All hope abandon ye who enter here*
or The loneliness of the craft food gourmand.
You think you like good coffee don’t you?
You've got, your stove top, French press, your espresso machine, the one that does the milk. I've got bad news for you…
Your coffee tastes like ass.
Your coffee is poop. But that’s ok, because you've taken the first step. With your method of coffee production, you've made a choice. Your considering what you want. Choosing something that you perceive to be better than the base, common denominator.
Good. But you need to know, it doesn't stop there. This goes all the way to the top.
Now be warned, and heed my words well, because once you enter here… There’s no turning back.
But yes you’re brave, you’re bold, I can tell, so let me lead you now down the path to pure (brown) gold. A fantastic world of local, lovingly made, perfectly packaged delicious wonderment.
First things first, find a specialist, a coffee shop staffed by people who know it, love it and will love to talk about it. And as they feed your knowledge you will love to listen. It will get to the stage where the coffee is only half the deal, you won’t be satisfied unless you’re hearing scintillating tales of ‘mouth feel’ and ‘stone fruit’ alongside your cup of perfectly poured excellence. And if you think this is all a bit much remember this, coffee is a berry, a perishable good. So there is the fruit itself, its point of origin, its time of harvest, then the drying, the roasting, the transport and that’s all before it goes anywhere near any hot water never mind milk. So with this many variables, don’t you want it in the hands of a specialist? Of course you do. Because they will show you that this drink is in reality nothing like the hot foul brown dished out around the world, but rather a wonderful, subtle, delicious, transformative nectar. An alchemical masterpiece. Not that cup of bitter black muck, that tastes like someone has put a fag out in it, but rather a subtle,nuanced and above all delicious experience.
But beware once more, because once you have drunk from the crafty cup, the scales fall from your eyes and suddenly all those places that had done a ‘decent cup of coffee’ are revealed as false idols — Peddling lies behind their concrete, raw wood finish and exposed light bulbs. You will become a pariah, no longer able to pop out for a cuppa with a friend unless you specifically dictate exactly where to go. Travelling to remote, inaccessible locations because you know they roast their Mahembe Rwandan Filter just the way you like it. You won’t be satisfied. Ever.
And coffee is only the start, like all gateway drugs it soon leads onto harder stuff, because the coffee specialists know the beer specialists, and you may not have noticed but craft beer is a ‘thing’. So now you won’t be able to catch up with the boys either. Won’t be able to sink a few pints of session lager, combat lager or indeed any lager at all. At least not unless the bar man can talk to you at length about where the hops came from, the citrus notes and what the brewers like to do on their day off
You will no longer be popular at parties, refusing the plastic cup of supermarket red.
Because yes, you have become that guy, the wine snob. Worse, you are an everything snob (aka a snob). And it’s a lonely place to be — and of course you are right, of course, of course, of course! And though you ask your friends “Am I the snob? — supporting the local, artisanal businesses while you pump money into the corporate coffers of the booze giants”. You’ll find this tends not to go down at all well and you should probably get your coat.
But there is hope, of course, there is always hope. Other than the deliciousness and the smugness (oh don’t forget the smugness!) your consumption is now limited. You can’t binge on this stuff, for one, it’s just too bloody expensive, but it’s also just too good. It has to become like unto a sacrament, or at least a rarefied treat, a genuine delicacy. (Although chances are you drink the shit stuff anyway, but making sure everyone knows that you don’t normally and oh, isn't it bitter and blah blah blah — Bore on, Bore off).
So be warned it’s a long, lonely, alienating path fraught with disappointment and dissatisfaction at every side but ultimately it leads to absolute deliciousness. I’ll see you there, make mine the light roast, fine grind in the V60 at a brew ratio of 17:1, water 195F and try to finish the pour within 2 minutes. Tha-anks.
- Yes I’m such a snob that I use the original version of this quote from Dante’s inferno as translated in 1814 by the Reverend H. F. Cary