Thursday, March 25, 2010

Got Default?


When I was 28 I started drinking coffee seriously. In my second year of teaching, I found that a morning cup really got me going. The revolution in coffee was beginning to brew and Peet's became my gourmet coffee of choice. There was only one Peet's back then, but a few Bay Area restaurants started serving Blend 101 and my department bought a Mr. Coffee machine with the stipulation that only Peet's be used. In the half dozen years that followed, I drank 4 or 5 cups a day.
These days I'm down to only a couple of cups, but Peet's has found its way to Portland as well as many other places. It's almost the same. Not quite. In recent years, I've fought the "corporitization" of Peet's. They only play classical music now, they limit internet use to 1 hr. the baked goods are all sugar/fat laden (no more bagels) and now the issue is milk.
We have to ask for 2% milk these days.
But in this malaise, I recently came across a new term in use: "default milk." In fact, I heard the term twice within two days this week. First in response to a question about what kind of milk Peet's uses in their espresso drinks.
"Well, our default milk is whole milk but...," said the intellectual barist(o) Is that what you call a male espresso maker? At first I thought it was just his technical background slipping out. Default milk, something about that term sounds...funny. But the next day NPR ran a story about Starbucks making 2% milk their default milk. I know that's a good thing, even though Starbucks is not my coffee shop of choice. (They roast too long and lose all the flavor of the bean.) But using 2% in place of whole milk will cut down on fat. It's that term default in front of milk that bothers me. The use of a term like default milk comes from computer science. It describes pre-settings. Nothing smacks of a corporate approach to selling coffee like that term. It presupposes that someone has determined what is best for me, or perhaps more accurately what is best for them. In another context, default means a lack of something, a need for something, or a desire for something. As in why do I have to ask for 2% milk, why isn't it available at Peet's like it used to be? Nothing seems more simple that cup of coffee. Not now.

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