely not a beer snob.

I just like what I like and, when it comes to beer, am very enthusiastic about trying new and different styles.  I don't like them all and there are some that I will never willingly drink again.  But I would never say German beer is necessarily the best.  I don't think it is.  In fact, I doubt I'll ever taste "the best" in my lifetime because things are always evolving.

And I also don't think American roasted coffee is necessarily the best, but I do know that I like what I like.  And if I want to drink my fucking American coffee, that's certainly what I'll do.  It doesn't make me closed minded, nor does it mean I have a limited palate.  Okay?

/end rant

German beer... excellent suds, but if you've tried one, you've tried them all...  ;-)