I am in Seattle, partly because on Sunday I am teaching an all-day, intensive writing seminar ("Planning Your Novel") at Hugo House. I like Seattle. It's vibrant, varied, built around lots of water, and hilly (great views). But I think they're a little nuts about coffee.
Yesterday I was walking along Queen Anne Avenue when I saw a big sandwich-board sign outside a cafe -- "Shade-Grown Fair-Trade Organic Espresso!" Never in Rochester have I seen all these qualities together as a major selling point. At dinner parties, people debate the quality of Starbucks, Seattle's Best, Green Mountain, and the specialty coffees I never heard of. They debate this seriously. They debate it at great length.
I feel left out of this culture. As someone who is fine with Nescafe instant, and who would probably drink axle grease if it contained caffeine, the only thing I can offer is erudition: The word "coffee" entered the English language late in the sixteenth century from an Arabic word meaning "wine of the bean." In England, it was initially sipped from a dish, not a cup. Honore de Balzac died of caffeine poisoning (he was up to 50 cups a day of that strong French coffee, which induced an irreversible heart arrhythmia). None of this information makes up for my low-rent coffee tastes, at least not in Seattle.
On the other hand, the West Coast knows nothing about good bagels. Nothing!