CB: What are the different kinds of coffee here?
Rich: I figured we'd try them first, see how they taste and then we'll reveal their identities as we go. They're too hot to drink right now, so let's wait a bit.
CB: Ok, so you guys work with coffee. That's pretty cool. Do you still love it?
Rich: I still like it.
CB: Does it rule your life?
Rich: Well, it pays my bills, but other than that, no.
CB: I'm a complete wreck without coffee. I can't even deal with anyone or anything until I have some.
Cole: I need it in the morning.
Rich: I'm a little bit in that direction, but not quite. Whenever I want to stop, no
CB: So you don't drink coffee all day just because you're around it?
Rich: I don't. I taste it a lot though.
Patrick: You spit it out.
CB: What?! You mean like a football player with Gatoraid?
Rich: Yeah. We do a lot of tasting so after a while you have to spit it out. You have to be able to describe the differences when someone comes in and asks, "What's the difference between that one and that one?"
CB: You can't just read off the cheat sheet?
Rich: You could, but you're encouraged to come up with your own descriptions. People don't want to hear, "This coffee is rich and full bodied. It has pleasing aroma.. etc."
Patrick: I haven't been able to drink much coffee recently either. I'm around it all day and I have to taste it too, but I end up spitting it out most times.
CB: This boggles my mind.
Patrick: I know! But I'll be working on an espresso blend, so I'll be tasting a whole bunch of different coffees brewed as espresso. Like 30 shots in a row, if I swallowed them all, I'd be dead!
CB: I wonder what the toxicity of coffee is.
Patrick: I don't know! That would be a really good thing to find out.
Rich: We've got an espresso machine!
The Snowmen are a San Francisco band we've been listening to for a few years now and have grown to love. The version of the song Dy-no-mite which appears on the compilation 7" included with this magazine is one of our favorites. A different version of the same song is on their album In Orbit. Both are excellent. When it came time to interview the Snowmen, they had a location in mind, but wouldn't tell me anything other than the street address. It turns out that Rich and Patrick of the Snowmen work at Peets Coffee on Market Street in the Castro. That's where we met up in December 1996.
CB: So what's going on here Rich?
Rich: I thought it would be kind of fun to do a coffee tasting.
CB: Ok, well the first issue of Cool Beans! was the coffee issue. This one is the Drinking and Driving issue.
Rich: A lot of people drink and drive with coffee, and this offers it's own unique dangers.
CB: Like what?
Rich: You don't want to spill a cup of it in your lap.
Cole: Running over people who are too slow getting across the crosswalk.
[Rich had 4 piles of ground coffee beans laid out on the table and was boiling some water to make coffee. None of the piles were labeled.]
Cool Beans! #6
Patrick: Let's start our own experiment!
CB: Do you spit it out in front of customers? That would look pretty bad.
Rich: Well, you don't do it in front of them, it's more of a behind the scenes kind of thing. At the roasting plant, they've got brass spittoons.
CB: So as far as all the coffee paraphenalia that you guys sell out there, what do you recommend to people?
Rich: French press pretty much, for regular coffee, that's what we recommend.
CB: Is there anything weird at all? Anything beyond the norm?
Rich: You could spend a few hundred dollars on a manual grinder.
CB: Yeah, that's weird.
Rich: Vacuum pots are pretty weird. Have you ever seen one of those? It's this really old way of making coffee that kind of looks like a chemistry set. It's got a bulb pot and another bulb that goes on top of it. This top one has a glass funnel that goes down inside the first one and there's spring loaded thing inside the funnel. What you do is you put the water in the bottom one, but the coffee in the top, then bring the water to a boil. Then when you put the top one on it makes a seal and the water is forced to the top. It brews the coffee and in the meantime a vacuum has been created in the bottom. Then you take if off the heat and when the coffee cools down a little, it's drawn down into the bottom bulb and all the coffee grounds stay up top. It's really fun to watch.
Cole: How is that different than a percolator?
Rich: It's totally different because a percolator keeps recirculating the same brewed coffee through grounds over and over again at a boil. With this, the water is almost at a boil when it goes up into the top. But you only brew it for a couple of minutes, which is as long as you want the water and the coffee together. Then you take it off the heat and whoosh, the coffee separates from the grounds.
CB: And a percolator can burn the coffee too.
Patrick: Did you get this technical in your first issue?
CB: No, but this is really interesting. I'll have to print pictures of this thing.
Patrick: They were really popular in the 40's. This is what everyone used.
CB: Does it make particularly strong coffee?
Rich: You can make it strong. But it just makes surprisingly good coffee. There's no paper filter and that's the key.
Patrick: See, people in the 40's used to drink pretty decent coffee, and then in the 50's and 60's low quality coffee just sort of took over for some reason.
Cole: I've got a question for you Pat. What's your favorite shitty coffee? Circle-K?
Patrick: I used to love drinking the coffee in the percolator after church with donuts. I haven't had any of it in a long time though, because I'm a heathen. It's a really really good shitty coffee.
Cole: I used drink a lot of Farmers Brothers coffee. I guess they would only distribute to restaurants. That was their big thing. I used to work in a restaurant and that was when I first started drinking a lot of coffee. It's pretty mild, but it tasted good.
CB: Yeah, I like that too. It's pretty smooth.
Rich: What do you drink these days Matt?
CB: I mostly drink whatever's around. One of my roommates works at a cafe and I'll drink whatever she brings home. It's usually French Roast or their house blend which is ****. If there isn't any of that I'll mix Cafe Bustelo with Chock Full of Nuts in my espresso machine.
Patrick: Right on!
Rich: I was going to ask you to bring your favorite coffee, but I forgot.
Patrick: That's a great combination. That's inspired!
CB: It's funny, Consumer Reports rated Peets mailorder coffee number one, and Cafe Bustelo dead last! They said it was tarry and bitter. I like that!
Cole: It's like the Lucky Strike of coffees.
Rich: Who wants low tar. Argh!
CB: I don't like to drink cup after cup of coffee. I drink one mug of coffee a day. Of course it's espresso, and the mug is 20 ounces, but that's it for the day usually.
Mike: I like the Folgers, Swiss Miss combination. That's my morning shot. Really cheap.
Cole: That's like those Cafe Americano or whatever those are in those little tins, heavily sugared.
CB: Espresso tastes a lot like chocolate to me.
Rich: Alright. Let's taste some.
Cool Beans! #6
[We tasted the four coffees and came away with the following impressions]
Coffee number one:
Cole: Where's the Swiss Miss?
Patrick: This is our finest most aeromatic blend.
CB: I'm enjoying this only because it's coffee.
Rich: That's a fair assessment.
Patrick: Are you sure you don't want to use the spittoon?
Mike: This isn't too bad.
CB: This tastes like I'm in a really nasty diner and I don't really want to drink their coffee, but I need it because I've been up all night.
Cole: 7-11 baby!
Rich: That one was Yuban.
Coffee number two:
CB: This one definitely has a lot more taste. It's not bitter. It's kind of chalky.
Patrick: This one is called talcum blend.
Cole: It's hard to describe.
Mike: I'm going straight to the third.
Rich: I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. This one is Kona.
Coffee number three:
CB: This is more like a regular decent coffee.
Patrick: More acidity.
CB: I like this one.
Rich: This one was Garuda Blend. A blend of Indonesian coffees.
Coffee number four:
CB: This one is kind of toxic. It's kind of mean.
Patrick: It's nuttier.
Rich: It's got a pretty unique taste. Smell the beans.
CB: I'm just happy to be drinking coffee.
Mike: It's a little weirder.
Cole: This one is Arabian Mocha Sanani.
Patrick: This one is pretty cool, it grows wild and they harvest it once a year.
Rich: It's a totally random coffee. Usually they only pick coffee that's ripe. This they pick even when it's not ripe.
CB: So it is more toxic!
Coffee number five:
Mike: This is good stuff.
Cole: I like the taste of this one. It's smooth.
CB: Yeah, it's heavy, and tasty.
Rich: French Roast.
CB: Wow. A half an hour of slurping and spitting sounds for me to transcribe. Alright, well, let's talk a little about the band. How long have you guys played together?
Cole: We just had our four year anniversary. The day after Thanksgiving 1992 we had our first rehearsal.
CB: How aware do you think people are of your previous bands?
Cole: Well, people are familiar with 28th Day because of Barbara Manning being in the band.
CB: Are people familiar with the band's music?
Cole: It did pretty good back in the original days of modern rock radio.
CB: I did an interview with Barbara, and she was pretty annoyed that I'd never heard her music previous to the SF Seals and her solo records.
Cole: That's why 28th Day didn't last too long. Me and Barbara handle things quite differently. But we still get along fine. In fact we are doing something that's coming out on a compilation soon that she wrote.
CB: So you guys put out a record in Germany. How did that happen?
Cole: Pat Thomas from HeyDay Records set that up. We recorded a record with Greg Freeman because we thought we were putting out an album with this other company, and then it worked out to release it on Normal Records in Germany. We don't really know how it did though, we never really heard how many were sold.
Patrick: It wasn't released in the U.S. It was a German only record.
CB: Ok, and finally, have any of you ever been on the local news?
Mike: I almost got hit by the Channel Seven news van.
Rich: I was on Evening Magazine, a local evening fluff news show. I used to do BMX freestyle and ramp riding stuff. That was my only brush with TV fame.
Patrick: I used to skate too. But I was never on TV.
Cole: I was one of those people waving as the Bronco drove by.
Rent a Car Baby/Backseat Driver b/w Prophecy Written 7" Volta Records 1993
Soundproof CD Normal Records 1995
In Orbit CD Doubleplay Records 1996
Last Days of the Central Freeway LP/CD (forthcoming)
"Rock n Roll Ranger" on the Cool Beans! #5 Texas CD compilation 1996
"Joystick" on the Rock Scientist compilation LP Spaced Records 1996
"Comet" on the M Class Letters From Aliens CD Undercover Records 1997
"Dy-no-mite" on the Cool Beans! #6 7" 1997
Snowmen PO Box 460338, San Francisco, CA 94146
Cool Beans! #6