A year and a half into a pandemic that won’t seem to end, there’s only one thing left to do to preserve sanity: Get yourself a coffee subscription. In the earliest days of the 2020 lockdown, when I was actually excited about being in the kitchen and making interesting food and intricate beverages for myself, the subscription route was a great alternative to a daily coffee run. It was then that I discovered Blue Bottle’s whole bean subscription options included another great perk, a free trial. So yes, if you’re broke and in need of something to tide you over, Blue Bottle’s got your back. Or if you’re simply cheap, like me. Or, if you’re waiting for thousands of dollars in back pay from your frozen unemployment claim. Whatever the case may be, sampling before committing is usually impetus enough to get me on board.
The Blue Bottle subscription model is are tiered, with countless options, but the three main choices are a regular blend assortment or an espresso assortment for $18 a month respectively, and a slightly more refined single origin assortment for $22 a month. For that price you get a 12 oz bag of coffee beans — which lasts most daily drinkers about two weeks — and the option to double for $33 (24 oz) or triple for $45 (36 oz). I found a 12 oz bag was great for making 3-4 cups a week for two or three weeks. For a while, it was a comforting ritual. But, as the spring of 2020 wore on, making coffee at home began to bore me. It was just another chore. I started venturing back out to my favorite shops as part of a daily walk, tipping generously and latching onto the brief but valuable human contact. Maybe my $5 cold brew was keeping my favorite cafes afloat, I thought, justifying the expense while money was tight.
But now my daily cuppa has expanded to literally every day, which, if I’ve done the math correctly, makes it a $140 a month hobby. That’s an unlimited hot yoga subscription. That’s a tenth of my rent. That’s… too much for coffee. Suddenly, even the $45 option from Blue Bottle doesn’t seem like a splurge. It’s a budget saver. So I’m back to ordering the beans delivered to my doorstep, and yes, I know Nestle now owns Blue Bottle and it’s not a small upstart anymore. I know there are other more local roastery subscriptions I can and should and probably will eventually find. But sometimes the comforting sameness of a corporate option is necessary in trying times, and these, my friends, qualify. Uncertain of where my career will go, where my company (this magazine) will go, or what will happen with the world in general, a reliable standby for coffee is a tiny moment of peace in my anxiety-filled day.
If you’re making coffee for more than one, or drink several cups a day like I often do, then I recommend getting a Chemex for the best at-home brew. You can purchase them at most good local shops, like say, Dinosaur Coffee, or order them online from great LA-based roasters like Canyon Coffee for around $40-$50. It’s more versatile than a one-cup pour over, with slightly stronger and better flavor. It keeps coffee hot longer, or can easily be cooled in the fridge. It can also be used for an iced coffee brewing method some people swear by, though I’ve never gotten it to work. The hourglass shape and the size of it also appeals to me, just as a vessel. My plastic pour over dripper isn’t pretty at all, but the Chemex is.
Canyon also offers short or long subscriptions, starting with $66 for a three-month-stint of 12 oz bags delivered once per month month. That’s $18 a bag plus $4 for shipping — not bad for a local company that probably can’t afford to subsidize shipping like Blue Bottle can. (Although, if you buy more than two 12 oz bags they often waive the shipping fee.) If you’re hell bent on shopping local, as I often am, this is a great alternative to Blue Bottle, and their three-month option is perfect for gifting. Canyon also sells beautiful handmade ceramics, pour over sets and drippers, as well as home goods like kettles, grinders and the all-powerful Chemex. If you’re into coffee culture and supporting local artists, definitely sign up for their mailing list to get installments of their Morning Ritual series with various friends and creatives. (Just go to their website and scroll down until you hit the mailing list sign-up.) They also make great playlists.
Coffee is something that makes me feel accomplished and ready for the day. It’s an excuse to get out of bed. Some days, it’s the only thing that gets me out of bed. For me, it’s not anxiety-inducing, but seems to calm my spiraling thoughts. I know it’s not like that for everyone, but hopefully for those who do find peace in the ritual, a couple bags of Blue Bottle beans can bring a little joy into daily life. And when at-home brewing is getting too boring, then it’s time to go back to the shops and flirt with the cute baristas. After all, life’s all about balance — and measuring out your life with coffee spoons.