People who know me well know that I less than enthusiastic about the holidays, including Christmas. The Grinch and I have quite a bit in common. My take on the season is more Humbug than Merry Christmas.

The thing I dislike the most about this time of year is the orgy of commercialism that the holidays have become. In the news this week there was a report of how there is no one “it” gift this year. Retailers were disappointed that there was not one product that created such irrational demand that customers would line up before stores opened for a shot at the toy or gadget. I suppose that the iPad is the closest thing to a “must have” this year, but it’s too expensive to be a gift for the masses. That’s not good for retailers, but most of the stuff people buy for the season ends up cluttering up a drawer or a closet somewhere anyway. 

Even without the “one thing that everyone must have,” the retailers are still trying. I saw Christmas stuff in the stores before Halloween this year.  That’s crazy. Pretty soon they’re going to start having Christmas sales in July (oh, wait, they already do). It’s nearly as bad as the continual election cycle our politicians have fallen into.

I’m not completely hopeless when it comes to the holidays. There are a few things I enjoy about the holidays, like seeing friends and family.

Sara McLachlan’s Wintersong is another thing I like about the season. The album is my favorite Christmas album of all time. It came out in 2006 when I was working at Starbucks in Boston. We had to listen to nothing but Christmas music for a month. Most of the music the company played nearly drove me nuts, but McLachlan’s music was refreshing. With her breathy, mournful voice, McLachlan gives the music a haunting, dreamlike quality. You can almost feel the snow and the cold coming through the speakers.


Naturally tasty

On a different note, I have had a couple of  natural-processed coffees recently that were quite interesting, at least as espressos. Case Study is currently offering a natural Bourbon (variety) from Finca El Manzano in El Salvador. Actually, they have a suite of the same coffee processed in three different ways—washed, pulp natural, natural—that you can compare side-by-side if you choose. I took the “flight” and tried all three, which set my heart racing. The natural was the most interesting, with flavors of fermented peaches and plums.

The second natural I had was from Extracto, from the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe region. The crema was sweet and smelled like strawberry jam. There was a lot of wine notes in the coffee, as well as some aggressive, tongue-smacking tannins.

In addition to the two single-origin naturals, Public Domain currently has some natural-processed Ethiopia Harrar coffee in its Prometheus espresso blend. The natural adds a lot of sweetness to the blend. Jackson, one of the baristas there, told me that the blend changes pretty regularly and that they are only offering the current blend for  a few more days. If you are interested in trying a natural that is not too wild, getting a taste of it in the Prometheus blend is a good way to go.

It is hard for me to resist ordering naturals when I find them on a café’s menu. The flavors are bold, complex and somewhat unpredictable. While they might not be something that most people could drink every day, naturals are just the thing if you are in the mood for experimenting. If you’ve had any great naturals out there somewhere, let us know!

If not, well…Humbug. Or…Happy Holidays, if you prefer.