Still, she couldn't help herself, sucking sips of coffee sharply (and noisily) over her tongue, a technique of professional wine and olive oil and coffee tasters best practiced not on quiet terraces, but discreetly, behind closed doors.
Nor did she abbreviate her talking points about the celebrity bean she'd brought along- Panama Esmeralda Geisha, 50 sacks of which Peet's purchased before an auction this year that yielded $130 a pound for green beans judged "Best of Panama." (Peet's is selling its limited quantities for $24.95 a half pound.)
There was also the counterintuitive venue, muted fountains bubbling outside the hotel's dining room, the linden trees shimmering, samples of pairing desserts - white-chocolate bread pudding, tiramisu, chocolate-orange cake, and a pear financier - served up by the Four Seasons' pastry chef, Eddie Hales.
Would that all democratic debuts were so richly rolled out.
Peet's Coffee & Tea is indeed venerable, maybe the most venerable of America's specialty coffees. In 1966, a Dutchman named Alfred Peet, despairing of the generic beans he found upon immigrating to San Francisco (Brazils and "Central Standard" Salvadors imported for the likes of Folgers), and recalling the charms of his father's small roastery in Holland, opened his shop in Berkeley.
He was, by all accounts, the godfather. All that came later - the intensity of high-altitude beans, the darker, fuller-bodied roasts, Philadelphia's own coveted La Colombe - started with Alfred Peet. He nurtured small roasters, some of which became large roasters: Starbucks' founders sought him out as a mentor and supplier, one of them eventually quitting Starbucks, and buying Peet's when Alfred retired in 1983.
There was a certain romance back then, before the craze took off, to mail-ordering bags of Peet's potent, French-roasted beans, and feeling, if not exactly superior, at least superior to supermarket blend.
When he died at 87 in August, Peet was a legend in his trade, a bike-riding Dutchman who'd changed the caffeine landscape of California, then America, though - like the brand itself - he was hardly a household name.
Peet's was not exactly the anti-Starbucks. But it did not deign to jump on the bandwagon it unleashed. Starbucks was up to 12,000 shops the last time I looked. (McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts and even Wal-Mart have joined the game.) By contrast, Peet's has inched from 58 retail stores in 2000 to about 150 today.
It moved its roasting from its Berkeley home to Emeryville, Calif., 10 years ago. But late-night delivery trucks rattled the nerves of neighbors. So this summer it moved into larger, state-of-the-art digs in Alameda, near the Oakland airport.
The new capacity has positioned it for the Acmes and Genuardi's, and overall a bigger sip of the booming specialty market that Alfred Peet pioneered.
Who could have guessed 41 years ago what it would look like now - espresso-serving McCafés across Tasmania, Starbucks' making inroads in Peet's native Holland, and Erica Hess brewing a cup of $130-a-pound Panama Esmeralda on the terrace of the Four Seasons in Philadelphia.
Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ricknichols.