WITH all the new coffee bars in Baltimore, connoisseurs...

salmagundi

January 28, 1994

WITH all the new coffee bars in Baltimore, connoisseurs may be interested in the latest news from the Pacific Northwest, where good espresso, capuccino and latte are considered essential to civilization.

The Associated Press reports that a crisis has been brewing in Washington state since last June, when a state electrical inspector checking an espresso cart realized its boiler, the device used to steam milk for latte, did not meet state standards for boilers. That discovery prompted fear among state officials that more than 10,000 coffee carts were dispensing illegal latte.

"The light came on at that point and it was realized that there were all these little boilers out there in violation of the boiler law," said Brian Dirks, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industries, which oversees boiler inspections.

Latte and capuccino lovers need not fear, however. The Board of Boiler Rules came to its senses earlier this month and adopted an emergency rule exempting espresso machines from state boiler laws. However, the machines still must meet other requirements designed to prevent them from rupturing.

As the AP notes, the issue is more than a hill of beans to latte lovers, and to operators of the estimated 10,000 commercial espresso machines in sidewalk carts, department stores, coffee shops, hotels and corporate cafeterias across the state.

"Really, the issue has been resolved to the state's satisfaction and to the industry's satisfaction," Dirks said. "L&I was never interested in adding latte stand inspections to its repertoire of services anyway."

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