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Are Coffee Snobs Really Offended by Low-Brow Coffee?

Sheesh. What’s with the hating on people who love good coffee? Yesterday morning, Bloomberg’s Business Week headlined:

Coffee snobs screen capture from Bloomberg's Businessweek

Bloomberg Businessweek Taunts Coffee Snobs in Headline

Yep, Americans still buy more supermarket coffee than they do specialty coffee. I’m a self-confessed coffee snob. I roast my own coffee at home. I’m conversant with at least a dozen different brewing methods and own no less than eight ways to brew coffee at home. I’ve been known to launch into half-hour lectures on coffee terroir and the difference in cup quality between press coffee, drip coffee and moka pot coffee. I don’t need an apology — or a snarky one-up comment — about the popularity of Folgers. I’m totally okay with that. People like what they like.

I don’t think Whitney C. Eden was offended either…

…but apparently Rebecca Greenfield of The Atlantic Wire reads something into Eden’s tweet that isn’t there. She opens her Thursday column about coffee snobs with a link to to Whitney’s tweet as an example of how offended us coffee snobs are. She then launches into a multi-paragraph attack on people who enjoy specialty coffee. And it really is an attack — she refers to us as “caffeine fetishists” and “jokes” about a “moral crusade against coffee snobs.” Yeah, a MORAL CRUSADE, because apparently it is more moral to buy from huge conglomerates that strip the environment and exploit workers than it is to make the conscious decision to support roasters, importers and others who commit to paying a premium for coffee that is grown sustainably by workers who are paid a living wage.

In her eyes, people who enjoy specialty coffee and choose to pay a premium for quality – as well as for ethical reasons – are simply engaging in pretentious elitism. We are simply show-offs who like rubbing people’s noses in our ability to afford our nifty gadgets and pricey coffees. We buy and drink good coffee for no other reason than to look cool and make other people feel inferior.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I buy good coffee because I prefer it. I enjoy roasting my own coffee for the same reasons I like to bake my own bread and roll out pasta dough from scratch and grow my own herbs and vegetables: it connects me to the food I’m eating in a way that opening a can never will. But with coffee, there are other elements as well, like knowing that the coffee I buy is grown and processed in ways that don’t harm the Earth, and that my few dollars extra are distributed in a way that’s far more fair, that every cup of coffee I brew is helping support a family or a coop of farmers and not pouring more dollars into the pockets of those who exploit farmers and pickers and their families.

If those thing make me a pretentious snob, then I guess I wear the badge proudly – but that badge doesn’t come with a side serving of moral superiority. It’s just who I am, extended to what’s in my cup.

Deb Powers has been reading about coffee, drinking coffee, brewing coffee, writing about coffee and roasting her own coffee for nearly 30 years.She confesses to being a coffee wonk and finds endless fascination in even the most meta of coffee information.
Deb Powers on Google+
Deb Powers (Chamie) at ROASTe.com

Deb Powers – who has written posts on CoffeeBreak.Today.


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