Books Read in 2007
3 September 2007
I don't know how many of you took note, but there was a significant passing this weekend. Alfred Peet, the founder of Peet's coffee died of cancer, at age 87 at his home in Ashland Oregon. Though Peet sold his business in 1979 it still feels like a personal loss.
I went researching for information about Alfred Peet on the Internet and found that he "opened his first shop in 1966 in a rundown neighborhood in Berkeley, California that was later dubbed the 'Gourmet Ghetto.'"
That was sure news to me. The first shop on the corner of Walnut and Vine Streets was in a very nice neighborhood. It was walking distance from the UC Berkeley campus, around the corner from where Alice Waters' famous Chez Panisse restaurant would be located, across the street from the Berkeley Co-op. Hardly a "rundown neighborhood." My friend Jeri's (Jeri's godmother) mother lived a couple of blocks away. We were living in Albany at the time, on the north side of the campus, and near Peet's.
I don't know if we began buying Peet's coffee in 1966, the year the store opened, but I'm sure we were regular customers by 1967. In the beginning we would try different blends, but we always came back to French Roast, which we called "black gold."
There are other French Roasts from other fine coffee makers, but nothing ever tasted quite the way that Peet's did. When we moved to Oakland, a lot farther away, we continued to drive in to Berkeley to get Peet's coffee.
Then Peet opened a new location across the street from the Claremont Hotel, which was much closer to our Oakland house. We began going to the closer Peet's.
Even when we moved to Davis, we would drive back to Berkeley to buy coffee. (We could have ordered it through the mail, but we were happy to have an excuse to spend the day in Berkeley.)
Shortly after I started working for The Lamplighters one day a week, Peet opened a store in San Francisco, so now I would buy coffee at the San Francisco location.
It sometimes seemed like Peet, or the Peet's organization, was following us around, especially when Peet opened a location here in Davis, just a few block from our house. Now we have no reason to drive to Berkeley just for coffee because we have it right in our own back yard.
When you buy coffee at Peet's, they give you a free cup of coffee. I took one once, but they brew it MUCH too strong for my tastes. I didn't realize until recently that it was no disgrace to ask for it to be watered down. Now I get a 1/3 - 2/3 cup and I'm able to enjoy it fresh.
There is a Peet's in Santa Barbara and Walt's sister buys Peet's when she knows we're coming. Jeri is a tea drinker, but there is a Peet's near her house in Boston and Walt can stop in for coffee when he visits. There is a store near my mother's and she's been converted and now buys Peet's too.
We've been drinking Peet's coffee almost our entire married life. I've been drinking Peet's coffee longer than I've known most of my friends. Is it any wonder that I have a slight pang at hearing that this man, whom I never met, but who has had a tremendous impact on my life, is no longer in the world.
(and for you Starbucks fans, did you know that it was Alfred Peet who taught Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel and Gordon Bowker how to roast beans and inspired them to open a coffee shop at Pike's Market in Seattle?)
PHOTO OF THE DAY
(the poster was one I bought on the 25th anniversary of the store.
This is entry #2715