ALFRED PEET, founder of Peet’s Coffee & Tea Inc., died Wednesday at his home in Ashland, Oregon. What does this have to do with chocolate? Mr. Peet was an artisan who coaxed the finest out of carefully selected coffee beans. His talent for roasting beans just right and educating his customers on the proper brewing method speaks to anyone who cares about a fine ingredient and is willing to take the time to coax the best out of it. He was one of our first truly American Food Artisans. His store on Vine Street in North Berkeley was ground zero for the food revolution that exploded in the 1970's just a block away at Chez Panisse, Pig by the Tail (charcuterie), Cocolat and The Cheeseboard. Before Peet’s came along, the only good cup of coffee to be had in the Bay Area was at Café Trieste in San Francisco’s North Beach. His product raised the bar and created a demand for good coffee. It was this sensibility for seeking the best cup of coffee that created an audience who began to seek out the best in other foods. If we could have such a great cup of coffee, why not a nibble of a (then) exotic goat cheese or bite of a dark chocolate truffle?
Peet’s has been with me since I was a 17 year old freshman at CAL, through my years in Southern California (thank you, mail order) and back home to San Francisco. It is the only coffee I have ground in my Braun coffee grinder and the only coffee I have brewed in my French press and Chemex. My husband would say that it is also the only coffee that has been spilled on the seats in our car. He is not a coffee drinker.
My favorite blends are Major Dickason’s when I am into a high octane buzz and Decaf Special Blend when I am on the wagon. Both satisfy a morning urge for chocolate as each blend has underlying notes of dark chocolate. I purchase only beans, a half-pound at a time, so that I always have the freshest coffee for my first cup in the morning. My second cup of the day is purchased at one of the three Peet’s stores that I pass on my morning walk. Chestnut Street, Polk Street, Whole Foods California Street. Usually a cup of whatever the drip is for the day or, if they are making espresso drinks with Espresso Forte, a wet cappucino.
We mourn his passing and honor his memory by continuing to seek out only the best. Thank you, Mr. Peet, for enriching our lives every day.