I’m almost a week late writing this small tribute to Mr. Alfred Peet, who died at his home in Ashland, Ore., on Wednesday, August 29.
I was born in Berkeley, Calif., in 1973, to hippies straight up. Dad was working on his PhD at Cal with a pair of lambchops and embroidered bell bottoms, and my mom — an undergrad — swished waist-length hair behind her everywhere she went. From what they tell me, the cool things were watching midnight screenings of La Belle et la bete at the UC Theatre on University, growing sprouts in mason jars on the windowsill, and chillin on a bag of green at Mr. Peet’s shop at Vine and Walnut in North Berkeley, swapping books with the other hippies gathered there.
I totally get it that Alfred Peet is a legend within this industry, that we wouldn’t be where we are today without his influence and individuality. But personally, for me, Peet’s Coffee has and always will bring to mind my childhood. It was the first coffee I ever had and it’s still the coffee my parents brew in a Melitta every morning at the house I grew up in. My friends and I would stop for Peet’s on our way to class in high school, and when I went off to college at UC Davis in 1991, I would stock up on beans every time I’d visit my parents or head to SF for a show.
Eventually I started learning more about coffee, the scene in the Bay Area growing as it was and is still. My then boyfriend, Aaron, and I rented a flat in North Berkeley on Oxford Street for a year after college 3/4 of a block from that original Peet’s shop at Vine and Walnut. When I moved to Eugene, Ore., for graduate school in 1998, my best pal, Kim, and I would escape the tiny town for Portland every weekend, and we’d slurp up the great coffee, not to mention music and clothes.
I’ve been in Portland since finishing grad school in 2000 (save a one-year stint in Seattle), and I drink all kinds of coffee now. But when I go back to Berkeley to visit, I wanna do the things I’ve always done there: zone out and play records in my old room; walk around the backyard where I would pitch my tent and sleep outside every summer; and head up to the Peet’s by the Claremont with my dad in the mornings to talk and get coffee and sit for a while on our favorite bench out around the back of the shop and the Bread Garden. Those are things I just always do.
That’s how I remember Peet’s, and how I first heard of the legend behind the man. I’m grateful for all he has done within and for this industry I have come to love so much, but I also thank him for creating a place for some of my best memories, and for developing a singular scent that can bring me back to age 7, age 12, age 17, in the time it takes to blink.