I remember 12 years ago drinking Starbucks coffee and loving it, thinking that it was the greatest thing on earth, and that I had some elite taste in the coffee I chose to drink. I didn’t drink that Folger’s crap, I drank Starbucks! I didn’t know any better, because I had never had anything better. Until I encountered what incredible coffee was meant to taste like; coffee that actually had depth and character! I didn’t start my love for coffee with amazing coffee. It started with french roasts and flavored syrups and plenty of dairy. It wasn’t until years later that I had my first specialty coffee experience. And maybe that’s just my story, but I doubt I’m alone.
I think it becomes easy for those of us in the specialty coffee world to forget the times when we were not drinking amazing coffee. And secondly, because coffee is such a large part of our life, we can also forget that coffee is a very small part of many other people’s lives. They like it, a lot, but it’s not their life, it’s just a part of their every day.
This is something that is helpful to remember before we start judging people because they like their coffee roasted really dark or bold, or because they like to add cream and sugar to it, or because they don’t know what cupping notes are, or that coffee should even have cupping notes in the first place, or that there’s no “x” in espresso, and so on.
These people are so quickly written off as idiots, and we totally move beyond that fact that these are PEOPLE that we are being so judgmental about. They are people; fellow human beings. They have personal tastes that differ from ours and we quickly shrink down the whole of their being to the fact that their taste in coffee has not yet been tuned to the beauty of specialty coffee, and we judge them. Forget about who they are. Forget about their names. Forget about what they do for a living. Forget about their family, or their interests, or their struggles and burdens. We just care about how they like their coffee, and whether or not they can speak our language and order correctly.
Why don’t we all move to love people regardless of what their knowledge or personal tastes in coffee are. Instead of arrogance, let’s move towards education, and doing it in kindness, without shoving it down their throats. If, God forbid, they walk into your shop and order a caramel macchiato, explain how you prepare your macchiatos. Offer them one to try for free and see where it goes. Educate them on the notes of the espresso and the balance with the milk. You may open their world up to a whole new paradigm. Telling them to go to the effing Starbucks down the street isn’t going to do anyone any good. Invite them in to the love that you have come to know in specialty coffee. No judgments. No pretensions. No arrogance. Just love.
Bad coffee drinkers are not bad people.
*Side note: As a Christian who used to work in full-time church ministry, it’s interesting to me how much my experience in the specialty coffee world parallels much of my experience in the church, as far as how people relate to and perceive the church, and how the church responds to those outside of their “circles”. It’s all about unconditional love and getting over ourselves, folks!