fancy cup of coffee

An elegant coffee maker made out of gold, silver and diamonds. Sound like a recipe for good coffee?

Of course not. Doesn’t stop elitism from making the usual rounds.

A new coffee maker has emerged recently, crafted out of the finest materials money can buy. The company Royal Paris claims to bring customers back to an older time where coffee was more appreciated, offering a decadent experience that results in the best cup of coffee. Fortunately for me, I’m too keenly aware of the history of coffee growing, roasting and distribution to succumb to the hype. Sure is pretty, though!

It’s easy to overlook this story as yet more pomp and puffery from the idle elite meant to incite outrage. Last I checked, the very history of coffee itself doesn’t revolve around gilded cups, but a humble, communal experience thousands of years old! Nonetheless, stories like these should concern cafe owners and roasters. This carefully packaged artful elitism is a major issue that keeps the coffee industry from achieving great things.

When left unchecked, these mentalities rot the craft from the inside out.

Every day, it seems, I come across industry news that reaffirms the need for the contrary. We have farmers being left out of the distribution equation constantly, to the point farms are being abandoned and workers are unable to even taste their own creations. Baristas are regularly trained in entirely different brewing techniques than what is showed at prestigious tasting galleries, to the detriment of hardworking roasters trying to get their wares to stand out from the competition. Old and new techniques are frequently lambasted for being too archaic or too different than what is ‘correct’.

You’re more likely to hear about the wrong way to make coffee than the right way…and this is by design.

Beneath the copper finishes and diamond filigree you find the same snobbery that snakes through everyday conversation. The often cloying coffee culture characterized by beanies, insider knowledge and $8 specialty in-house lattes. While there is no fear about the general public rushing to buy a coffee maker that is worth what one-fourth of Americans make in a year, the underlying attitude is far cheaper and far more insidious. Think about the messages you walk away with every time you glance at general coffee news or talk shop with a colleague. When you worked as a barista or a supervisor, perhaps, and got a particularly dissatisfied customer with candid thoughts on the menu.

You must roast this way. You must package this way. You’re not a true coffee lover unless you can identify this fruity note or buy your beans at this price level. You must use this equipment or buy from this source. No true enthusiast drinks from Starbucks. A real coffee champion bleeds espresso. Around and around we go. It’s posturing arrogance that places emphasis on looking good than doing good.

A little like a coffee maker made out of gold, huh?

From barista to roaster to trader, it is essential to eliminate elitism from the coffee conversation. No matter the form it takes or how well-meaning the message. It’s more than just a bad attitude. Coffee elitism is damaging to farmers, pushing them out of their own product and destroying the environment in the name of a nebulous ‘green lifestyle’. It shuns diversity, be it diversity of demographic or diversity of technique. It justifies high coffee prices (that, again, don’t go to the farmers themselves) and completely rewrites history.

I love coffee too much to let that slide.

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