If you watch a film about a group of cowpokes out on the trail in the 19th century, and they're gathered around a campfire, you can count on two things. One? Someone is going to sing a mournful song about either the stars above or their horse. And two? Coffee will be made in a sock.
The takeaway here is that coffee, for many years, was taken straight up, or nearly. Beans and water and maybe a kiss of milk. That's not the case these days, is it? Of all the foodstuffs we consume, how we take one of the world's most popular beverages has possibly evolved the most quickly.
These are topics worth thinking about on International Coffee Day, which happens to be Sept. 29. Rather a perfect date, no, at least in the northern hemisphere? Fall has just begun and we're turning to our pumpkin lattes and gingerbread espressos in droves.
Plus aren't most topics of a historical nature best contemplated over a cup of coffee? It's a tradition one could apply the label "time immemorial" to, easily. And musing over the evolution of the coffee drink over a cup of coffee seems highly meta indeed.
So, where to find those coffee drinks around town? Every beanery has its own fancy pants spin, but you might try...
Short Cake: The inside-Farmers-Market pastry-and-hot-drink shop offers a few fancy savory treats, but people come for the bespoke beverages. If you order a cappuccino, you'll likely get a pretty and perfect heart rendered in the top foam. Buy a blondie and you have the ultimate afternoon indulgence, yessirree.
Funnel Mill: Sunny days are not uncommon around Southern California -- perhaps you've heard that rumor -- which means you don't want a toasty coffee but something on ice. Head for this Santa Monica shop, which knows its single-estate coffees v. well, and have a cold drip. Yummy and makes you full of pep to boot.
Milk: There's a reason the queue wends out of the door late into the night at this Beverly Boulevard treat-a-tarium. Everything is good, really good, but if you want extra-special-good, the kind that you gotta make your friend taste, or you won't be happy, go with the Dulce de Leche Latte. Seriously. Seriously.