Do you know what makes a snob?

A snob answers.

From a self declared coffee snob…

I love coffee. If you talk to me for more than 5 minutes the topic will surely come up.

After some time you might find yourself thinking, this guy is a coffee snob. Only until recently I would’ve agreed.

Now, I have decided instead to choose a different label. I want to talk about why I decided to change but also about what makes a snob.

What is a snob?

People have an idea of what a snob is. The word alone makes your nose wrinkle. It brings an air of condescension.

In general, a snob is closed minded. Their preferences are fairly locked in. They can’t imagine anything outside of those preferences being any good. It’s especially true for anything that they’ve already deemed bad.

They think in binary terms. That is, if a snob establishes that they don’t like chocolate, then anything with any trace of chocolate will be considered horrendous!

If coaxed to try something outside of their preferences, they will be biased to “confirm” what they already know. That they don’t like it (except for blind tests, it’s always fun to put a snob in a blind test!).

Snobs aren’t looking to learn or expand their tastes. Snobs are looking to validate what they already believe. They draw value from their specific preferences.

The fact that they prefer this over that makes them better.

A snob would NOT consume anything that they consider “beneath them”. They will tend to lord their preferences over others. They expound on their preferences if and when it allows themselves to feel superior or elite in some regard.

Snobs are exclusionary

Tell a coffee snob you like Folgers, Starbucks or really ANYTHING that is not what they like. They’ll likely roll their eyes or scrunch their face.

They’ll immediately tell you why you’re wrong. That your preference is wrong. Some classic coffee snob remarks include: “Ugh, Folgers isn’t even real coffee” or “Oh my god, Starbucks? More like charbucks. Corporate coffee sucks!”.

While extreme, I’m sure you can imagine a coffee snob saying the following: “Oh, you like Starbucks? How cute. I only drink organic coffee that comes from a shaman that grows a single plant of coffee each year on a small island off the coast of Brazil. I doubt you’ll have heard of it.”

Why was I okay with the term “coffee snob”?

I really love coffee.

My love for coffee compelled me to explore it and gain a decent amount of knowledge on it. This love, combined with the knowledge, makes it so that I can (and will) go on at length talking about it.

When I go off on coffee, talking to other coffee lovers, we just high five and move on.

However, when I talk to people that maybe don’t subscribe to, don’t know about siphon pots or just don’t care about third wave I usually get quite a different response.

That response is often a look that conveys “oh you’re one of those people”.

Either way, in both of those scenarios, I am, in their minds already a coffee snob.

Eventually, I started preemptively calling myself a coffee snob. I wanted to take control of the way I was perceived. By calling myself a coffee snob before they could, allowed me to redefine the term. It allowed me to take it from a negative to a positive.

The problem was that the term remained and others wouldn’t know the new definition. Someone else could hear me say snob and to them, that was my identity.

If you’re not a snob, what are you?

Aficionado or connoisseur would be more accurate terms.

I don’t like either of those words though. They still seem to carry an air of self righteousness and ego. It screams of “oh, I only enjoy the FINER things” and skates a little close to the previous term.

Plus, I misspell connoisseur EVERY TIME! No, after thinking about it a bit, the term I most agree with is a buff.

A buff?

A buff is defined as a person who is enthusiastically interested in and very knowledgeable about a particular subject.

Think of a history buff, a movie buff, a literature buff etc. They all love learning what they can from their chosen subjects. They all have specific preferences and inclinations to certain aspects within that subject. They take pride in their knowledge and are always looking to talk about it.

In the same way I, a coffee buff, enjoy learning about coffee. Given the chance, I will go on at length about it (as evident in this post!). It just so happens that I can drink the things I learn about!

Buffs are inclusionary

I honestly like hearing people talk about what they like and why. Similarly, I don’t mind sharing on why I like what I like.

For me it’s a learning experience. There is something to be found in everything.

At my in-laws they have a Keurig machine. It’s not my preference in coffee but, it’s not my house either. I don’t refrain from drinking the coffee offered and I still approach it the same as I do any other cup. I try to learn something. Whether it’s something I enjoyed or something I didn’t I try to expand my understanding of it.

Whenever offered coffee, regardless of whether it’s Folgers or single origin Geisha, I accept based on whether I’m interested in a cup or not. I never decline just because it’s not within my preferences.

More importantly, I never look down my nose at those with preferences different than my own.

My mom drinks a cup of Folgers everyday. Again, not my particular preference, but if she offers, I take some.

Starbucks, again, not my ideal coffee, but to be honest, it’s where I started to drink coffee as an adult. A gateway cup if you will.

I am mindful of the fact that Starbucks is responsible for bringing about the 2nd wave of coffee. Without them, you wouldn’t have the 3rd wave coffee that’s so prevalent now. Starbucks provides millions of coffee to millions of people everyday, surely those people can’t be wrong. How is a preference wrong anyways?

Taste is about finding what YOU like, not ripping apart what others like.

So what’s the difference between a buff and a snob?

I think the main point would be an open mind.

Through my exploration of coffee I have found coffees that I really like and coffees that I don’t.

I can say that, for the most part, I am partial to Latin American coffees. I enjoy the body and the fuller more rounded flavors found in them. Flavors of toffee, chocolate, caramel, shortbread, jam, things like that.

It doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate those that don’t fit neatly into my preferences.

I’ve had some amazing coffees from pretty much all regions. More interestingly I’ve had coffees that I SHOULD have really loved but didn’t.

For example, I really like blueberries. You would think that a Yirgacheffe that tasted, without question, like a cup of blueberries should have been amazing.

People really loved it. For me though, I just couldn’t quite get into it.

Even stranger, I had a coffee that tasted like the smell of soil on a rainy day. I really loved it. It’s weird, try telling someone, “Hey you’ll love this coffee, it tastes like dirt!”.

The point is that through exploration, I keep finding things that challenge my perceptions of what I enjoy. I go into each cup with an open mind and try to find something I could enjoy.

Why does any of this matter?

I think we should all be more inclusive in general. We should strive to be more accepting of each other and each other’s preferences.

We should be able to have open discussions about these preferences and what brought us to them. It shouldn’t be offensive.

We should feel safe in offering our own opinions. At the same time be mindful to not force our opinions on others.

We shouldn’t try to belittle others for their opinions, preferences or choices.

After all, people change all the time and with them, their preferences. Life is about growth and evolution.

One of the definitions for life is: “continual change preceding death”. So if you cease to change…

What do you think about switching to the term buff?

Give me a shout out on the twitters @dev_vine and let me know with either #stay_snob or #buff_switch. Also, feel free to throw in what you are a snob/buff about and why.

Originally published at