It could have been worse.
At least the state legislators who want to designate an official state beverage weren’t so boring and risk-averse as to go with milk.
That’s what 19 other states have done (although Nebraska’s official beverages are both milk and Kool-Aid).
So, by comparison, filing a bill to make coffee Washington’s state beverage isn’t as predictable as it could be. It plays right into the cliché of choice for reporters visiting the state of Seattle (few venture south of IKEA) that we all work for Microsoft, wear flannel and live in the back of a Starbucks.
“The Legislature finds that Washington is well-known as the espresso capital of the country” is how House Bill 1715 begins.
If you are among those who need a moment to complain about lawmakers proposing state beverages in the midst of an economic and budget crisis, please take that moment now. Make sure you include some reference to fiddling while Rome burns.
I, however, happen to think the politicians need something relatively harmless to do between now and the March revenue forecast. Better official-state-stuff bills than proposals that actually do damage.
Besides, it is hard to make a case against frivolous officialdom when the Legislature has recently adopted an official vegetable (the Walla Walla sweet onion), an amphibian (the Pacific chorus frog) and an endemic mammal (the Olympic marmot, of course).
We already have a state bird, tree, flower, fish, gem, grass, insect, fossil, marine mammal, dance, tartan, song and folk song. And designers managed to fit them all on the state quarter.
There is even another bill around this year to designate Tenino quarry sandstone as the official state rock. Such a move will surely disappoint the good people of Wilkeson, as well as those who campaigned unsuccessfully to get “Louie Louie” named the state’s official rock song.
Can we be far away from designating an official state official (with my nominee being Pac-10 football referee Jay Stricherz of Tacoma)?
But for today, we’ll talk about beverages. It could be argued that Seattle isn’t a coffee town as much as it is a milk town. Isn’t the coffee just another flavoring in your iced venti, half-caf, three-pump vanilla latte and your grande, hazelnut, no foam, 140-degree, cappucino with just a hint of cinnamon on top?
Well, isn’t it? So perhaps this whole coffee designation is a backdoor means of becoming yet another state officially celebrating milk, a theory that might explain JT Wilcox’s cosponsorship of the bill.
At least we can get milk from Washington cows. Washington doesn’t grow coffee beans. Instead, we import them, and we are the birthplace of a hippie coffee shop that was overtaken by a corporation that is now ubiquitous. Big deal.
We do, however, grow hops and barley and a few other ingredients used to brew beer. Despite the departure of Olympia and Rainier and Heidelberg, Washingtonians still make a good product, though in smaller quantities.
I keep hearing that some folks grow grapes and make something called wine, right here. I think it wins contests, even, sometimes besting vintners in California, where the state beverage isn’t milk or coffee, but wine.
Alabama’s state beverage is Conecuh Ridge whiskey, so intoxicants shouldn’t necessarily be out of the running. I’m still waiting for a distiller to do something worthwhile with all those potatoes now that it has lost out to the onion in the state vegetable competition.
Perhaps the Republicans who are sponsoring the beverage bill couldn’t bring themselves to endorse alcohol. But coffee isn’t an all-ages drink either. So aren’t there beverages around that say more about Washington state than “home of the first Starbucks.”
I, for one, would much prefer apple juice from Selah or a cup of clam nectar from Ivar’s Acres of Clams (as long as both can be chased with a shot of freezer-chilled Palouse Vodka).
Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics
HOT BUTTON ONLINE POLL
The Question: Lawmakers may make coffee the official state beverage. What do you think should be the state drink?
Votes as of Wednesday afternoon: 1,899
Coffee: 804 (42%)
Apple juice: 481 (25%)
Microbrew: 367 (19%)
Wine: 174 (9%)
Milk: 73 (4%)
To vote, go online to thenewstribune.com