David Lynch's Philosophy on Drinking Coffee
"I used to drink twenty cups a day. But they were smaller and in Styrofoam cups. Now I drink them in bigger cups."
Illustration by Domitille Collardey
I drink bodega coffee with essence of corner-store cat hair and boiled onions as much as the next person. I've also been known to imbibe in jet-fuel coffee from street vendors that tastes like burning, but deep down, I'm a sucker for the expensive $3 cold brew.
Most days, you can find me posted up in the fancy coffee shop dropping cash as if I'm struggling with a dire gambling problem, the kind in which that glass of iced coffee is my double down. The stuff I'm speaking of is almost always the kind with some sort of essence of "tennis balls and Twizzlers," (a real description that a barista with a handle-bar mustache recently sold me on in under three minutes flat). But every time I take the first sip, I'm never that impressed. I feel gypped. I can't help but wonder: maybe it's not the coffee?
It wasn't until I laid my overly-caffeinated sights on Special Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks that it all changed for me, and I began to reconsider my entire perspective on the act of coffee drinking altogether.
As much as I adore the log lady, covet the towering stacks of doughnuts in the Twin Peaks Sherriff Station, and stay up late at night wondering, who the #!@#%^&%# killed Laura Palmer?!, nothing has entranced me more than Special Agent Dale Cooper's artful approach to coffee drinking. Diner coffee, actually. If you looked up the word 'zen' in the dictionary, I'm certain you'd find his porcelain cup staining that very page.
It was always in his first sip of 'damn fine cup of coffee' that I'm convinced holds the secrets to having an incredible coffee experience I'm not sure I've had. What were they putting in the filter? Should I move to Washington State? If there was arsenic or some sort of mysterious David Koresh type of Kool-Aide concoction mixed inside it, Dale, clue me in, man.
Since my reality doesn't include Special Agent Cooper to provide pointers, I set out on a quest for hard answers on how to change my mindset on the beans forever. Like a stroke of luck—or perhaps a response to my burning coffee smoke signals—David Lynch generously decided to answer. Besides inventing Special Agent Dale Cooper and one of the best television shows of all time, David has created his own line of coffee and mastered the philosophical art of coffee drinking—almost twenty cups a day, to be exact.
MUNCHIES: Hi David. You immediately came to mind because the topic of coffee is pretty…overwhelming. Do you remember the first time you drank a cup of coffee?
David Lynch: I don't remember the first time exactly, but I'd like to think that I was loving coffee from an early age.
How early are we talking here?
I'm not sure, but I might have been quite little. Maybe three.
I'm not sure about that, but as a kid I always loved the smell of coffee roasting and brewing.
OK, so what do you consider a 'good' cup?
For me, it's the flavor. It should have no bitterness, and it should be smooth and rich in flavor. I like to drink espresso with milk, like a latte or a cappuccino, but the espresso should have a golden foam. It can be so beautiful, Helen.
What's inside of a bad cup?
A bad cup will taste acidic and bitter and there's always a good flavor hiding in there somewhere, but the acid and the bitterness ruin it. It's very frustrating to get a bad cup when you're yearning for a cup of coffee.
Coffee companies have come a really long way over the last 15 years from the gnarly stuff.
Yes, well, I think Italy was always producing really great coffee, but America's definitely come a long way.
Thank God. Speaking of American coffee companies, I've tried out the David Lynch Signature Cup coffee; what was it that made you want to create your own line?
Well, it wasn't really my idea. One day, a friend came over to me and said, "David, you drink so much coffee, you should have your own line," and one thing led to another, and I blind tested many, many different coffees. Another friend of mine said, "I know these guys down in Long Beach who have the greatest coffee" but I tasted it, and it was terrible, so I kept tasting different coffees and different mixtures and kept coming back to this one in blind tests over and over again.
Do you have any particular terminology that you like to use to describe coffee? You know those wine tasters, they have a billion different words [laughs] but it just comes down to what you really like. So if words come out, and "great taste" is what you're looking for and it tastes good as you're drinking it, and then it tastes good after it's entered you, it just reads as "great coffee."
That is exactly how I like to describe 'good' coffee. I think you have to keep it simple. No one makes coffee appear more incredible than Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks. What kind of coffee do you think he would select from the David Lynch Signature Cup line?
Special Agent Dale Cooper drinks a lot of diner coffee. That would be a house roast, so he would really like the David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee House Roast because he would enjoy the flavor of it and it wouldn't be acidic or bitter. And he would probably order several cups.
I don't blame him. I drink too much coffee myself. Do you feel like coffee helps to inspire your work?
Yes. You know there's a thing—since I was in high school, I read a book called The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, and in it he talks about this art spirit that transformed itself into the art life for me. Coffee is part of the art life. I don't know quite how it works, but it makes you feel really good and it serves the creative process. It goes hand in hand with painting for sure.
In essence, what's in a cup of coffee for you?
A good friend.
I've heard that you used to be a lot like Balzac and drink twenty cups a day. How many do you consume these days?
Well, I think I would say ten. It's true I used to drink twenty. But they were smaller and in Styrofoam cups. Now I drink them in bigger cups.
If I drink more than two cups, it makes me feel shaky. You must be an evolved human being to be able to enjoy that many. [Laughs] I really enjoy them…I just keep drinking. My trick though is to stop drinking them around 5:30 at night.
I can certainly benefit from that trick. How do you take it? Cappuccinos, mostly, but I like lattes, too. I just got two new espresso machines that are really incredible.
What kind? La Marzocco's double boiler espresso machines. Every cup comes out the same once you get them dialed in. They are so beautiful, Helen. Coffee is such a strange thing. All the things you have to make it—people find what they love and make their own systems. Lots of people are doing really great things in coffee these days, but you have to find what works for you and you can instantly go to heaven.
That is good advice. Speaking of which: for those who've never touched a drip, do you have any advice on where to begin? Well, if they tried David Lynch Signature Cup then I'm afraid they'd be disappointed when they tried any other coffee [laughs]. It's a beautiful world, the world of coffee.
Agreed. I'm going to go indulge in a cup ASAP. I hope you find a great cup of coffee.
You too, David.