it's not all great. some of it is okay. even less is excellent. and most of it is absolutely dreadful. i'm talking about coffee, obviously. i am, after all writing this on a coffee-centric website.
i'm not a snob when it comes to drinking coffee. i'll drink it most places i go. but some industry professionals i know will only drink coffee at 'good coffee shops'. it's almost as if their delicate palates would be offended by anything less. now please don't think i'm suggesting that i don't appreciate good coffee. i do. very much so. but like i said, i'll drink coffee pretty much anywhere i go. restaurants. hotels. gas stations. airports. i was recently on a delta flight to atlanta. going down for the wbc. and the coffee was, quite predictably, absolutely terrible. it tasted the way that burning tires smell.
on the other hand. another recent flight, this time on midwest where they serve alterra, the coffee was reasonable. not great. it was after all, brewed on at 10,000 ft. but on par with the majority of coffee shops that i seem to find myself in.

i guess i put myself through this because it keeps me grounded. it keeps me in touch with reality, so to speak. now in a perfect world everyone would be practicing the idea's that we've all grown to love. every store would be a third wave shop. in every cafe across the land people would be drinking 6oz drinks and geeking out about varietals. direct trade practices. agricultural techniques. reg barbers new tamp design etc. etc. etc.
but that is simply not the case. i need to be reminded that this little barista/specialty coffee bubble that we create for ourselves is not reality for the majority of people. it a cruel world out there.
on a larger scale, specialty coffee is really a very small part of a much bigger market. now i'm not trying to trivialize the importance of the specialty coffee industry. absolutely not. it's the industry that i work in. it's what i do. it's what i love. and it's certainly important. ideas and practices, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, get passed down the line from specialty coffee to the industry at large.
but a large portion of the public doesn't even know we exist. doesn't know what good coffee is. has no idea that coffee doesn't need to taste burnt or bitter. that it can taste like citrus. or chocolate. or rootbeer and cherry-lime cheesecake. that it can be sweet without adding splenda. or creamy without adding heavy cream.
and if they do know we exist, they don't understand why we get so excited about it. after all, its only coffee.

now i never intended this to be any sort of state of the union address, or other such nonsense. these are just the thought that have been running through my head of late.
i guess its intended to spark some discussion. and i hope it does just that.

peace&love&coffee
j

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well said, I agree with everything you said, it is a cruel world. I am one of those baristas who won't drink bad coffee. I don't do it to be snobby, I just don't want to pay for something that I won't enjoy. I also try not to hold anything against the people serving the mediocre/bad coffee, I know the poor quality stems from mass ignorance. Just think if starbucks hadn't attempted to take over the world then we wouldn't have the small amount of half educated people that we do have. If wee keep educating things will slowly get better We will never be a country of coffee geeks, but the community is growing...keep hope all!
I'm going to go off what you said James and say first, that I agree with all that you said (I drink coffee wherever I happen to be), but I want to bring up another topic and talk about how parents/friends/coworkers or whoever it is that put this label of "coffee snob" on the barista being that he/she happens to work and love coffee. My parents, especially, assume that I'm "to good" for their drip coffee at home when I go to my local cafe in Muskego (they serve Alterra) and that because it doesn't cost $2 a cup it's not worthy of my palette. Entirely not the case. I try to explain to them and others that coffee can do exactly what you just stated above, but it comes back to the simple fact that some people only look to coffee as a quick means to get a caffeine fix and could care less if its, Folgers, Starbucks, or from your local third wave shop.

I want to know if anyone else has run into this problem(?) before and what you do when discussing with others all things coffee that we've come to love and appreciate.
i have become, over the past 2 years, what my brother calls a "coffee snob". He used to say it to give me a hard time, but now he says that i "ruined" him, cuz now he can't drink coffee from a gas station or fast food joint anymore. I think just about everyone is passionate about something, and therefore a snob about it. it could be food, clothes, what books they read, what kind of car they drive, what kind of toilet paper they use, etc. We are passionate about coffee, and we are "coffee snobs". There's nothing wrong with that, as long as we are able to use that as an excuse to educate. it can be easy to be dismissive about what kind of coffee people drink, call it crap, and move on. When i go to my family's house, i now bring my own coffee, grinder and french press. They used to give me a hard time for it, but now they look forward to it. The key was explaining to them why my coffee tastes so good, doing side-by-side comparisons, and showing them how to brew their coffee properly (using filtered water, using exact measurements, and actually cleaning their brewer once in a while). they still call me a snob, but at least now they appreciate why.
well said!

cisco said:
i have become, over the past 2 years, what my brother calls a "coffee snob". He used to say it to give me a hard time, but now he says that i "ruined" him, cuz now he can't drink coffee from a gas station or fast food joint anymore. I think just about everyone is passionate about something, and therefore a snob about it. it could be food, clothes, what books they read, what kind of car they drive, what kind of toilet paper they use, etc. We are passionate about coffee, and we are "coffee snobs". There's nothing wrong with that, as long as we are able to use that as an excuse to educate. it can be easy to be dismissive about what kind of coffee people drink, call it crap, and move on. When i go to my family's house, i now bring my own coffee, grinder and french press. They used to give me a hard time for it, but now they look forward to it. The key was explaining to them why my coffee tastes so good, doing side-by-side comparisons, and showing them how to brew their coffee properly (using filtered water, using exact measurements, and actually cleaning their brewer once in a while). they still call me a snob, but at least now they appreciate why.
Oh and dude... Snob is not the preferred nomenclature, Pursuit of Excellence, please.
One of the things James stated above is dead on and something I practice. I don't turn down bad coffee options. Sure, when I'm at home and at work or near my favorite local quality spot (so far it's Awaken in downtown Oakland) I'll have great coffee. But in order to keep your palate fresh and tuned in you have to drink everything. Having been done a ton of wine tasting in my previous life I had to taste a huge range of wines and knowing the range of aromas & flavors from horrible to sublime was critical to my tasting chops.

The other thing is that I'm not sure if some parts of the specialty world are aware of just how huge the coffee industry really is. If you don't continually have your mind blown by the enormity of it, you're not paying attention. For all the excitement and mystery in specialty, there's a million-fold world of banality and necessity. Perspective is a good thing.

And one of my points to consider: Is the growth of bleeding-edge specialty coffee sustainable?
You are out of your element.

Andy Atkinson said:
Oh and dude... Snob is not the preferred nomenclature, Pursuit of Excellence, please.
what i have noticed from what i have seen and experienced is that actually people want to try good coffee. i work in a coffee company. very often, some customers come over to me asking which is the best coffee bean you are selling. obviously, the public does not have enough coffee education going on ( they do not even know that each origin coffee bean have their own characters). and people do not know what a good cup actually taste like, and even do not really know where to buy a good cup.


I have also seen some customers come from maybe 20-30 km away to my company to buy coffee. what i am trying to say is if speciality coffee want to grow bigger and be sustainable, it need to find a way to catch the massive public and telling them what speciality coffee is, and it is very good. i believe no one wants to buy a bad cup of coffee.

so anyone have any marketing ideas to support speciality coffee growing fast?
haha.

Jesse -D-> said:
You are out of your element.

Andy Atkinson said:
Oh and dude... Snob is not the preferred nomenclature, Pursuit of Excellence, please.
I am trying to think what the parallels in New Zealand would be...and I am guessing the easiest comparisson is the Wine Industry. In the 1970's and early 1980's wine in NZ was simply terrible. It was a combination of poor selection of varietals (badly matched to the microclimates they were growing in), poorly trainied wine makers and- perhaps most importantly- an apathetic market. People accepted bad wine, did not question why it was bad etc.

In the mid 1980s things changed. The huge kiwi expat population overseas began complaining about the NZ wines. Expats returning home began educating the market- the market began to demand more based on the wines that were coming in from Australia in particular. The wine makers took note- the rest is history.

Today locally produced wines are amongst the very, very best in the world. The Sav Blancs, Pinot Noirs and Rieslings win bucket loads of gold medals every year in london, Tokyo and Sydney (all prestigious wine shows).

Now my point is sure the avergae punter in NZ drank the crap that was being produced 20 years ago, did not complain. However once they knew, were taught how GOOD good wine tasted, they simply did not go back. All the poor quality producers in NZ when I was growing uop have long gone. I dont think it has anything to do with snobbery, an educated market is part and parcel of development of a market.

That third wave is slowly building- I think the US will be suprised just how quickly quality roasters take hold in the US. Strabucks have introduced a whole two generations to coffee- for sure they deserve a big pat on the back, the logical progression is that these mr/ms average punters move up the food chain- to quality roasts, quality blends and great tasting specialty coffee.
Very good thoughts, and keeping it real, as always. Great reminder for us all.
I have a personal rule that I try to hold myself to, and I have really only told a couple of people this. I feel kind of weird and awkward posting this for the world to see.... anyway,... My rule: If I am offered coffee, or the social situation that I am in points toward me participating in drinking what I would usually consider bad coffee, I must drink it.

This is true of anything. when we were kids we were taught that if you are a guest in someone's home you eat what is put in front of you. We think that we are experts so everyone should learn from us. If we are truly coffee experts then we know that coffee is about more than the simple beverage. Coffee is about personal connections. Refusing coffee, or imposing my own coffee is simply rude. Now, if I am asked about coffee I reserve the right to take the opportunity to educate. But, I will not force the issue. By refusing bad coffee or pushing "Quality Coffee" we are taking the focus off of the community and putting it on ourselves. Bad barista. Remember grace.

Now,... I will add that I have to be pretty hard up to get rid of a caffeine withdrawal headache to go out and purchase bad coffee. I do agree that we as a tasting community need to be aware of what coffee tastes like on all ends of the spectrum though. How can a Q-grader give a score if he/she has no context for what a 20, 43, 87, or 95 tastes like. The only way a person can claim that something has notes of burnt rubber is for that person to have experienced burnt rubber. Believe it or not, lower quality coffee is not nuclear waste. We just make ourselves look like jerks more than snobs when we act like we are too good for it.

That's my rant. I know you'll all tear it apart. That's ok. I love you too.

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