Coffee played an integral role in the early-2000s mother-daughter psychodrama Gilmore Girls, and Luke Danes, the town’s dinerman, was its primary purveyor. Much was made throughout the series about how Luke brewed “the best coffee in town,” but was his coffee really any good? Hmm. A great question.
I began drinking coffee when I was about 15; I began watching Gilmore Girls around the same age. The coffee I drank at the time came most often from the Wendy’s next to my high school, and my introduction to it came from an older guy I had a crush on. “Hmm yes, I drink my Wendy’s coffee ‘black,’ too, actually.” It tasted like garbage, from what I can remember, but each purchase was no doubt very impressive to that guy.
As I aged with the series and my taste in coffee became less Wendy’s-exclusive, it struck me as odd that Lorelai, Rory, and any old stranger who wandered into Luke’s Diner seemed to think Luke’s coffee was notably “good.” Luke didn’t drink coffee himself, which is suspicious, and he nearly always gave Lorelai a hard time about her coffee consumption. (“I can give you herbal tea and a Balance bar,” he told her after she ordered a coffee in episode two.) Would a person who dislikes not only coffee but the very idea of coffee be the person you’d expect to make a “good” cup of coffee?
Tell me—would he??
I doubt it!!!!
On top of that, when Luke was shown making his coffee the blend was pre-ground and came from a large, generic-looking tin. A guy who hates coffee throwing some old, stale coffee grounds into his diner coffee machine—“good” coffee, yeah right. Fine coffee, maybe. Coffee you don’t want to spit out of your mouth because it is disgusting and you hate it so much, sure. But GOOD?
In any case, Lorelai lauded the coffee, while dismissing coffee from Weston’s—a nearby bakery—as inferior, and never going out of her way to praise the coffee Sookie made for the Inn. Lorelai’s love of Luke’s coffee—and coffee in general—is, in fact, the very first thing we learn about her in the opening scene of the pilot episode:
Lorelai: Please, Luke. Please, please, please!
Luke: How many cups have you had this morning?
Lorelai: Five, but yours is better.
Luke: You have a problem.
Lorelai: Yes, I do.
[Luke gives her coffee.]
Lorelai: Angel. You’ve got wings, baby.
Later, a man in the diner chats her up, saying, “You make [that coffee] look really good.” “Oh it is really good,” she replies. “It’s the best coffee in town.”
Of course, Stars Hollow is a small town, and maybe, if townies were the only ones to praise Luke’s coffee, the love of Luke’s coffee could be dismissed as being due to a dearth of coffee options. But townies weren’t the only ones to praise Luke’s coffee. For example, in season three, episode 12, an episode titled “Lorelai Out of Water,” Taylor Doose’s attorney Nicole Leahy takes a sip of Luke’s coffee and says, “That’s a really good cup of coffee.”
Do you see what I’m saying?
In season two, episode one, we’re given a clear glimpse of the Luke’s Diner brand of coffee:
San Francisco’s Hills Bros. Coffee.
In this scene, we’re also given a peek at Luke’s coffee preparation method:
Just dumping it in the thing.
(Granted, at this moment Lorelai was telling Luke that she’d accepted Max Medina’s marriage proposal, and Luke was devastated, because Max Medina?, why would she marry Max Medina?, she supposed to marry LUKE, but even so it is hard to imagine he ever put more care into his coffee preparation than we are witnessing in this still.)
Hills Bros., founded in 1878, is owned by the Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group, which also owns Chock full o’Nuts. I’m no snob, which is sort of a lie, but finding out this was the coffee used in Luke’s Diner seemed to only further my long-held belief that Luke’s coffee could not possibly be as good as everyone made it out to be. A bunch of liars, and I don’t even know why they’re lying to me. Stop lying. Stop.
That is, this info seemed to further my long-held belief until I looked at the Hills Bros. Coffee Amazon reviews:
People love this coffee.
“if you’re drinking maxwell house, foldgers, 8 0 clock, chock full of whatever, donut house coffee and Dennys please give this a try..if you dont like it , send me the bill,seriously..” said one bold gentleman who did not provide an address. “Mmmmm the smell of Hills Bros Coffee as you open the package is delicious,” said some other guy. “I would only recommend this to a person who is going on a river trip,” said another person. (Not a compliment.)
If you’re thinking that maybe this is what the Amazon review spread would look like for any major brand of coffee, due to the fact that, typically, if you’re buying a major brand of coffee it’s because that’s the coffee you buy all the time, and you buy it all the time because you like it, or maybe you have some sort of emotional attachment to it because maybe that’s the kind of coffee your dad drank, or whatever, well—I’m curious about why you seem to want to ruin the arch of my blog post. Just naturally rude? Please mind your own business!
You’re right, though. Here’s Folgers:
People love this coffee.
In any case, Amazon reviewers did seem to go out of there way to find Hills Bros., which I have never seen in a grocery store, and apparently it drove everyone in Stars Hollow fucking nuts, so I don’t know. Maybe it’s good. I ordered a big tin of it from Amazon to see for myself.
Here is a photo of my Hills Bros. coffee outside in the morning, on a lovely September day:
After brewing a batch of coffee according to the Hills Bros. Coffee instructions—one tablespoon of coffee for each six-ounce cup of water—which seems to me like not enough coffee but who am I to judge Hills Bro. Coffee on the way they instruct you to prepare the product they presumably know best: Hills Bros. Coffee—I poured the liquid into my mug. It was pleasingly and unexpectedly dark. I was thinking that it would be light and weak, but no—dark.
Although the scent was inherently pleasing because it was morning and it was coffee, it also smelled like coffee that wasn’t going to taste very good. Like the kind of coffee that smells a little like old burnt coffee grounds, or like coffee that smells cold even though it is hot.
I did not add any cream, because Rory and Lorelai did not typically add any cream to their Luke’s Diner coffee, and tried the coffee. It was not great.
I’ll say this: it was maybe a little better than normal grocery store coffee. It was a bit more interesting, though still retained the watery-ness of coffee that isn’t very good. I’m not upset that I have an enormous tin of it in my kitchen now. It will be good for when I run out of other kinds of coffee. But if I was served this coffee in a diner I would think not think “this is good coffee,” instead I would think: this makes sense. I’m in a diner, and this is how diner coffee should taste: not very good.
So I guess I was right, then.