Postum Postmortem

The powdered beverage Postum is now a thing of the past. Oregon resident and Postum-lover Ellen Mandel talks to Scott Simon about the drink's 100-year run as coffee's caffeine-free cousin. Before the final goodbye, the two enjoy one last drink.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Postum will soon be past tense. Late last year, Kraft Foods discontinued production of the 100-year-old powdered drink that was long considered a non-addictive alternative to coffee because of shrinking demand. And by now, most store shelves that used to stock the wheat-and-molasses-blend beverage are bereft of Postum and now probably hold decaf coffee or, heaven forefend, green tea.

Ellen Mandel is a purchasing manager from Bend, Oregon, who is devoted to Postum.

Ms. Mandel, how are you coping?

Ms. ELLEN MANDEL (Purchasing Manager, Bend, Oregon): Not very well at all. I'm upset that I don't have my nice, warm cup of Postum.

SIMON: How many bottles or cases do you have?

Ms. MANDEL: Well right now, I have half of a teaspoon left in one bottle. That's all I have.

SIMON: Half a teaspoon left in one bottle and, I mean, not to tip anything, we're about to ask you to share that with us.

Ms. MANDEL: I know. Well, I only used the other half to make the cup that I'm going to share with you.

SIMON: Oh my word, I mean, I feel like I'm here for Mick Jagger's last rock concert or something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MANDEL: As you are.

SIMON: How long have you been drinking Postum?

Ms. MANDEL: Oh goodness. I've been drinking Postum, I'd say for nine years.

SIMON: And how would you describe the taste?

Ms. MANDEL: Its roasted grains, so it's got that roasted flavor, and I drink mine with a bit of cream, and it's real smooth. Even when it cools down, it doesn't turn bitter.

SIMON: I mean, would you ever drink iced Postum?

Ms. MANDEL: No.

SIMON: Postum latte?

Ms. MANDEL: Postum latte? Sure, and many times I'll put a little bit of hot chocolate in mine just to make myself what I call a poor man's mocha.

SIMON: Now, I'm told if you go on eBay, there are people who are selling jars of Postum, but it's pricey, like the quote that was given me is four jars for $130.

Ms. MANDEL: Yup.

SIMON: Have you tried to do that?

Ms. MANDEL: No, no, because I have discovered that Kraft has decided to continue to make Postum in Canada, so I have a friend with parents who live in Canada, and she's going to go up visiting next month and will bring me a whole case.

SIMON: Ms. Mandel?

Ms. MANDEL: Yes.

SIMON: I don't know how to tell you this: Our staff members have been on the phone with Kraft. They deny that Postum is being made in Canada.

Ms. MANDEL: Oh no, that's scary.

SIMON: Well, you're taking it with admirable pluck, I must say.

Ms. MANDEL: Thank you.

SIMON: I think I tried Postum once when I was like 12 or 13, and I am never less than a foot from a cup of coffee, even as I sleep. So my attitude towards Postum, I confess, is filled with disdain. Maybe - can you give me a tutorial? We would love to share your last half cup of Postum with you.

Ms. MANDEL: Yes.

SIMON: So how do I make it? What do I do?

Ms. MANDEL: Well, take one level teaspoon - not heaping, but level. You don't need a lot of it. It's pretty potent stuff. Put it in your cup and pour boiling or very hot water over that, and stir it up. I like mine with just a touch of one-percent milk, but you can drink it straight. I think it's going to be a little tough to drink it straight because it's, like I say, it's a roasted grain.

SIMON: I'm putting organic half-and-half in now.

Ms. MANDEL: Perfect, perfect. That'll mellow it out a little bit. Make sure you have plenty of water. It shouldn't be too dark when you look at it. It shouldn't be like a French-roast coffee, where it's really dark black.

SIMON: Okay, it's mixed. Do you have yours mixed?

Ms. MANDEL: I have mine mixed.

SIMON: Here's looking at you.

Ms. MANDEL: All right.

(Soundbite of sipping)

Ms. MANDEL: And you're probably making a face.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: How did you guess? I'm making a face because there's no discernable taste.

Ms. MANDEL: But it's warm, right?

SIMON: Yeah, but I mean, so are a pair of fuzzy bunny slippers, and I wouldn't have them for breakfast. It tastes like nothing.

Ms. MANDEL: I hate to bring you bad news, but I think you have killed all of the taste buds in your mouth drinking that nasty coffee.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I guess I deserved that, didn't I? Oh my, well I guess in that case, you might as well drink Postum, but not any more.

Ms. MANDEL: Not anymore.

SIMON: Ms. Mandel, I'm touched by the fact that we shared your last Postum, and my condolences on your loss.

Ms. MANDEL: Thank you.

SIMON: Ellen Mandel, a purchasing manager, joining us from Bend, Oregon.

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