Monday, July 09, 2007

Cof-Culture (or The Grumblings of an Iced Tea Addict)

Ashley! Grab an iced tea for Phil Stacey!
Sorry, I couldn't help but title this photo myself. But, it's not too late to get in on the caption contest. Hit me with your best Lindsay line! And speaking of Lindsay...

Damn, it's hot as a crotchfire here in New York. Since I've suddenly been thrust into the tropics, all I want is an iced tea. That doesn't sound like too much to ask, does it? Apparently, it is. I've discovered that finding a good iced tea in NYC is like finding a well-structured sentence in a Britney Spears letter.

First of all, let me just say that Starbucks is the most ridiculous place on Earth. And - joy - there is one on every corner. And then there are a few sprinkled in between. Every time I've attempted to get iced tea at Starbucks, I've been gawked at like I'm a green bug with three heads. Don't ask why I've tried more than once. I don't know. Either I'm a closet masochist or I'm eternally optimistic that Mr. Starbuck, or whoever owns that hell-hole, will finally realize that tea has more than earned its rightful place next to coffee on the overpriced menu.

Oh, and it's not that Starbucks doesn't have tea. They have plenty of tea. They have every variation of tea that you can possibly think of, but they've abandoned the original for its trendy followers. Passion fruit tea? They've got it. Green iced tea? Yep. Got that. Black tea & lemonade? Check. Frappuccino tea? Uh-huh. Dirty sock and porcupine whizz tea? Why, that's their #1 seller! But plain old, run of the mill, normal, average, everyday, proud-to-be-American iced tea? What? Why would they carry such a thing??

The other day, I thought I found an escape from the Starbucks fortress around my office building in the form of Barnes & Noble. They must have good iced tea, I thought. When I worked in a different part of town, I used to get iced tea from the nearby Borders and it was awesome. Borders and Barnes & Noble probably have a similar menu, right? Wrong. Guess who runs the cafe in B&N? That's right...Starbucks. The masochist in me surfaced again, reasoning that it was possible that the B&N Starbucks might have a different menu than the regular Starbucks. My request for tea was quickly rebuffed. And there was that strange look again from the dead-eyed barista. I was suddenly in the Twilight Zone trying to figure out which one of us was the alien. What is speak of?

Today, I ventured over to the Dunkin' Donuts, fully expecting it to be bought out by Starbucks while I was waiting in line. While that didn't happen, I noticed that iced tea was not on their menu either. Hey, maybe they forgot? I got to the counter, asked for iced tea and was, once again, met with befuddlement. For some reason, the guy behind the counter had to deliver his response in a very slow, drawn out manner, as if he thought that anyone who would ask for such a drink must be mentally impaired in some way. "Uhhhhhh.....noooooooooooo.... miss.... noooooooo.... iceeeeed.... teeeeeeeeeeee.... but.... uhhhhh.... weeeee.... have... iced coffee!" If you haven't figured it out by now, I loathe coffee. I hate anything that tastes like coffee. I don't drink Kahlua, I hate tiramisu, and I'd probably have a poop popsicle before I ate coffee ice cream. The only thing I can imagine being worse than coffee is ice-cold coffee. And how did this become such a favorite drink of yuppies and hipsters, anyway? I was a waitress for years, and if I ever brought anyone coffee that was anything less than scalding, they would bitch for 20 minutes about how being served cold coffee was the biggest tragedy in their lives. I just don't get it. So anyway, I obviously wasn't having any part of the iced coffee. The stupid Dunkin' Donuts didn't even have any of my beloved Lipton Brisk, or any other pre-packaged tea for that matter, so I had to go back to the office and suck on the water dispenser for a few more hours. Curses. Foiled again.

By the time lunch rolled around, I'd had about 148 ounces of water and was contemplating going back to Starbucks and getting all Michael Douglas-in-Falling Down on their asses. Instead, I walked down to Cafe Metro to grab a salad (one thing I love about NYC: the proliferation of make-your-own-salad bars) and noticed that they had an iced tea brewer behind the counter. Ahhhhh. I didn't get too excited too quickly though, as I had been burned many times before. Like I said at the beginning of this tirade, it's hard to find a good iced tea in this town. I've had a lot of bad teas. They've run the gamut of taste - everything from lemon-flavored dirt to some strange concoction that actually tasted like latex gloves. So, I was a bit worried that it would be just another full cup that ends in the garbage. I crossed my fingers, tossed in a packet of Sweet 'n Low (I know, that stuff will turn me into a lab rat), took a sip and...heaven. FINALLY. Thank you, Cafe Metro. Thank you for giving me a damn good cup of iced tea and, most of all, thanks for not even batting an eye when I asked for it.

And the coffee achievers think they're so awesome. Please. They can get a cup of coffee without even trying. I had to work for that iced tea, baby! That's achievement.


X. Dell said...

(1) Do you really remember that coffee achievers commercial ("Hold on tight to your dreams")?

(2) Starbucks has even infested Harlem, moving out a lot of good chicken and waffles places. It's a conspiracy, I tell you.

(3) Actually, I was in a Starbucks about a year ago, and got iced tea. But you're right, they don't have it at Drunken Donts. I'm not a coffee drinker either, but iced coffee sounds kinda, idk, yucky.

chelene said...

I'm such a Starbucks whore but you're right, they don't make regular iced tea. It's like Starbucks considers it beneath them.

Happy Villain said...

I have never liked coffee or tea, and I have likened tea to having a glass of dirty water with a cheap scented candle burning nearby. However, thanks to you, I'm starting to wonder if I've had the same bad teas you have, but never had a good iced tea, which I could possibly like. But since it is an endangered species, I wonder if I'm better off never having it.

That's it! Now I have to try some. Thanks a lot!

Beth said...

This is brilliant:

I've discovered that finding a good iced tea in NYC is like finding a well-structured sentence in a Britney Spears letter.

There are parts of D.C. with Starbucks across the street from one another.

I was a serious Starbucks slut for years ... until I moved back to my old neighborhood and rediscovered the local shop ...with THE BEST lattes in town. Now I get to sneer at the 'bucks.

Karen said...

Like you, I'm not a coffee drinker either although I do admit to loving the smell of the grounds in the bag or a freshly brewed pot. Canada has the same problem with either a Starbucks or the Cdn equivalent, Second Cup, on every block. It's disgusting.

Next up on my reading list: Uncommon Grounds. It's all about the not-so-nice history of our addiction to coffee.

Dale said...

Why don't you mix up a batch yourself and wear one of those helmets with the straws? You'd still look pretty and you wouldn't have to worry about your hair in the heat. Please ask the women in my office to stop talking about this. Thank you.

deadspot said...

My mom still has one of my old baby bottles stashed away. The inside is permanently stained brown from being filled with iced tea so often.

I know! How weird is that?

Molie said...

I sympathize with you, I am also a tea drinker. Tea drinkers in the States are like second class citizens.

I hate coffee and nearly everything coffee flavored with the sole exception of Kahlua and only when mixed with Amaretto.

Anonymous said...

"....Dirty sock and porcupine whizz tea?...."

You can get that in the US?
Lucky bastards!
We have to follow the pricky beasts around with a little paper cup if we want that ambrosia.

Metal Mark said...

I love coffee yet I almost always make my own and my work has a coffe maker as well. I drink a lot of iced tea too, but I just buy a jug of it at the grocery store or get a powered mix and make my own.

Johnny Yen said...

The reason you're getting bad iced tea is that they're either 1. not cleaning the tea container every day, 2. saving leftover tea from yesterday and serving it today or 3. Both.

I love iced tea-- I drink a pitcher of it every day. I make my own, though. And of course, we have no stove right now. It's going to be a rough 4 weeks.

RE the Starbucks upon Starbucks: Have you ever seen "Best In Show?" There's an obnoxious yuppie couple, portrayed by Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock (whom I went to my high school) who tell the "cutesy" story of how they met-- they were in two different Starbucks that were across the street from one another.

A few years ago, The Onion humor magazine had the headline "Starbucks Opens Starbucks Inside Other Starbucks."

Johnny Yen said...

That should have read "whom I went to high school with." Actually, that was the sentence I let Brittany Spears write.

Angell said...

LMAO. I find it difficult to find a decent iced tea anywhere I've ever been. Except the Southern states - they know how to do it right.

Beck - great rant. Now surf on over to the Secretz and claim your award. :D

Artful Dodger said...

Gasp!! I used to love NY now I've lost faith. How can one live in a place with a lack of good ol' regular ice tea. It must be a southern thing but we've got regular ice tea everywhere here. No lack of it, it's everywhere. The Starbucks in the B&N's by work has regular ice tea. Must be a southern thing.

cube said...

I like coffee. Hot.

I like tea. Hot & iced. I'm easy

BTW I know Phil Stacey. That is NOT Phil Stacey!

Just kidding. I only saw Phil up close, but only managed to touch Blake's hand at the concert.

Masha said...

haha! Now is it regular ice tea or sweet ice tea that you prefer?
...but i totally would think that TEA wouldn't be THAT hard! Come on people...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I have been just dying for a good cup of dirty sock and porcupine whizz tea all day. Can somebody drive me to Starbucks?

Travis said...

Most excellent rant! I'll only go to Starbucks when I can't get to Tully's.

BeckEye said...

X.Dell - Of course! That's why I used the term. I remember the one with Heart the best. And look, I have to make a concentrated effort to remember to answer my comments, so don't be offended that I'm only responding to 1 of your 3 points. :)

Chelene - But it's not beneath them to take $5 for a cookie.

HV - What do you drink? How do you wake up in the morning? If I just drink water, milk or juice in the morning, I don't actually wake up until around 1:00 in the afternoon.

Beth - You're a Starbucks slut, Chelene's a Starbuck's whore....are we talking about the same place here? Has Starbucks ventured into another "business?"

Karen - I don't mind the smell of SOME coffee. My ex-roommate from college used to make hazelnut coffee every morning and it made me want to vomit.

Dale - You think I'm pretty? Um, er...tee hee hee. And this is what the women in your office are talking about? What? They don't think I'm pretty!? Well, they can all burn in Starbucks for all I care.

Deadspot - Not that weird. My nieces were big iced tea fans, especially my oldest niece, Miss T. Coincidence? She always called it tee-tee, which I thought was so cute. We still call it that sometimes. But I've never ordered that at the deli, otherwise I could understand why they would look at me like I'm mental.

Molie - Coffee and cherry? Uggggghhhh. I like Amaretto, but have only had Amaretto sours. If I have about 3 of them I feel like I have hair on my tongue.

RS - This is the land of opportunity!

Mark - The jugs at the grocery store are hit or miss. Some are really bad and then some are completely awesome. I think Galliker and Swiss brands are the best.

Johnny - Whattya mean they don't clean the equipment in NYC delis? Bite your tongue! And I have seen "Best in Show." Great movie. It was actually just on the other night.

Oh, and if I'm being a stickler, the sentence would be "with whom I went to high school." No ending with a preposition, sir!

Angell - I'll be right there! You better have a nice, tall glass of iced tea waiting for me. :)

Artful Dodger - Must be. But those Southerners like to push the sweet tea, which I don't like.

Cube - I happen to know that is Phil Stacey. Mary Kate is working as his personal assistant now.

Masha - I hate sweet tea. I like just regular ol' tea.

Barbara - I think Starbucks should put out a new CD with an updated version of Neil Diamond's "Porcupine Pie" as "Porcupine Whizz" in honor of their best selling flavor.

Travis - Thanks, dude! Party on. But not at Starbucks. That would be most egregious.

LoraLoo said...

I don't drink iced tea, but I have noticed it's hard to find. I wish we had more make-it-yourself salad bars out this way, seems like everyone did away with them!!

Reading this cracked me up, thanks for the early morning laugh!

cube said...

Baloney. That is not Phil.

Johnny Yen said...

I think a preposition is a perfectly good way to end a sentence with.


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