Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Flashback – Peet’s

We knew Alfred Peet in 1966 when he opened his first store at Vine and Walnut in Berkeley. His very close friend, Kay, lived just down Walnut Street and we lived in a cottage behind. Alfred introduced us to good coffee.

I painted the first sign for the store using the old logo (see above) on butcher paper to hang in the window. He didn’t really think a sign was necessary – “build it and they will come.” He was right.

There were four or five stools at a counter. The emphasis was on retail sales of coffee beans, tea, coffee makers, grinders, and spices. Yes, spices. The original logo read “Peet’s Coffee, Tea, & Spices.”

We loved his hot curry powder – the hot, not the medium or mild. One evening Kay was preparing dinner for us all and Alfred started adding things to the pot. He put in three or four tablespoons of hot curry powder. I was sure I would not be able to eat the meal, but to be polite I took a small portion. It was so good! I’d been raised on grocery store curry powder and you dared not use too much of that. But Alfred’s blend could be used in large quantities. I am pretty sure he learned to make it when he was in Indonesia on a tea plantation.
This little container has the very last bit of his hot curry. The stores discontinued spices when they expanded. I am saving (hoarding) the powder, perhaps for my last supper. I’ve tried all sorts of expensive supposedly authentic curry mixes, but they just are not the same. If anyone knows where to find Peet’s recipe I will be so happy.

Of course we used a Chemex coffee pot back then. We used lots of Chemex pots over the years because they broke easily. We also bought a Chemex hand blown water kettle. I think it is a marvelous looking thing. I dare not use it because I don’t want to break it.
One year we set up a mini factory and made tea sampler boxes. The small boxes were made to look like the large lead-lined and sealed tea boxes which importers sent filled with loose tea.

Green coffee beans came in large sacks to Alfred’s back-of-the-store roasting room. Some of the sacks were made of rough fabric but a few were made of heavy-weave cotton. We are still using one of the cotton coffee sacks as a laundry bag.

Labels: , , , ,


Blogger Tanya said...

What an interesting building. The original Starbucks idea and better I'm sure.

2:02 AM  
Blogger Del said...

Thanks for your little walk down memory lane. I love hearing stories like that - they make me feel 'connected'. To the past, to other people, to the world. Thanks, again. Del

8:53 AM  
Blogger Tanya Brown said...

These are good stories. You were there for the beginning of the coffee revolution! I particularly enjoy the juxtaposition of appreciation of quality (coffee pots, spice) with frugal habits (use of coffee bean bag as laundry bag).

Alas, Alfred Peet is no longer with us, so it isn't as simple as writing him to ask for the recipe. I wonder how much analysis of the remaining hot curry powder would cost?

9:14 AM  
Blogger jpsam said...

Another fabulous Friday Flashback!
Did you know that Orinda now has its own Peet's? There has been one in Lafayette for a few years. I'm a Peet's beans devotee. Do I need to add that there are three Starbuck's in Orinda, too. For your readers who do not have Orinda connections, the population of Orinda from the 2000 census is 17,599. Oh, and for a latte in Orinda, there is also Geppetto's and Cafe Teatro!

11:11 AM  
Blogger meggie said...

What an interesting post. I wonder, has his story been written about, anywhere else? I find such stories very interesting, & it seems a shame when they are lost with time, & the passing of the individual.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Christine Thresh said...

There is a clickable link in the first paragraph in this post under the name "Alfred Peet." When you go to the site you can then click on "Who is Peet's" at the top of the screen. Lots of good pictures and there is a video too.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Rayna said...

Try the Muchi Curry powder that Whole Foods carries in its spice dep't. The best I've found, unless I'm mixing my own.

Ah, Chemex! I use mine every day except when I run out of filters and then I have to use my French press.

7:01 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home