the case of the sycophantic cypriot

August 11, 2007 – 12:00 pm

another in a series: tales of coffee woe you, too, could experience were you enough of a self-flagellating masochist.

it was just the sort of gripping social dilemma that pits yourself against someone you love. the cypriot’s brother-in-law had caught the coffee snob’s bug and needed mentoring. of course, he still only had the stage-one malady, not the advanced and elitist variety to which the cypriot himself had long ago fallen prey. he had purchased a small gaggia of some sort, one that made you flip a switch and wait 45 seconds between brewing your espresso and steaming your milk. “what more do i need?” he said, pleading for counsel.

with bemused grins and much private calculation, the cypriot pontificated on the transcending importance of a grinder, plying his eager disciple for signs of his earnesty. he then decided to gift the man with his own fourth-tier model, a white burr grinder of the sort that gevalia may have given away at some point with a coffee-of-the-month windbreaker. you might argue that his mazzer, his rocky or his quickmill might have been a better option, but this was family and the cypriot had to maintain some internal advantage.

ah, but the man was still using the plastic stock tamper. alright then. out came the cypriot’s fourth-tier model (after the espressocraft, the old-school packer and the 30-pound clicker) with a slightly bulbous handle lathed in the studio and a slight weight imbalance that made you feel like you were pressing greased marbles. these tokens winged to california where, the cypriot figured, his relation would become happily absorbed.

this was not quite the case. espresso, it turns out, is profoundly affected by dozens of minute adjustable factors quite difficult to master. then came the family vacation, when the cypriot was reunited with his fourth-tier gear and asked to perform gaggia magic for the family, to enlighten them on the wonders of preeminent brew. watershed moments like this happen to every coffee-ill snob, where you must choose between conforming to some lesser norm that will, no doubt, please the masses, or else completely jumping the shark and insisting on a quality level that the common man is likely to equate with mooneyism.

the cypriot chose personal glory. and who wouldn’t? working the gaggia handles and milquetoast burr and bulbous tamper with an artisan’s flair, he spun foamy beverages and cocktail-shaker drinks and plopping crema marvels for a raving and delighted crowd of kin. one of them, it turns out, is in the coffee roasting business. sarkis was, possibly or possibly not to his own chagrin, the star. it’s doubtful that he even drank his own concoctions.

of course, the pictures showed up on facebook. “At Lucy’s,” the caption read, “when Sarkis made us never want to drink regular coffee. Ever.”