If you love coffee, it’s likely at some point you’ve been accused of being a coffee snob. For some reason, coffee lovers attract claims of pretension and snobbery, when — in most cases — all they want is a good cup of joe. If you grind your own coffee, order specialty roasts online or — heavens help us — own special coffee-making equipment, then you’re going to be accused of snobbery at some point.
Why do coffee lovers get targeted in this manner? I love artisanal bread too, and no-one accuses me of doughy pretentiousness. A good friend of mine will spend hours online searching for the best quality Mustang parts for sale, but no-one calls him a Ford snob — though, to be fair, he’s 6 foot 7 — no-one calls him anything but sir.
So why, if I’m willing to go the extra mile or fifty for a good cup of coffee, do I get labeled a snob? I think most of the accusations stem from misunderstandings and assumptions about how coffee drinkers act.
The Starbucks Curse
Much of the blame can be laid at Starbucks’ impressive success. With the popularity of the coffee chain, an inevitable backlash occurred. It became trendy to dislike Starbucks and claim to avoid the stores because they used poor-quality coffee, were too expensive or — in a neat bit of elitism double-speak — attracted too many hipsters.
Often the backlash had less to do with coffee and more to do with that small but vocal percentage of people who object to anything which proves popular. Eventually, people assumed the anti-Starbucks crowd objected solely on the basis of coffee quality, and the backlash was laid at the serious coffee drinkers’ doors.
Here’s the thing though — I quite like Starbucks. Not necessarily for a straight cup of coffee, I’ll grant you, but if I’m hankering for 1,500 calories of creamy milkshake masquerading as coffee, I’m in the lineup with everyone else, elitism be blowed. And if that milkshake should come with a double espresso shot, so much the better.
The Language of Love
Speaking of espresso, coffee has its own language, and whenever a hobby or interest develops its own language, it leaves itself open to charges of elitism, simply because people who don’t speak the lingo are at a disadvantage.
Again, this only seems to apply to some interests. As a kid, I had an encyclopedic knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons, a game with its own specialized terms and language, but no-one called me a snob for playing. The term I most often heard was geek, usually while I was getting a wedgie — though to be fair, I’ve met my share of snobby geeks online.
But coffee . . . a friend once apologized to me for pronouncing an x in espresso. He’d seen enough media representations of coffee drinkers to assume I’d judge him based on his ability to pronounce Italian.
English steals words from other languages like a kleptomaniac in a store full of small, easily pocketable items, and after a few generations the language often mispronounces the adopted word. You can call it “expresso,” “espresso,” or “blind Pew” for all I care, as long as you make it well.
Buy any high quality coffee-making equipment and once again, you’re accused of snobbery. Again, this seems unfair. If I buy the best quality large screen television I’m not an elitist, but spend a few hundred dollars on a coffee maker and suddenly I’m a caffeine-loving dandy.
I’ll admit it. Sitting in pride of place in my home kitchen is a Technivorm Moccamaster, one of the kings of coffee makers. It makes fantastic coffee, which is the main reason I bought it.
The other reason? It came with a lifetime guarantee, and my wife and I were previously killing a coffee machine a year through overuse. We didn’t buy it because we were snobs — we bought it to save on replacement costs.