Sunday brunch was the first casualty. Whether it was a skillet of hash and eggs at the corner diner or something poached and sauced at that little artisanal bakery spot — you know, the one with the brioche and those itty-bitty tarts? — the requisite cuppa Joe became a problem.
Dinner was next. Choose a well-regarded restaurant — most any restaurant will do — from those with tragically hip, phonetically spelt names to those with starched linens and a battalion of obscure forks in regimented rows flanking silver-gilt chargers. Such an evening out should by all rights end with a leisurely dessert course and a cup of coffee. And would, too. Until… well, until I became a coffee snob.
Rule #1: Being a coffee snob doesn’t mean thinking you’re smarter than everyone else just ’cause you know more about coffee than they do. There’s a name for that, too: it’s called being an asshole.
I’m sometimes accused of having gone a bit ’round the bend when it comes to coffee appreciation. The accusation is largely warranted. In my defense I can say that it was never my intention to become a coffee snob. I simply let my curiosity have its leash. Why is it that coffee that’s just been ground tastes so much different than the stuff in a can? Why does coffee from Central America taste so different from African coffee? What’s the difference in lighter roasts and darker roasts all about? Why can’t I make my coffee at home taste as rich and full of flavor as what I get at a specialty coffee shop? And why does coffee at my favorite independent coffee shop totally eclipse the coffee from that big retail chain?
The answers are — most of them — simple. Great coffee isn’t rocket science… but it is food science. And that’s all about minding the details. And passion. And sometimes craftsmanship. And — if you’re really lucky — a little bit of art.
Rule #2: Being a coffee snob means being passionate about coffee — about the whole coffee experience — and being willing to share that passion with others. Careful, though… too much sharing? Refer to Rule #1.
When you discover how simple it is to make an astoundingly good cup of coffee you just might get angry. Angry about how many times you’ve been served a bitter brew, and not by the all-night diner with the neon “EAT” sign in the window — hey, you asked for it, right? — but by people who are in the business of knowing better. And when you discover that how many in the coffee trade — the Big Four multinational companies and their ilk — have made it their business to marginalize your cup, to source increasingly awful coffee from increasingly unsuitable origins, and at the same time to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the plight of farmers of specialty beans in the premium growing regions of the world… well, you’re likely to get furious.
Rule #3: Don’t confuse anger with passion. Anger is a useful spark, but passion is a sustainable heat. Besides… an angry coffee snob? Yeah… kinda like Rule #1.
The world needs more coffee snobs… folk who are passionate about what’s in their cup. Compassionate for the farmers who’ve produced it with their blood, sweat and tears. And politely insistent with merchants, restaurants and espresso bars everywhere that the same ol’ cup of Joe just doesn’t make the grade anymore.