I am in complete disbelief that McDonald’s beat Starbucks in the Consumer Report taste test. Well, not complete disbelief. After all, it IS Consumer Reports we’re talking about here. That is the magazine that said the Apple II was the PC of the future and continues to plug for the MAC and all things green. I think that they even liked the IBM PC-Junior. I recall as an engineering student in the early 80’s reading their articles on everything from Radio Shack computers to Commodore VIC-20s realizing, these guys aren’t paying people who know what they are talking about. They are paying people with degrees in social work to write on engineering issues. (Not that there is anything wrong with a degree in social work. It’s just not a good platform from which to evaluate microcomputers.)
That aside, I still can’t believe that McDonald’s coffee beat Starbucks. Granted, McDonalds is using great coffee to start with — Newman’s Own, I believe. And granted, the McDonald’s chef is probably as well-trained in the intricacies of coffee brewing as the Starbucks guy in the airport. And clearly McDonald’s has access to the machinery to brew anything from great coffee to Piels beer. But the fact remains that the last time I bought coffee at McDonald’s (a few weeks back), I dumped it out on the street at a stoplight.
No one wants McDonald’s coffee to be good more than I. After all, I have to travel about an hour to find a Starbucks and then wait in line fifteen minutes to get what I want. But still, I can’t drink that stuff. Why? After reading about a half-dozen articles on it, I have a couple theories.
Maybe those same guys who reviewed computers in the 80’s are the ones testing the coffee. And maybe they are equally unqualified to judge quality in this case. Maybe McDonald’s coffee is just plain bad. But I doubt it. My father-in-law, Jim, loves McDonald’s coffee. He has for a long time. And he’s probably the biggest connoisseur of coffee I have ever known. The man roasts his own beans, for crying out loud! He was the first to tell me that McDonald’s was giving Starbucks a run for their money. So Consumer Reports failings aside, I think this is probably not a problem with the coffee.
It could be me. Maybe I don’t know good coffee from a hole in the ground. But I’ve spent a lot of hours and dollars on something black and wet. One would think that the sheer gallons of coffee I’ve consumed would mean something. I know stuff like: it’s a sin to put chicory in coffee. And it’s important not to microwave it, except in a medical emergency. I don’t think it’s me.
Here’s my best theory. When I lift a McDonald’s coffee to my mouth, I can smell the cup. Not just the coffee. I smell the cup. The odor of the petroleum product in the plastic lid or the Styrofoam vessel itself is evident to me. So I smell the wonderful aroma of coffee combined with the foul odor of an oil refinery. You’d think that since I lived in Bradford, PA for 10 years, I’d be accustomed to refinery smells, but evidently I am not. This third theory makes sense. I have always been keenly aware of smells and can be more allured by a smell or distressed by the same than most people I’ve known. Can you smell it?
So — McDonald’s — let’s get with it. If that Newman’s Own Coffee you’re brewing is as good as everyone says, stop blaspheming it by placing it in those stinky cups. Take a trip to Starbucks and give some consideration to the cups they are using.
And hey — Consumer Reports — if you still care about all things green, tell McDonald’s to stop using petroleum cups.
Ah — my lovely wife just set a fresh cup of Starbucks Cafe Verona down on my desk, brewed fresh in her kitchen on her Gevalia coffee maker. Life is good.