For a while Monday night, the lead story on The New York Times website did not involve Angelina Jolie, Benghazi or a single politician.
The hot, hot news?
Intelligentsia, the Chicago coffee company, is opening a coffee bar in Manhattan.
I can't recall anything involving imported food or drink from another city ever being featured so prominently in mainstream Chicago media unless it had to do with hot dogs or hamburgers.
But Manhattan's different. Food trends there are treated as seriously as theater and real estate, so it's not shocking that the opening of an Intelligentsia coffee bar in the new High Line Hotel merits a major headline.
The Times article, which spent most of Tuesday on the most emailed list, quoted Stephen Morrissey, director of communications for Intelligentsia:
"In addition to offering a daily coffee on a pour-over bar equipped with Wave drippers from the Japanese manufacturer Kalita (the current darling of high-end coffee), the baristas will select a second coffee that they think 'pops,'" he said.
Go ahead. Take a moment to process that sentence.
"When the morning shift comes in at 5:30 a.m., they'll cup the coffees. Then they'll pick how to make it. It's not that one brewer is better than another brewer. It's that they might decide, 'I'm loving the toffee notes in this, I bet it'll be awesome in a Cafe Solo.'"
Translation: This is not a 7-Eleven cup of joe.
Coffee is a restless creature. It is forever demanding a new incarnation and a more discerning audience.
Latte, cappuccino, doppio macchiato?
So groundbreaking when Starbucks fixed them in our daily language. So 1999 by now.
Now, the newest thing in coffee is an improved version of something really old: coffee brewed and black.
The excitement over Intelligentsia's Manhattan debut (the article also mentioned Portland's equally trendy Stumptown coffee) made me think back on all the coffee trends I've known.
I grew up in the percolator generation. All across America in that bygone time, children awoke to the gurgle of their parents' Maxwell House bubbling into sludge.
There was no happier sound, no smell more hopeful.
The sight of coffee splashing into the glass knob on the pot's top filled me with bliss, though that may have had less to do with coffee than with the fact that morning was the one time my parents were guaranteed to be in a good mood.
But the children of the percolator generation did not want to be trapped in our parents' provincial, percolating ways.
In college, when we weren't downing gallons of dining hall acid from giant metal vats, some of us bought little metal Turkish pots and drank our sludge with international pretensions.
In that same rebellious era, we were fond of the new Cafe au Lait, a groundbreaking coffee beverage made from sugar, instant coffee, nondairy creamer and other horrors mentioned in fine print on the can.
A couple of heaping spoonfuls. A spot of boiling water. And voila! A trip to Paris.
Then along came Mr. Coffee. Even fans of the French press or the Melitta filter turned into slobs happy to punch the button on their automatic coffee machine and be done with it.
The percolator was dead for good.
We all know the rest of the history. The Starbucks revolution. The birth of bad lattes in every fast-food joint. The exotic became mundane, and coffee, that restless creature, needed another change.
So now comes what's called the third wave of coffee. For the time being, it's mostly confined to smallish, independent enterprises serious about beans and dedicated to technique in pursuit of coffee perfection.
Intelligentsia is the big daddy of the wave.
But will New Yorkers embrace their new Chicago brew bar?
One online site that heralded Intelligentsia's arrival, calling it "the insanely popular Chicago coffee chain," drew sniffs from some commenters.
"Midwest swill," said one. "Posers," said another. Someone bemoaned the invasion of chains.
Intelligentsia actually makes excellent coffee —generally worth the money and the patience required for a good brew — but even if it scores big in New York, sooner or later, there will be a fourth coffee wave. The human need for novelty guarantees it.
And I predict it will involve the return of the percolator.