Magazine article The New Yorker

Taste Test

Magazine article The New Yorker

Taste Test

Article excerpt

When James Murphy, the pop musician, disbanded LCD Soundsystem, in 2011, he made a public remark or two about wanting to spend more time with his coffee. This was shorthand for a happier and more grownup life--Murphy was then forty-one, and a little frayed--but he also meant what he said. A year later, he took a two-day course, in London, with Gwilym Davies, who had recently won the World Barista Championship; he also began to consult with other coffee professionals about creating his own espresso blend. In time, Murphy met James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, which has coffee shops in California and New York. Freeman is a former classical clarinetist with a priestly air. A few weeks ago, they arranged a formal coffee tasting, or "cupping," at the back of Blue Bottle's Brooklyn location, close to Murphy's home, in Williamsburg. Murphy arrived on a foldup bicycle, looking eager but not all that rested, bringing news about his house renovation. "How does a wine fridge cost two thousand dollars?" he asked Freeman. "It's a small fridge that doesn't get that fucking cold. It's a dorm fridge that's broken."

Small bowls of ground coffee were lined up on a countertop. To one side was a coffee grinder, and a row of aluminum spitting mugs. "I feel I would lose myself for a good two years if I went too deep," Murphy said, of his interest in coffee. "I'm a rabbit-holer." He and Freeman discussed some coffee shops they had separately visited, in Reykjavik and Sao Paolo, and then turned to the proposed Murphy blend, which may be sold both by Blue Bottle and by Murphy himself, if he opens the general store that is another part of his midlife project. Freeman said, "My guess is we have very similar desires: to not get too infatuated with the ultrabright school." He was referring to a current fashion, with Nordic roots, for tart, acidic coffee.

"We're older than the average person who's excited about Scandinavian roasting," Murphy said. "I'm superglad that it's happening, but I also don't want to drink it all the time." He said that he positioned himself, in coffee's avant-garde, as "more Benjamin Britten . . . than a chainsaw on cement," which prompted Freeman to describe how much he'd been enjoying Schoenberg's "Gurrelieder" in his car. "That was right before he broke with harmony, and you can hear him pushing, knocking on the door: 'Let me out!' But it's still really, really beautiful and enveloping and huge. So maybe this is a little bit like that."

They crouched over the dry coffees--two from South America, two from East Africa, one from Indonesia--and sniffed them. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.