A smattering of the varietals roasted by DoubleShot Coffee Company. Photo by Kelly Brown
“Life is better these days, right?” I sometimes ask myself. That is, fuller, richer, brighter, deeper than how our parents had it? (My parents, I guess I should stick with.) It’s a question I ask not without reservation—and at the risk of coming off as a whiny brat—in this era of static wages and declining benefits.
My mom and dad used to stop off at this donut shop on the way home from University of Tulsa basketball games. It was the early 1970s, and the Golden Hurricane were competitive if not feared. They won a lot of games, just never the big one. They played their home games in the Fairgrounds Pavilion, that Art Deco monument where 20 years later I would see Marilyn Manson open for Nine Inch Nails (and see him, no less, entering the men’s room upon my exit, with The Enigma from the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, both of them wearing only black thongs and socks). The donut shop was on Yale Avenue, just north of the Broken Arrow Expressway underpass, less than a mile from the Pavilion. It took longer to get out of the parking lot than it did to drive up the avenue. Sometimes a lot longer. My brother and I would huddle in the backseat of the Pontiac while my dad threw himself on the mercy of kinder traffic in an attempt to escape that asphalt jungle. The car would fog indulgently with the exhaust of Winstons, as though my parents had been waiting years to light back up. In those days you could smoke in an arena, even one occupied by student athletes, so I’m not sure what all the rush was about.
Those donut shop days did not last long, four, five years, maybe. But at times, it felt as if they’d never end. Long after my brother and I and sometimes our friends had devoured our allotments of maple bars and cold milk, my parents would linger over their bottomless cups of coffee.
“Can we go, can we go, can we go?” one of us would beg, not once but one hundred times.
“Not yet,” my mother would patiently admit, “we’re drinking our coffee.”
What we fathomed were tedious hours could not have been more than several minutes, with my mother and father and sometimes their friends doing their best to ignore our pleas while savoring the black depths of a hot cup of, what … Hills Brothers? Folgers? Maxwell House?
Probably Cain’s. William Morgan Cain, according to a story that in the Daily Oklahoman four years after his death in 1983.
“Inspired by four years of sailing among the coffee and tea ports of the world,” read his obituary, he bought the Western Tea and Coffee Co., a roaster on its last legs. A one-man shop, he roasted, blended, ground, packed and sold, door-to-door, from “a basket over his arm.”
From these near-mythical beginnings—mythical if Cain had gone on to become Howard Schulz—Cain’s become the No. 2 seller in Oklahoma grocery stores. But Cain owned the hotel and restaurant trade, which is probably where I first encountered it. Queenie’s, my breakfast spot of choice since the days of Madchester and Bush the Elder, served Cain’s. It now serves DoubleShot’s La Magnolia, a product of Hacienda La Minita, a Costa Rican coffee legend.
We found ourselves at DoubleShot on a recent Sunday, the four of us, a sort of unusual event. I’m there nearly every day, often twice a day, but usually by myself, before my bout with the nine-to-five and then again at lunch. That is a different coffee hat than the one I wear with the lads in tow.
“We need one cinnamon roll—” one said.
“Can we each get a cinnamon roll?”
“No,” I argued. “They’re huge. Look.”
One cinnamon roll, the monster of all, courtesy of The Savoy, loomed beneath the counter glass, frosted snow white and glistening black flecks of butter-bathed cinnamon.
“OK,” the one said, sad-eyed, determined. “But and chocolate milk?”
“Sure,” I was about to say. It was on the tip of my ever-Yessin’ tongue.
“No,” she jumped in. “Water.”
It sounded harsh—especially to them—but she stood behind sounder math than I. I usually grant them the chocolate milk, forgetting to figure in the jam at breakfast, the cookie at lunch and the ice cream at dinner. What are a parent’s dietary Yeses and Nos but an inventory of the day’s, the week’s, the month’s caloric intake?
“Anything else?” said the bewildered-by-now barista.
“Yeah. Yeah …” I said. “Two Tchembes.”
We took a table. I split up the roll into fairly equal divisions and their mouths went mostly silent for several minutes. We sipped, she from a cup that caught the tail end of a Fetco tank, me from a fresher one. Or vice versa. There was enough distance between them to create two distinctive drinks, two different Tchembes. We shared, swapped, made small klatch. It was good while it lasted, and made better by the Tchembe.
But, this would have made a much better posting before Christmas—especially since, damn, you can’t buy it anymore, ’cause it’s gone—but it’s got a hook about knowing how good you have it that fits the theme of this post. Anyway, here you go.
Read about a kid paying for a Tchembe pourover from a plastic bag of quarters in “Double or Nothing,” the (seven-years-in-the-making) story I wrote about DoubleShot in the latest edition of Argentfork, available here, here and here.