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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The hot beverage triumvirate

This week, Tara Dooley wrote an excellent article describing the new higher end coffee scene in Houston. I spoke to many who seem to think that the epitome of good coffee is found in overpriced green adorned coffee cups, and aren't even aware of the artisan nature of some baristas - in contrast to the coffee worshiping culture of the Pacific Northwest.

That said, we also have at least three different teahouses in Houston, staffed and run by people as passionate about tea as the baristas so mentioned in the article, yet I have not seen too many mainstream articles written about them. Tea offers an even wider range of flavors and ritual, yet plays second fiddle to the coffee mainstream. Put on your conspiracy hats, I'll seed the rumor mill - maybe it's because the teahouses are run by women, whereas baristas tend to be male. I have no basis behind that speculation. I'll admit to having some distaste for coffee, while liking some teas and tisanes.

But much as I (and some others) may grouse about how tea is treated in the coffee dominated world, that pales in comparison to the sheer neglect hot chocolate or cocoa gets treated in America. Culturally considered a seasonal drink for cold weather (never mind that the same people will quaff boiling coffee even in the peak of summer), hot chocolate is seen mostly as vehicle to deliver milk. Most places fall back on industrial mockolate syrup as sufficient for making the beverage, as if simply an excuse to say that they have something for the ones with a sweet tooth. In fact, most commercially prepared hot chocolate barely uses chocolate at all! Chocolate, of course, carries equal complexity and variety to coffee, in sourcing, ingredients and preparation. Try a Jacques Torres Wicked Hot Chocolate, prepared the right way, and you can taste the true potential in the beverage beyond simply appealing to the kiddie sweet tooth.

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