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Where Brewing Is an Art

Specialty coffee houses concoct the perfect blend.

The other difference among the new coffee companies is in the roasting. They prefer a lighter roast to enhance the beans’ more complex flavors, which they describe with wine-critic phrases such as “gentle acidity” and “notes of almond.” They sneeringly refer to Starbucks as “Charbucks,” because its beans tend to be dark-roasted to stand up to the milk and flavoring of its coffee drinks.

“If you put a filet mignon on the grill and cook it until it’s well-done, you lose a lot of flavor. It’s the same with coffee beans. The better coffees taste better with a lighter roast,” Pohl says.

While some may complain about the price of the new specialty coffees — a pound can cost from $12 to $30, depending on the variety — the man who opened New York’s first specialty coffeehouse in 2001 begs to differ. Ken Nye, owner of Ninth Street Espresso, ardently believes that you get what you pay for.

“If people had any idea of how much care and labor go into producing exceptional coffees, they would be shocked. When compared to wine, beer, spirits, cheeses and the like, coffee is an absolute bargain. If priced comparatively, a pound of great coffee could easily cost three to four times what it fetches now,” Nye wrote this year in an online question-and-answer with readers of the New York Times.

“The farmers that produce all of these amazing coffees deserve to be compensated,” he wrote.

Still, as Pohl points out, “there’s cheap wine and there will always be cheap coffee. But people are beginning to appreciate quality coffee, branching out, trying new things. It’s exciting for customers.”

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