In response to the Starbucks thread Chris DeMarse said, "[The prevalence of Starbucks] paired with a working-class town that has not yet developed a taste or understanding of gourmet coffee has hurt us a bit." This got me thinking...

I have been doing some reading about the working class lately as that typifies the community I find myself in as well. I have read that the working class embraces certain behaviors as a form of resistance against the controlling employing class. For instance refusing to care about grammar or other conventions of the "college boys." It seems that the high-class coffee industry would be another place that they could resist the pressures of the classes that would rob them of their honor and dignity.

Monster energy drink obviously caters to this resistance (Their B.F.C. an example), on their new Java line their packaging touts, "No foam, extra hot, half caf, no whip, non-fat, soy latte... Enough of the Coffee House BS already! Coffee done the Monster way, wide open, with a take no prisoners attitude and the experience and know-how to back it up. Java Monster... Half the caffeine of regular coffee, twice the Buzz!"

Author Tex Sample suggests that the key to getting to this group of people is to join them in their resistance to the controlling classes. Monster has found a resistance to join. Is there a way we can join the working class resistance with out sacrificing quality coffee and coffee culture? Can we make specialty coffee accessible to them with our calling distinctive coffeehouse culture BS? What areas of resistance can we identify and join?

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My name's dale and I'm a working class Barista...

I've not visited the USA so my experience of third wave cafe's is limited to blog posts and barista magazine but I was under the impression that independent cafes were a poorer but powerful resistance movement to the dominating and soulless chains ?
The logo for viva barista! always struck me as kind of revoloutionary
True, although we work in the service industry. The traditional blue-collar worker in the US is in the manufacturing sector. Aren't we still kind of snobs? Coffee snobs, but snobs none the less? I wonder if we can take the Viva Barista! revolution to the proletariat...
yet, by and large, the working class around here will take the crap cup of coffee. They identify the quality cup with what their bosses drink. They also like their coffee weak. Even the Monster drink I mentioned above wit it "wide open ... take no prisoners attitude" is really quite weak.
A lot of it is also that many people, working class or not, don't know the difference between a good cup of coffee. Some may be able to taste a difference between coffees, and when it comes down to it, a lot of them just don't care. I would think that this would be just as much the case and that class doesn't necessarily play into it.
I was honestly floored to see that a brief comment of mine might be so thought provoking. I think that, if I might violently generalize, I see both a clear communication of cost/value and even classist differentiation when I encounter people in my community. There is the blind assumption that cost is the only determinant and that the whole idea of "fancy coffee" is a bit absurd. I can't tell you how many times I have had someone wander into the cafe I work in, look at the menu board and give me a sour look like I had just insulted their mother. I think that there's a huge struggle here.
We can't afford to offer COE microlot coffees for a buck a cup to compete with the cultural presuppositions. On the other hand though, we always run the risk of alienating people when we establish a sort of elitism. This is dually tricky because we want to both showcase the quality and differentiate our product from the common cup while also inviting people by word and action into a whole new experience.
Long story short, your question is a lot easier for me to ask than to answer.
Jason, that is just the problem for Chris DeMarse and I who have to market quality coffee to the working class. There is no way we can stoop to offering a crap cup just because that is what they are used to. Yet they have an overriding perception that there is something wrong with the whole specialty coffee thing. Coffee shouldn't cost so much (they don't realize that when they pay for a pot drip coffee at the corner restaurant for $1.10 and they only drink a cup and a half they are getting a worse deal). The whole new language to learn for ordering drink smacks to them of the higher classes showing off their education. Blue collar comics from Red-Green to the ad writers for Monster get laughs from the working class when the rattle off the names of lattes and caps and say just give me a regular cup of black coffee... as if we can't do that.

I'm sure some shop owners have found ways to draw factory workers and mechanics, how did you do it? What else can we do?
London must be different to your area. The barriers/gates built to good coffee have been falling at all levels. I do not know what the "high class coffee industry" you talk about is

The chains have increased awareness and education of 'gourmet' coffees and are frequented by all classes.
30 yrs ago Monmouth Coffee Roasters opened in a low value part of town and sold speciality coffee to all types: bowler hatted gents and locals
The squatting scene even has its own espresso machines, using coffee from zapatista automonous zones in Chiapas. Roasting it within their own scene/community - they use coffee as resistance.
Our coffee house will open in September we will brew each cup fresh w/ a Melitta cone. This allows us to vertically price our coffee offerings and we'll offer a "House Blend" for those seeking a simple, cheap cup o' joe. The quality is not on par with our other SO offerings but the lower quality is reflected in the lower price.

Is this ideal? Well, each coffee takes 4 min. to brew so there is that hurdle. There is also risk that one lower-quality product will diminish the perceived overall quality of our coffee house. However, there is a reasonable chance that 'working class' customers will become intrigued by the higher-priced coffees (simply because they're priced higher) and, on occasion, try a different brew.

We definitely recognize that the 'working class' expects a reasonable price for coffee (hell, I'm one of 'em) and we believe that a vertically-priced menu bridges that gap between "I just want some coffee" and CoE. We can provide simple coffee as well as subtly spread the word that there is a difference in quality.

This is relatively new to MPLS. We'll see how it goes.
Bradley, you are missing my main point.
from my experience, class is not that relevant in speciality coffee consumption.
My customers come from all spectrums
What if we translate all the Italian words? It might sound like diner speak from a greasy spoon... we'd have to expand the names that have been shortened to the adjective and see what we'd get...

Latte = caffe latte = milk coffee
Mocha (not ital.) = caffe mocha = caffe mocha latte = chocolate milk coffee
Cappuccino = Monk coffee(?)
Blended iced latte affogato = drowned blended milk coffee on the rocks
Macchiato = caffe macchiato = stained coffee
Macchiato = caramel macchiato = caramel latte macchiato = stained milk caramel.


would this help? Should we translate the menu for a primarily working class location? is it sacrilege?
Jeff, you make very interesting points. I guess I have always cared more about including the working class in the coffeehouse community than making money off of them, though I suppose they aren't mutually exclusive. (To be sure I have a strange business philosophy.) So do we discount working class customers? Do we avoid setting up shop in working class communities? Or can we educate, invite and include, like Matt tried to do on Fox News?

jeff webre said:
I find it interesting that in the original post there is an implicit motive to try to get working class people to spend their money "like the rest of us," of sorts. If you are a shop owner, you are making your money off of employees selling their labor to you for a designated wage. You are not therefore working class. By thinking that you'd be joining the working class in their resistance to class exploitation by claimng that you too are part of their struggle, and thus they should give you their money, would be furthering the manipulation and exploitation they face. Coffee in general is a luxury, and especially if it's high end specialty stuff. Also, quality is largely overrated. The majority of people who consume things don't care about quality precisely because they don't have the luxurious privilege to do so.
Not every example of differences between the working and ruling class is an example of intentional resistance. Grammar and other conventions are learned through culture regardless of what class you grow up in. Just the same, the people in ruling classes don't always intentionally rule over the people in the working class. The power dynamics at work are a bit more vicarious than you are giving credit for. Just some thoughts to consider.

Perhaps you are just trying too hard? I think sometimes when people are a little too eager, they tend to have the opposite effect than they intended. Learn to read people. If they seem like they "just want regular coffee" than give it to them. Earn their trust over time, working in bits of info here and there, and not only will they be interested in what single origin you are serving today, but may even be interested in a cappuccino.

FWIW, some of our blue collar customers are some of our most regular customers. They've been drinking black coffee all their lives, and recognize a good cup (that costs about the same) when they have one.

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