‘If your coffee needs doctoring, it must be broken.’
April 14, 2019 1:15 AM   Subscribe

Part of its so-called charm is its enforcement of strict coffee culture rules. Often called Third Wave coffee shops, these aficionados use high-quality roasted beans that they feel should be consumed unadulterated by additional flavours (even ones their customers might wish to add). Many of these zero-tolerance coffee shops feel that they are simply re-educating consumers by implementing these rules, but the issue is polarising.

These are "a new breed of high-end coffee shops that have adopted zero tolerance policies on sugar, milk and cream to preserve what they feel is coffee quality. Others simply opt out of selling smaller espresso-based drinks ‘to go’ because they feel the taste suffers if not enjoyed right away."
posted by Megami (276 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
For a while I’ve been thinking I wish I liked coffee at all because I think it would be funny to go into a Starbucks and order a coffee “with everything” but now I realize that because I hate coffee maybe I’m the perfect person to do that after all
posted by aubilenon at 1:23 AM on April 14 [25 favorites]


This is why my diet consists entirely of unsweetened baking chocolate, unflavored oatmeal, and raw meat. Hahaha, fools, I'm enjoying REAL flavor, not that stupid "tasty" flavor!
posted by kyrademon at 1:45 AM on April 14 [193 favorites]


I work immediately next door to Aunty Peg’s and walk a couple of blocks to buy coffee because I have no time for any kind of zealotry. I hope someone’s going there, because it looks like a high overhead setup, and hospitality is brutal, but it ain’t for me.
posted by threecheesetrees at 1:48 AM on April 14 [21 favorites]


This kind of stuff doesn’t make me angry — I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are motivated purely by their own enthusiasm for the product, and that making their customers feel sneered at is an unintended consequence — it just always seems so exhausting.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:51 AM on April 14 [35 favorites]


People like this can be a bit insufferable, but I can always go to another coffee shop if I don't want to deal with it.
posted by knapah at 1:55 AM on April 14 [19 favorites]


If you do not sell cappuccinos, your coffee shop is useless to me.
posted by Merus at 1:58 AM on April 14 [11 favorites]


That's my personal relationship with coffee most of the time - I only put in sweetener or cream if the coffee is undrinkable on its own, it's all that's available, and I really really need a cup of coffee at the moment. I like the taste of good coffee. I do occasionally get a craving for cappuccino, though.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:58 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


I meant to add, though, that I totally get that that's my own personal taste and I don't project that on other people's coffee preferences.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:00 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Cappuccino is a classic of high-end coffee shops. The snootiest of snoots will still typically serve lattes, caps, and machiattos. They may balk at adding sweetener and other flavors to those drinks, but the standard espresso drinks are an experience separate from brewed coffee. A well done latte or cap is often kind of similar to a chocolate pudding.

I would caution against sneering at perceived sneering in these kinds of shops. Good coffee prepared well on clean equipment really doesn't need sweetening, as it isn't bitter, and if you're going to spend $3-5 on a cup of brewed coffee I think it's really worth it to taste all its tastes. If coffee is a hot delivery vehicle for milk and sugar for you, there's nothing wrong with that, but you may as well save some money and go to a place that's not brewing cups to order using single-origin coffees. And FWIW most of the artisinal roasters out there place a heavy emphasis on developing relationships with farmers and co-ops, so a significant portion of the extra expense of that coffee is going back to the farmers that grew it.

If you've never tried a snooty pourover place and you're the kind of person that gets a lot of enjoyment from things tasting good I would really recommend it.
posted by firebrick at 2:16 AM on April 14 [69 favorites]


You mean this is not some ploy to sell more coffee? Lord, I need no judgments in the morning as I thank the Founders for my caffeine. Depending on how far back, you really have multiple ways of preparation. I am not going to tell the Ethiopians that they are doing coffee wrong nor the Turks or the Italians. Seriously, the world is melting and this, this is the battlefield of molehills to die on? Ah well, the weather is nice, I am going to go out for coffee AND tea, mingled together with boba.
posted by jadepearl at 2:17 AM on April 14 [23 favorites]


These places tend, in my experience, to sell very acidic coffee. My stomach lining is very sensitive to acidity (a side effect of medicine I took gadzoinks ago). Those places are not for me, therefore, but if you like that kind of coffee then I’m glad that’s an option for people.

And of all the things people could get radicalized into zealotry over, coffee is one of the more harmless.
posted by Kattullus at 2:41 AM on April 14 [26 favorites]


I once was arranging to meet a person for work who I hadn't previously met. She suggested we meet at one of these sort of coffee shops. It was relatively new in town at that point and considered very fancy with its shiny chrome and pale wood, floor to ceiling glass windows and refusal to let customers have milk in their drinks. I asked if she minded us going to an older, cosier cafe nearby instead.

"Oh thank god," she said. "I thought we should go to the new place, but it's just so judgy." That's when I knew we were going to get on very well. Which we did.
posted by lollusc at 2:44 AM on April 14 [75 favorites]


I do enjoy calling out those who sneer at alternative drinks like chai and tumeric lattes, almond milk, flavoured syrups and so on, and asking that if they're so concerned about the purity of the coffee experience, how come they have theirs with milk? Oh, black coffee's too bitter is it? Ah ok then.

(Can we call this No True Italian?)
posted by other barry at 2:50 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


I love a cup of good brewed coffee, and all I ever take is black, but zero-tolerance on this is such a joke.
posted by cendawanita at 3:17 AM on April 14 [30 favorites]


I have read many, many different books, many genres, many authors, for years and years. There are certain kinds of books I like best. I know what I like, because I have the experience to draw from. I try new and different books and styles all the time, and some become part of my go-to preference list; but overall I know my favorites, so I'm not going to defend it beyond that. And I don't have to. Don't tell me that because I don't like the books that you like, or *should* like, that I am uniformed, stupid, lazy, plebeian, or any other pejorative. Book snobs are assholes.

Same for coffee.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:19 AM on April 14 [21 favorites]


Uh, whaaaat?

I'm sorry, but I cannot drink coffee without, like, three big spoonfuls of sugar in it. It's way too bitter otherwise.

I don't need any special flavors in particular, but the sugar is obligatory.

These sound like unpleasant coffee elitists, and I will have no part of it.
posted by Quackles at 3:25 AM on April 14 [5 favorites]


I like a good black espresso coffee and get the reasoning behind this. Sadly, these places use a type of bean I don’t really enjoy - fruity or citrusy aromas. I prefer chocolate-y or nutty types like an old-fashioned Italian espresso. I don’t know what that would be called...not third, not second, not first wave (American), just...Italian espresso before all the waves.

Not selling an espresso in a paper cup, I can get behind that. If you don’t have the minute it takes to drink and enjoy your espresso at the bar from the pretty little cup...maybe you’re too busy for good coffee.
posted by The Toad at 3:25 AM on April 14 [19 favorites]


Looks like at Oddly Correct, they have already had to realize concessions were in order... I guess that's something.

Sugar is still a no-no, but relaxing the policy around adding milk to brewed coffee has already led to an uptick in business, he says. Even though few people actually ask for the cream, knowing it’s available has helped change the shop’s image to be more accepting of different choices around coffee, he adds. “We realised we had to move our fences out a little bit to guide people into that [coffee] experience.”
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:26 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


This is why my diet consists entirely of unsweetened baking chocolate, unflavored oatmeal, and raw meat.

I mean, I'm pretty much unironically this when it comes to decent dark chocolate (i.e., not baking chocolate, unless you're baking with at least Valrhona bars, which is a thing) and good steaks (medium-rare and mostly unseasoned), so I can't really mock these shops from my house made of glass.

I hate the taste of coffee in general, but I'm sympathetic to the idea that it's not supposed to be bitter and that's just how cheaply-roasted coffee comes out, because that's pretty much how it works for chocolate.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 3:26 AM on April 14 [8 favorites]


First I came to scoff, and then I planned a visit to my local Third Wave outlet. I prefer coffee with cream (no sweetener, thanks) but I'm curious as to the kinds of elixirs on offer...
posted by Sheydem-tants at 3:28 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


The Proprietor Is Never Wrong
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:31 AM on April 14 [13 favorites]


I've zero time for people who want to tell others how they must experience food. What arrogance, to insist there's only one correct way to consume something and insist that others follow suit. I hope this trend dies a quick death.
posted by jzb at 3:33 AM on April 14 [18 favorites]


I’ve never been a fan of sugar in coffee, but I do add cream, although the amount has decreased over the years. Not that I have much concern about what you put in your coffee (although milk in tea is degenerate).
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:47 AM on April 14


These guys are doing it all wrong. Yes, I only drink my coffee black and unsweetened, but not out of preciousness. Coffee isn't meant to be enjoyed, it's merely a socially acceptable vehicle to get stimulants into my bloodstream. Any additional gilding of the lily just dilutes the effect I want.

Sure, every once in a while I'll do the whole coffee as a "self care, me time" ritual, but 99% of the time I'm just self medicating and compensating for lack of sleep.

When my kids are out of toddlerhood, I'll take the time to hike every morning up a mountain to speak with my befriended indigenous coffee farmer who will help me hand select the finest pea berry, shade grown, civet digested melange infused organic beans. Then I'll pay a wise old quechua woman to masticate the beans and spit them into a traditionally carved chincha cauldron whereupon I'll run them through Isaac Newton's original alchemy still and cold fusion brew a real cup of coffee suitable for authentic coffee aficionados.

But for now, I'll stick with my large americano with a few ice cubes so I can chug it down my gullet as quickly as possible without burning my throat.
posted by Telf at 3:56 AM on April 14 [37 favorites]


If you’re serious you just suck on a raw bean.
posted by Segundus at 4:06 AM on April 14 [10 favorites]


This is a pretty dumb way to run a business. I'll just get that one out of the way.

I am a pretty dyed-in-the-wool unadulterated filter coffee drinker, and have to fight my natural tendency to be a snob about this. I always try to eat something sweet or rich with it, and love the interplay of the coffee sort of mingling with the aftertaste of the food and cleaning it away. This is kind of the same way green tea is drunk in Japan, because they imported the bitter stuff first about a thousand years ago, instead of the normal bog standard jasmine everyone drinks in China these days. I won't get into the seasonal teas that you find in Japan, but none of them have milk or sugar.

I also can't stand drinks that are sweet, and which leave a clinging syrupy aftertaste on the palate. It inevitably goes kind of sour and makes everything else kind of unpleasant. I've never been big on ice cream, probably for similar reasons.

I live in the UK, and people have these lofty notions of Proper British Tea but everyone here drinks it "builders" which is just like six sugars and all milk and a bit of some cheap teabag in the mix. But they're all insistent about getting the hottest water into the tea right away because flavoninoids or whatever it is they read about in the Daily Heil. It's nothing like how tea is drunk in China or even that latecomer Japan.

In Tom Standage's book A History of the World in 6 Glasses, he implies that builders' tea was the drink of the British Empire: tea from the East Indies (China), sugar from the West Indies (Carribbean), and milk from your local dairy farm. The sun never sets on that cup of cloying slightly-dyed milk!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:08 AM on April 14 [16 favorites]


I drink my coffee black or with a tiny bit of sugar, and I would never go to one of these places. Way to use your passion to be assholes, guys!
posted by tocts at 4:22 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I don't like the word "foodie", but it's fair to say that I'm a "food enthusiast".

And I really dislike these sorts of coffee shops (or any establishment that gets this precious about food and drink). It seems so performative.

Just the other day, I was recalling a meal I'd had at a local restaurant: Arctic char on a bed of lentils. The most perfectly seasoned and cooked piece of fish I've ever had. Such a simple preparation that there was no room for the chef to hide: that fish had been cooked at exactly the right temperature, for exactly the right amount of time, and handled before and after with unfailing care. I can appreciate that sort of thing.

But if the process of ordering, serving, and consuming feels like a ceremony - if the decor and vibe are carefully designed to say "this is something precious" - I'm done.

I like good food. I don't like posturing.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:24 AM on April 14 [12 favorites]


I’ve very rarely had coffee that was smooth enough on its own to drink without help.

Some diner filter coffee in the US was magically decent. And on Austrian Airlines Business they serve magical coffee. It’s somehow not the same coffee in economy class though.

I don’t add a ton but I do need a splash or dash to make it drinkable.
posted by sio42 at 4:29 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


What happens if you try to order ketchup at the Fat Duck? I suppose different Michelin starred restaurants would have different policies for that scenario.

I'm not sure a Third Wave coffee shop could ever truly be equated with a 3* restaurant, but I suppose if you see their intentions as pure I can see why they try to have such rules.

I've only recently been to my very first Third Wave coffee shop (Bocca in Amsterdam) and it was very pleasant indeed. The V60 coffee was excellent and the atmosphere friendly and relaxed. But then I prefer my coffee black and unsugared so I wasn't going to have a problem with barista snobbery.
posted by milkb0at at 4:35 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Time to open up a gourmet milk and sugar cart on the sidewalk outside.
posted by duffell at 4:38 AM on April 14 [114 favorites]


I grew up in Seattle and my 'rebellion' as a teenager was to shun coffee (my mom was a major coffee addict).
Turns out caffeine is awesome, especially when a small human is involved in major sleep deprivation.
Yay bad coffee with copious amounts of milk! Cold pleeeze.
Then I made friends with a mom at the library who is in the coffee roasting business. Her partner is a major nerd about beans and roasting and I learned a lot about coffee. They sell wholesale, not a cafe, but I like to frequent places that serve their cold brew. No sugar or milk needed. I learned that by trusting the professional. I'm glad I did. My taste buds are happy. I still go to Dunkin donuts drive through when I've hit a wall and need caffeine fast!
Tldr: I appreciate a craft and knowledge for coffee and I'm better off for listening/trusting. That goes for all sorts of areas. Not the snobby bit, tho!
Edited to add that on weekends we relax with their single source in pour-over form and it is great!
Also - there are seasons to coffee, different regions at different times. Like, very interesting. Lots of methods of post-picking processing. It's fascinating
posted by PistachioRoux at 4:40 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


But if the process of ordering, serving, and consuming feels like a ceremony

Yeah...Oddly enough, this is one reason why I bristle at places like starbucks and some other chains where I’m supposed to use terms like ‘venti’ instead of small (or large, I forget what it means) and where people rattle off a prayer of very specific milk, caf, syrup, size preferences and dumb names like ‘Frappuccino’ and the environment feels so...curated? Orchestrated?

That’s why my usual coffee spot (as a coffee snob) is a run down place that serves absolutely horrible pourover, just because it’s very un-ceremonial. I wish they made decent coffee in addition to being un-ceremonial, but you can’t have everything. Even there I drink my coffee black, but I’ll admit it has a masochistic junkie element...
posted by The Toad at 4:41 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Is this Peak Coffee?
posted by theora55 at 4:41 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


So, this is the Dark Souls of coffee?

Anyway, these guys are precisely as hip as my parents.
posted by zompist at 4:42 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


When I go to a high-end restaurant, if they have a vegetarian tasting menu, I'll probably order it. And that kind of restaurant has gotten popular enough around where I live that anymore it feels a little weird to go somewhere special but order off a menu "normally." I've tried all kinds of food I never would've tried myself this way, and really enjoyed it.

I wouldn't want that to be true everywhere. I appreciate that there are some places I can go and order the usual and know exactly what I'm getting. But I appreciate that there are also places where I can go and have new food experiences and expand my palate.

I see these coffee places as doing something analogous. They're not saying this is the "only correct" way to enjoy coffee, just creating a space to have coffee this particular way. But admittedly a black pourover is my poison of choice at home, so maybe I'm just biased to having more options like that out in the world.
posted by brett at 4:47 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Reading this thread while sipping my can of Starbucks Doubleshot Cubano because with two tiny humans any amount of ceremony in the morning is too much ceremony.
posted by zrail at 4:51 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


The title is a bit clickbaity; by the end of the article both of its exemplars of coffee-shop snobbery have caved and offer both sugar and milk, albeit in the most risibly self-parodic formulations: “combining cascara fruit that surrounds the coffee bean on the plant with a dash of simple syrup and steamed milk” and “a vanilla latte is sweetened with a locally made bourbon syrup”.
posted by nicwolff at 4:51 AM on April 14 [9 favorites]


Your favorite coffee sucks.
posted by terrapin at 4:51 AM on April 14 [5 favorites]


I RTFA and got no outrage.

I was once at a convention in Boston and there was a commercial coffee equipment show going on in the next hall. Some people were giving cappuccino samples to demonstrate their (shiny, beautiful) machine.

Guy handed me the cup with a lovely froth. I asked for sugar. He smiled - a kind, genuine and utterly charming smile - and said, "This is so good it doesn't need sugar. Try a sip, and tell me what you think."

He was right. I was amazed. And I have never, ever had one like it since. Haven't really looked, though.

Some classic drinks like the macchiato, cortado and cappuccino do come with milk but not sugar, he adds.

So, like that day in Boston, I imagine. I would try it, if there were one near me.

Baristas have softened the way they discuss the policies. “We’ve learned how to refine our language and our approach in ways that are still welcoming and accommodating, but not yielding to every single request,” he adds.

Sounds like they are learning and I wish them well with their businesses.

Still happy enough with my daily cup of fairly good coffee at home with sugar and cream, though.
posted by evilmomlady at 4:56 AM on April 14 [10 favorites]


Reading this thread while drinking a cup of Trader Joe's instant. Black, no sugar, because I really want to taste all of it.
posted by escabeche at 4:59 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


coffee prepared well on clean equipment really doesn't need sweetening, as it isn't bitter

I'm a supertaster, so nah. It's really fucking bitter. (So is beer. Yes, even that craft beer you're going to tell me I should try because it's totally not bitter.) No amount of sugar or milk can make it drinkable to me, though, so enjoy your bitter bean water, everyone.

Despite the fact that I don't like coffee, I do have a story for this fpp, though. It was summer and hot and I was super pregnant and driving to work and really REALLY wanted an iced tea. Like, a fresh brewed one, not a bottle. A new coffee shop on my route had recently opened and there was a parking spot right in front of it, so I was like yes, I bet they'll have some. I waddled in and approached the counter but didn't really see that they had iced tea on the menu. I asked if they had some anyway because pregnant and desperate. They looked at me like I had three heads. A different look than a standard "oh I'm so sorry but we don't carry that" more of a "do we look like a place that would have iced tea?!" and, like... yes? The barrista finally goes, "well, I guess we could brew some tea for you and put it over ice" which is nice because that is literally what iced tea is.

Here's the catch though. I drink my hot tea builders style (see above and fucking fight me) and that's also how I have it iced. Sugar and cream. Again, fight me. So, at what was apparently great pains they brew up a pot of tea for me and pour it over ice, hand it to me and I start looking around for sugar and cream. There isn't any anywhere. So I waddle back to the counter to ask for some and got aggressively handed a carton of half and half and a few random sugar packets. So they clearly did have these items on the premesis, but made you debase yourself by asking for them special so they could judge you while you used them.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:02 AM on April 14 [29 favorites]


Oddly enough, this is one reason why I bristle at places like starbucks and some other chains where I’m supposed to use terms like ‘venti’ instead of small (or large, I forget what it means) and where people rattle off a prayer of very specific milk, caf, syrup, size preferences and dumb names like ‘Frappuccino’ and the environment feels so...curated? Orchestrated?

Starbucks is my usual coffee shop, because it's right next to where I work. I always order "a medium latte". No one has ever corrected me.

That, to me, is the difference: Starbucks, for all of the criticisms that one could level at it, doesn't tell me that I have to do things any particular way. If I asked for an Americano with a tablespoon of salt and an unpeeled banana in it, they'd probably do it.

The drink names, etc. are often quite dumb – but no dumber than any other corporate branding. Read the back of a box of pancake mix sometime. Or go to McDonald's, where it'll be strongly implied that putting a "Haas avocado" on your fast food sandwich (this is the standard, mass-market grocery-store avocado – it's like trumpeting that you serve "Cavendish bananas") is fancy and debonair.

To me, it feels less "curated", and more "pandering to the plebes". Like: "This is what you slobs think is fancy, right? Look, it says 'sous-vide'."
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:11 AM on April 14 [19 favorites]


I'm not sure a Third Wave coffee shop could ever truly be equated with a 3* restaurant, but I suppose if you see their intentions as pure I can see why they try to have such rules.

I think the reaction says something interesting about the different social roles of restaurants and coffee shops. I mean, if a restaurant opened up in the UK which specialised in a particular kind of Indian food — traditional Keralan food, maybe — and therefore they didn’t serve all the standard items you can get in every high street curry place, I don’t think people would find it irritating in the same way. No doubt some customers would still prefer somewhere where they could get chicken tikka masala and naan and lamb madras, but I don’t think it would be seen as unbearably pretentious. People understand that there are many different types of restaurants.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 5:11 AM on April 14 [13 favorites]


Third wave coffee shops are an inversion of the culturally dominant idea of coffee. It's saying that coffee is not just a means to get legally high on stimulants, but also a drink that can taste nice, and has individual flavours beyond 'brown', 'sugar', and 'milk'. Going into one of these cafes and asking for a milky tea is a bit like going to the local curry house and asking for egg and chips, or demanding salad at the steak shack; I'm sure the staff can serve you what you asked for, but have you considered that maybe you're wrong and wasting their time? Taking up space for a customer who loves what they do, while you drink your sugary coffee with a surly face? There's plenty of other coffee places in the world, let's have some that at least care about what they do
posted by The River Ivel at 5:12 AM on April 14 [16 favorites]


I’m curious how many of you bemoaning these coffee shops’ policies clutch pearls when I say “Hawaiian pizza”.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:16 AM on April 14 [28 favorites]


This article makes these places sound like the coffee equivalent of those craft brewers who compete to make the hoppiest beer possible. My favorite local coffee shop turned into one of these places a while back and I just quit going there altogether, especially because I’m more likely to have a spicy chai and they took that off the menu completely.
posted by egypturnash at 5:20 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


People understand that there are many different types of restaurants.

Dunno if it was intentional, but you're basically describing Kayal, a successful string of restaurants across the Midlands. So your supposition is supported by evidence!
posted by Dysk at 5:21 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I mean, I've never gone back to the place that gave me shit, so mission accomplished and I won't be wasting their time anymore. There was nothing on the outside of the shop going in to indicate that 80% of what's on the menu at every other coffee shop in the area was not available there
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:22 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


Look, I think more people should have a chance to appreciate the unadulterated perfection of 32 ounces of iced Marshmallow Peeps flavor syrup, but you don't see me getting salty when people go to Dunkin and order it with some coffee in it.
posted by phunniemee at 5:24 AM on April 14 [24 favorites]


This is a true hipster's paradox, in that it is insanely boring, but yet complaining about it is also insanely boring.
posted by saladin at 5:28 AM on April 14 [69 favorites]


My usual coffee when sitting down is a long black (Australian thing - two espresso shots with some more water) and it is just a long black. Not big, not small, it just is. As soon as the barista asks me what size I want I know it's going to be dreadful. Replying "long black size" doesn't help.

So I can kind of get behind somewhere taking away the options where there shouldn't be any.

American people, do you really put cream in your coffee? Like the top bit of unhomogenised milk? With a spoon or something? This is not an option we have.
posted by deadwax at 5:28 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to see all the outrage when a restaurant or coffee shop or whatever decides to do something contrary to their expectations for the genre or, better yet, something they think violates their God-given right to have all restaurants or coffee shops or whatever conform to their expectations.

There's nothing wrong with wanting milk and sugar and flavorings and whatever else in your coffee. Just... leave the outrage at home and go somewhere else to get it. Hey, sometimes I like imported out-of-season produce. The fact that there is a restaurant in my neighborhood that only serves fresh tomatoes when they're local and in season doesn't make me want to round up an angry mob of villagers with torches and pitchforks.
posted by slkinsey at 5:32 AM on April 14 [10 favorites]


American people, do you really put cream in your coffee? Like the top bit of unhomogenised milk? With a spoon or something? This is not an option we have.

Cream means something different here. Usually coffee cream is what we call "half and half" which is kind of half way between single cream and full fat milk. Our dairy products suck and are watery just generally so we have to dial it up in order to get something remotely creamy.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:32 AM on April 14 [11 favorites]


It makes so much sense to me that this is coming out of Kansas City. Midsize city cool is very gatekeepery because of how much more effort it requires to be cool when you're living in a decidedly uncool place. I've only ever had my coffee black since I was 13 but this is stupid to me. If your brew is good it'll still be good with milk and sugar
posted by dis_integration at 5:38 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


I've occasionally trolled a barista by asking in all seriousness if a pour over is better clockwise or counterclockwise, and, well, sigh... they never realized they were being trolled.
posted by sammyo at 5:38 AM on April 14 [14 favorites]


Wasn't this kind of snobbery a thing way back when coffee became a thing? Like, back in the 90s or something? What next? Shops insisting the only way to experience true fro-yo is unflavored and no mix-ins?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:40 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


1790's probably
posted by sammyo at 5:44 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


Like, back in the 90s or something?

The places I lived in the 90s, DC, Portland and Boston, were definitely not then on the cutting edge, but my memory is no - hipper independent coffeehouses distinguished themselves by having espresso machines and making coffee that was somewhere north of the watery, scalding Dunkin Donuts / 7-11 standard, and by decor.

If there was attitude, it was related to countercultural matters, not the coffee. Stumptown started in Portland at the end of the 90s, but most of those places were basically proto-Starbucks with thrift store couches. It wasn't until c. 2005-6 that I remember Third Wave shops starting to feel ubiquitous, and I first encountered them in San Francisco.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:53 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I usually have the opposite problem in restaurants; wait people often express incredulity when I say that I don't want cream or sugar in my coffee.
posted by octothorpe at 5:53 AM on April 14 [5 favorites]


American people, do you really put cream in your coffee? Like the top bit of unhomogenised milk? With a spoon or something? This is not an option we have.

Do percents help? I've seen British recipes refer to percents...

Heavy cream in the US is about 35-40% milk fat
Whole milk is about 3% milk fat
Half and half is half whole milk and half cream, but "half" isn't mathed great and half and half can be anywhere from 10-20% milk fat

I generally like half and half in my coffee, but I do like brewing an espresso directly into a tablespoon of heavy cream. I don't know what that is if it's a thing but it's very good. Your girl likes milk fat.
posted by phunniemee at 5:56 AM on April 14 [16 favorites]


I am an American person and I use heavy cream in my coffee every day, with a small spoon of sugar. At coffee shops I use half and half because that's generally what they have available, but at home it's always a splash of heavy cream. Heavy whipping cream comes in liquid form here; when I've visited Europe I've bought little waxed cardboard boxes of "cream" (or what I thought was cream based on the pictures). You had to refrigerate it overnight, if I remember correctly, and then when you opened it, it was whipped cream in a little box! I then just added it to my coffee with a spoon, but it was kind of... chunky? Not ideal, but better than plain coffee with no dairy to me.
posted by sockermom at 6:05 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


The typical American coffee shop offers three or four kinds of milk. 2% is kind of the standard, but most places also offer skim, whole, and/or half-and-half.

Cheaper places (e.g., convenience stores) typically offer little plastic tubs of shelf-stable dairy-based liquid, often with sweeteners and flavorings – although even some convenience stores have started offering fresh dairy. (I don't care for the tubs, but I'll use 'em in a pinch.)

The cheapest places (e.g., shabby gas stations and the more dystopian corporate workplaces) offer powdered creamer, which may or may not be dairy-based. I will go without coffee before I'll touch that stuff, and that's saying something.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:14 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I use milk and sugar myself, even though I get fancy beans at home and grind them every morning before brewing. I also think hoppy beers are mostly gross, so maybe there’s a super taster thing going on. But I can still tell huge differences between different beans I buy, so I don’t understand the idea that adding a little sweetener somehow masks that or is done only because the coffee is bad.

For me the issue is just that if I walk into a random nearest coffee shop and it turns out they don’t even have milk and sugar, it’s a surprise and they need a big sign on the door that says IF YOU ARE COMING HERE FOR WHAT A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THE POPULATION THINKS OF AS COFFEE WE DON’T HAVE THAT . It seems like these are just gathering places for a small number of true believers. A local brewery once had like 7 super hoppy taps and an imperial porter and I switched to a place that brews “regular” beer :-)
posted by freecellwizard at 6:14 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


I very rarely buy coffee at coffeeshops, mostly because I'm cheap. I invested in a miraculous Zojirushi thermos, and I make coffee at home and stick it in my miracle thermos. So basically, when I buy coffee away from home, it's because I'm having some sort of coffee emergency. Usually, it's because I overslept, didn't have time to make coffee, need to be somewhere in a hurry, and need some caffein to stave off a withdrawal headache. And I have a couple of times stumbled into a fancy coffee place in that circumstance and been a little perturbed by the elaborate rituals and whatnot. And I absolutely should have found a different place, but I'm running late, and my brain is addled because I haven't had any coffee, and can you just give me a cup of something, I don't really care where it's from, and not take 20 minutes to make it?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:17 AM on April 14


In articles like this, I see a lot of reductive, dismissive, hand-wavey explanations about the addition of milk to coffee. Typical reverse-snobbery. Look, Captain Pourover, if you're used to buying a gallon-jug of "Walmart's finest" to wash down your deep-fried Pop Tarts, you wouldn't appreciate the terroir of Jersey cow milk, the nutty richness of maize-fed buffalo milk, or the diverse personalities of different individual goats' mammary secretions when you go single-source. Maybe best to leave it to the experts, hm?

Bottom line, Hipster McGee: if you're not willing to shell out an extra $5 to pair your coffee with the proper selection from a well-stocked milk bar at the advice of a mammologist who knows what the fuck he's talking about, you're not really drinking milk--you're drinking industrial coffee additive.

People can be so ignorant.
posted by duffell at 6:20 AM on April 14 [45 favorites]


Coffee is all about context to me. Ask me to go to a Starbucks when we’re vacationing in Naples and I’ll smack you, but seeing a Starbucks sign on the last leg of a ten hour drive through the US Midwest interstate system feels like a miracle. And I’ll happily take any brown-colored hot liquid you can hand me if we’re at a bar with no nonalcoholic drink options other than water, or in the sixth hour of taking a deposition.

That being said, a great espresso and a big ass venti Starbucks do seem like two different species. Spending time in Italy made me realize that sometimes my desire for a coffee is more about the volume than the taste (there’s a true American for you). I hope to learn how to always value quality over quantity at some point in my life...
posted by sallybrown at 6:21 AM on April 14 [17 favorites]


(As for the dairy aspect, one of the best coffee-related things I ever had was at a place in Palm Springs that mixed up espresso, tons of lemon zest, and some type of crema or condensed milk, all over ice. You can pry that and my Cuban coffees out of my cold dead hands.)
posted by sallybrown at 6:24 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


They refused me service after smelling the Kraft Mac & Cheese on my breath.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:27 AM on April 14 [8 favorites]


American people, do you really put cream in your coffee? Like the top bit of unhomogenised milk? With a spoon or something? This is not an option we have.

Also, in addition to all the percents and terminology that others have explained, the word "cream" gets used as a generic placeholder. Fairly often people will say "cream" but what is meant is "milk or milk-substitute product of some kind," of all the varieties mentioned already.

I end up in the snooty kind of coffee shop every so often, mostly by accident. Usually I have not loved their coffee, finding it more acidic/sour than I prefer, but at the same time I enjoy that they are doing something different and that they clearly care about the product. Personally it seems like a better approach to have a big sign that says "we recommend drinking the coffee black," but also putting out milk and sugar, because happy customers are repeat customers, even if you think they are doing it wrong.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:27 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


"This is so good it doesn't need sugar. Try a sip, and tell me what you think."
An enthusiast and expert who loves good coffee starts a business with this intention. I've benefitted from this kind of encouragement and not perceived it as judgement because I was clearly in a space where I was seeking quality and novelty. I still also don't enjoy fruity coffees as much as chocolatey caramel and nutty flavors.

Then they hire a staff who want to do a job well enough, and the training consists of "so good they won't need sugar or milk or cream." That message collapses to "no sugar, milk, or cream" and eventually to a kind of reflex reaction to the hundreds of people daily. Don't ascribe to judgy dogma that which can be explained by expedited training with little follow-up.

Also: milk, cream, and especially properly steamed milk are sweeteners too. That's actually how you know you've steamed properly, the lactose slightly carmelizes and you add a sweet note, replacing the need for a bright sugar with a slightly earthier caramel. But it's all sugar.
posted by abulafa at 6:37 AM on April 14 [19 favorites]


Personally it seems like a better approach to have a big sign that says "we recommend drinking the coffee black," but also putting out milk and sugar, because happy customers are repeat customers, even if you think they are doing it wrong.

I had this thought as well. However, I can see a purveyor viewing this is a slippery slope and thinking that, before too long, they'll be primarily selling high-end versions of the usual coffee-flavored milk-and-sugar drinks. These people have a vision of what kind of place they want to be and what kind of product they want to sell. Maybe their vision will find a customer base, maybe not. But I don't think it's incumbent upon them to offer milk and sugar any more than it is for an haute cuisine restaurant to have ketchup bottles on the tables.
posted by slkinsey at 6:41 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Back in the 90s, when I lived in Atlanta, I wandered into one of these kinds of places, and was thoroughly shamed for asking where the sugar bowl was. A week later, I went back, with a pocket full of sugar packets and those little cups of creamer. I sat in one of their retro-styled booths and made a cup of coffee the way I like it, making sure to keep eye contact with the owner/barista the entire time. It was the best coffee I ever had.
posted by KHAAAN! at 6:43 AM on April 14 [35 favorites]


It seems people forget human bodies are not perfectly calibrated measuring devices that all register the same aromas, volume levels, and pain in exactly the same manner, with perhaps slight variances in precision, leading to people thinking how their nerves and brain interpret sensory input is how everyone else experiences it, and anyone how says otherwise is Wrong. So we get coffee shops that don't offer sweetener or milks, medical professionals who think patients exaggerate pain, and an overall just suck it up attitude.

On a more positive note, last weekend I had a FANTASTIC soy-coconut latte with my friend from HS when we went for our annual pedicures. It was truly an hour and a half of relaxing and just being with someone and re-energizing.
posted by JawnBigboote at 6:44 AM on April 14 [9 favorites]


American people, do you really put cream in your coffee? Like the top bit of unhomogenised milk? With a spoon or something? This is not an option we have.

I have a funny story about this. I am a US transplant to Australia. My very first week living in Australia, before I even knew what a long black, short black, or flat white was, I went into a cafe and ordered an Americano with cream (I knew Australians mostly did espresso-based drinks, but I didn't know about the milk/cream situation). I got a really strange look from the staff and was asked to clarify. I repeated, and got kind of a shrug.

When they brought my cup to the table, it was indeed an Americano, but with a dollop of what looked like butter floating on top. This was before even "bulletproof" coffee was a thing. My partner and I exchanged raised eyebrows and had a chuckle about what was obviously another case of our cultural ignorance, and I drank the melted butter coffee, and it was not good at all.

We soon discovered that in Australia, no one uses "cream" in their coffee, half and half is not a thing, and cream, as it were, is what Americans call "heavy cream". And because of differences in the way that milk products are processed, we discovered that Australian cream very quickly thickens, turning to solid clumps after just a couple of days in the refrigerator. Hence my butter coffee. In retrospect, I can see why the request for cream would have seemed so bizarre.
posted by amusebuche at 6:51 AM on April 14 [11 favorites]


It seems people forget human bodies are not perfectly calibrated measuring devices that all register the same aromas, volume levels, and pain in exactly the same manner, with perhaps slight variances in precision, leading to people thinking how their nerves and brain interpret sensory input is how everyone else experiences it, and anyone how says otherwise is Wrong.
I think they would say that they don't forget this, but that if your body isn't calibrated for their coffee, then you should go somewhere else. They see themselves as a destination, not a convenience, and people should choose to go there because they want their particular product. The issue is that most of us don't view coffee that way, and it's hard to discourage the potential patrons who want something warm and caffeinated that doesn't taste terrible or take forever to make.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:53 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


This is a true hipster's paradox, in that it is insanely boring, but yet complaining about it is also insanely boring.

I'm on the side of the coffee shop, after reading this thread.
posted by thelonius at 7:07 AM on April 14 [22 favorites]


im a fussy coffee guy and a firm believer that no adulterants are needed. the simplest things can be the most challenging thing to do correctly, and often the most rewarding when you do

i'm also a firm believer that y'all can drink what you want.

now, with that said, if you drink coffee with sugar, milk, and/or flavoring, let's be honest: you don't like coffee, you like sugar, milk, and/or flavoring.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:19 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


If you’re serious you just suck on a raw bean.
posted by Segundus at 4:06 AM on April 14 [2 favorites +] [!]


But only after lovingly overthinking it.
posted by chavenet at 7:21 AM on April 14 [17 favorites]


I think this is an issue that the free market can deal with - we'll see if enough people are willing to pay those prices for that treatment and product. I don't think so, but I could be wrong.
posted by Selena777 at 7:28 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Americano with a tablespoon of salt and an unpeeled banana
posted by sammyo at 7:36 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


From a TED talk by Sheena Iyengar entitled "The Art of Choosing":
On my first day [in Japan], I went to a restaurant, and I ordered a cup of green tea with sugar. After a pause, the waiter said, "One does not put sugar in green tea." "I know," I said. "I'm aware of this custom. But I really like my tea sweet." In response, he gave me an even more courteous version of the same explanation. "One does not put sugar in green tea." "I understand," I said, "that the Japanese do not put sugar in their green tea, but I'd like to put some sugar in my green tea." (Laughter) Surprised by my insistence, the waiter took up the issue with the manager. Pretty soon, a lengthy discussion ensued, and finally the manager came over to me and said, "I am very sorry. We do not have sugar." (Laughter) Well, since I couldn't have my tea the way I wanted it, I ordered a cup of coffee, which the waiter brought over promptly. Resting on the saucer were two packets of sugar.

My failure to procure myself a cup of sweet, green tea was not due to a simple misunderstanding. This was due to a fundamental difference in our ideas about choice. From my American perspective, when a paying customer makes a reasonable request based on her preferences, she has every right to have that request met. The American way, to quote Burger King, is to "have it your way," because, as Starbucks says, "happiness is in your choices." (Laughter) But from the Japanese perspective, it's their duty to protect those who don't know any better -- (Laughter) in this case, the ignorant gaijin -- from making the wrong choice. Let's face it: the way I wanted my tea was inappropriate according to cultural standards, and they were doing their best to help me save face.
posted by beagle at 7:42 AM on April 14 [30 favorites]


I’d rather complain about coffee shops that don’t take cash, honestly
posted by thivaia at 7:42 AM on April 14 [14 favorites]


I’ll go to any other place than Tim Hortons. Their coffee tastes like it's tainted with kitchen cleaner and chicken bullion.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:51 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


It's funny what drugs do to people
posted by bendybendy at 7:56 AM on April 14 [8 favorites]


now, with that said, if you drink coffee with sugar, milk, and/or flavoring, let's be honest: you don't like coffee, you like sugar, milk, and/or flavoring.

This is odd to me, as someone who likes both black coffee and other coffee drinks (cappuccino especially). No one says “if you drink Bloody Marys and martinis it means you don’t like vodka.”
posted by sallybrown at 7:56 AM on April 14 [37 favorites]


There's a fancy-lad coffee shop in my town, and while it's nice to have the occasional better-prepared alternative to Starbucks, it's also mildly aggravating when I'm stopping by on my way to somewhere else and have to wait for a pour-over because they won't do drip after noon. At least they haven't jumped on the no-cream-or-sugar bandwagon. I've never liked sugar in coffee--to the point that if it's added by mistake, I will take it back--and usually just a little bit of heavy cream, and have likewise taken it back when I get a cup of heavy cream with a splash of coffee in it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:00 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Granny Weatherwax raised the teacup again, and lowered it. ‘She likes a drink. She’ll tell You it has to be best brandy...’ Nanny nodded affirmation ‘... and that’s certainly what she desires but really she’ll settle for beer just like everyone else.’
So I’m not that old but I did grow up in a place and time when winter meant $5 tomatoes (when available) and coffee came out of a can (by way of a gross percolator) and was taken with ‘cremer’ That said “edible oil product” on the box. Tim Horton’s promise of fresh (proudly exclaiming that the pot wouldn’t be reheated more then 20minutes!) was the gold standards.

Oh my gosh you guys - *$ coming to town brought a cataclysmic reevaluation of what coffee might be. To this day, while I’ll protest that I’d prefer not to, I won’t refuse a cup of joe from Timmies, *$, Mickey D’s or what have you. I live in a neighbourhood that has really good cafes and I have all kinds of apparatus to make much better coffee at home but when away I’ll drink anything caffeinated.

That being said the sentence following the quote above (from Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum - my favourite take on vampires) reads:
Nanny Ogg shrugged as Granny went on: ‘But you wouldn’t settle for black puddings, would you, because what you really drink is power over people.
Make of that what you will.
posted by mce at 8:01 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


I think we can all agree that gatekeeping is bad and any person (or business) that tells you that you are wrong to enjoy a thing the way you enjoy it is an asshole.

Disclaimer aside, I do think there is something to be said about filling your coffee up with flavoured syrups, sugar, cream, etc. At what point do you take a step back and just say, "You know, I think I just don't like coffee." Like, you do you, but coffee is pretty expensive as far as drinks go and if all you want is a hot hazelnut-vanilla flavoured drink you can have that. We have the technology. There are also cheaper ways to get your caffeine hit. Obviously, all things in moderation, so this observation doesn't really apply to places/people that are adding just a little bit. I'm thinking more of the tooth-achingly sweet concoctions you see at starbucks or the people that order extra pumps.

I also don't really think there is anything wrong with a coffee shop deciding not to have a bunch of extra things. There are a million other coffee places you can go to that have a wide range of syrups and such. A business could save a lot of money by not stocking 40 kinds of syrup and 6 kinds of milk. They also need less storage, heck, they might not even need refrigeration. It might seem snooty to you, but it seems like a pretty rational business decision to me if your market can support it and clearly the market can.

Lastly, there is also something to be said for curating a specific culture and whether you participate in coffee culture or not it's pretty damn hypocritical for any mefite to complain about a subculture of enthusiasts that aren't really hurting anyone. Why shouldn't coffee enthusiasts have a physical place where they can go and talk to other people about single origin rare bean coffee? Seems fine. Seems to me that this is Internet outrage for no reason. I'd feel different if this was the only coffee shop around, but you're not going to see a "third wave" coffee shop open up somewhere that has no other coffee options. They're the kind of business that pops up somewhere that already has an established coffee culture.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 8:01 AM on April 14 [10 favorites]


I’d rather complain about coffee shops that don’t take cash, honestly

Do they make everyone pay before they make the drinks? I mean, all USD denominations are legal tender in the US, so if they're not always taking payment in advance they seem like they're asking for a lot of trouble from smartasses who want to argue the point. Obviously they could just take the drink away again, but it just seems like it's going to create more problems than it solves. Well, at least for the workers... clearly the bosses think it will help them squeeze a few more pennies out.

I'm also amazed that no-one seems to have linked the Mitchell & Webb food snob sketch yet. Unless I've missed it of course.
posted by howfar at 8:02 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Oh an unrelated thought: when I know that breakfast will be delayed I will put whipping cream (heavy cream - 35%) in my coffee before dashing out of the house. Not because I prefer it but because, and this is the important part you guys, even if it doesn’t say “lactose free” on the label the amount of lactose is already small enough that it’s unlikely to cause me upset.

And 100g might not result in the best coffee but it is good for about 350-375 calories to tide me over until my next opportunity to eat something.

I know - if I truly loved my coffee I’d just get out of bed more reliably. Meh.
posted by mce at 8:07 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


When I worked in a cafe almost three decades ago we'd have people coming in who liked the weird vulcanized rubber aftertaste of robusta coffee. Nobody was telling them they were wrong, but we sure as he'll weren't stocking it. Maybe we were pretentious too.

Wasn't this kind of snobbery a thing way back when coffee became a thing? Like, back in the 90s or something?

I distinctly remember being told by several places that they didn't serve iced coffee because it would ruin the flavor.

I guess I'm glad fussy bean worshipping places exist even if I'm more of an old school 'customer is always right' type. I don't think it's a bad business model to be so passionate about your product you try to micromanage the customer. Sure you'll have people leave and sometimes put up bad Yelp reviews. But on the other hand the review will by its wording turn out to be a complaint about pretentiousness or how the coffee wasn't milky enough. You might get fewer bad reviews about cold coffee because you aren't selling to go cups and fewer bad reviews about how your coffee which wasn't roasted to pair well with milk and sugar tasted like the worst cup.

Personally. Starbucks to me tastes like they are deliberately overroasting to make it impossible to drink without adding a meal worth of calories. It's almost my least favorite place to get coffee.

That said I'm a weirdo who doesn't like coffee that much but drinks it black and iced. I started cold brewing before it even caught on. Now I drink cold brew concentrate straight and black as my little grinch heart. Sometimes I go to a fussy little place with pour over light roast of the week. Once it was floral to the point of almost turpentine quality pleasant and unpleasant in equal measure.

This is why my diet consists entirely of unsweetened baking chocolate, unflavored oatmeal, and raw meat

I love kitfo, sashimi, and oatmeal with nothing but cacao nibs in it so this made me laugh... At myself.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:08 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


You can’t add sugar, you can’t add milk. You can only add CBD.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:13 AM on April 14 [15 favorites]


Somebody upthread gave the example of an authentic Indian restaurant, but I'll put it even more simply: Try going into a restaurant serving hot dogs in Chicago and ordering ketchup on your hot dog.

Somehow, both the hot dog sellers and the hot dog eaters survive. Some things just aren't worth caring about.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:23 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Personally, I think the proliferation of additives in coffee is turning coffees into milkshakes. When I see someone ordering such a breakfast milkshake, I -1 them, but I keep that to myself. I want the freedom to buy what I want to buy without being told or forced what to buy and I afford the same to those beknighted fools.

So why can't we just let people sell what they want to sell?
posted by M-x shell at 8:32 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


I would totally try one of these places. I take my coffee with lots of cream most of the time, but I'm open to being educated about coffee beans. In the past few years, I've learned to appreciate beer and wine by hanging out with friends who are really into each of those things, and although neither has become part of my daily life, I feel like I understand and appreciate them more. I'll probably never stop taking my coffee creamy, but if I were in a city with one of these coffee places, I'd try it out, and I'd let them tell me all about their beans and their brewing. I'd probably learn something.

I was semi-amused that the one place had started offering milk, but, in a weird way, that almost feels more judgey to me. Like, if they're drawing a hard line around Black Coffee Only, than all the rest of us, whether we're latte drinkers or like to grab a cup of Tim Horton's with three creams or have a daily Starbucks habit of an espresso with two sugars, we're all on the outside together. But when they start moving the boundary, so that this much milk is OK, but not that much, or milk is OK but not cream, or milk is OK but not sugar, then it feels like my personal choices are being judged more individually and harshly, if that makes sense.
posted by Orlop at 8:39 AM on April 14


now, with that said, if you drink coffee with sugar, milk, and/or flavoring, let's be honest: you don't like coffee, you like sugar, milk, and/or flavoring.
I like caffeine and keeping my hands warm. I'm honestly not that fussed about the delivery system. I drink coffee with almond or coconut milk at home, and I drink it black at work. I don't love sugar in my coffee, and I'm lactose intolerant, so it's either fake milk or nothing. And this isn't a big part of my identity. It's just fuel and a hand-warmer.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:39 AM on April 14 [8 favorites]


We soon discovered that in Australia, no one uses "cream" in their coffee

Also, when you order an iced coffee, don't look surprised when you receive a coffee milkshake.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:40 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


but zero-tolerance on this is such a joke.

I agree.

If you've never tried a snooty pourover place and you're the kind of person that gets a lot of enjoyment from things tasting good I would really recommend it.

Yeah. Too much of this thread does feel like, "let's hate these people because they love something in a way we can't understand"

I got introduced to this Third Wave stuff a while back, not in my normal neighborhood. I felt like a shot of caffeine, wandered into the first cafe I came upon. They didn't deny me my normal small hit of cream, bit of sugar ... but I did feel a sort of negative-hipster-vibe. But the thing is, that coffee was very, very good.

Next time I stumbled across such a joint, I elected to at least try it straight up, and wow, this stuff really was a step up, a whole new realm of ... well, akin to sipping single malt whiskey for the first time after years of swigging whatever blend was cheap and available.

But, and this is a big but, where I draw the line is price. If you're charging even more than what the already overpriced Starbucks option costs ... well, let's just say that's a country I'll choose not to live. Too rich for me. There are people just outside the door without homes and health care after all ...

But let's not fool ourselves, that coffee is gooooood ...
posted by philip-random at 8:41 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


it means you don’t like vodka

Amusingly, I was once at a bar in Chicago where a dudebro ordered a red bull & vodka. The bartender stared at him for a moment, then told him to get the fuck out and summoned the bouncer to eject the lad.
posted by aramaic at 8:45 AM on April 14 [18 favorites]


I generally like half and half in my coffee, but I do like brewing an espresso directly into a tablespoon of heavy cream. I don't know what that is if it's a thing but it's very good. Your girl likes milk fat.

This is now a thing I want to try. I usually only drink espresso when I'm staying with friends whose only coffee machine option is espresso, so next time I'm there I'll take some heavy cream with me and give this a try.
posted by Orlop at 8:46 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


I don't drink coffee at all, but I have opinions on this subject nonetheless, mostly based on my experiences with restaurants.

I think there is room in this world for purist food and drink experiences, where the business is offering a vision rather than just a product. That vision should be explained upfront, in a manner that allows people to choose whether or not to partake without being snobbed all over.

When the vision itself gets muddy, though, then I start to get cranky. Oh, you offer milk and sugar, but people have to subject themselves to a little lecture in order to be allowed to have them? Bite me. Either stand by your vision or don't.

There's a small restaurant group in my hometown that doesn't let people add or subtract ingredients from their set menu of pizzas. I would be fine with that if they offered a carefully curated list of a few perfectly balanced pies, but there are like 40 goddamned pizzas on that menu. Who gives a fuck if they leave the mushrooms off this one?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:48 AM on April 14 [9 favorites]


I started reading this thread in bed, but now am compelled to be filling my moka pot. I like the analog of "different restaurants for different food desires".
posted by salt grass at 8:50 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I am happy to have learned more about Australian dairy products from this thread.
posted by Orlop at 8:53 AM on April 14 [18 favorites]


now, with that said, if you drink coffee with sugar, milk, and/or flavoring, let's be honest: you don't like coffee, you like sugar, milk, and/or flavoring.

This both incorrect and trivially easy to disprove. What's more, I have disproved it. At work, we have an espresso machine (whose settings you can adjust to create, eg, an Americano) that my boss got at some garage sale years ago. More or less everyone is a coffee addict and that thing sees heavy, heavy use. What's more, because people make so much coffee/espresso/variant water-bean-settings, you always need to check to make sure that there are enough beans in the hopper - you might have filled it an hour ago but it could be empty now. And of course, if you don't, you get translucent, weak "espresso" made with whatever beans are left. I can testify that if you decide to dose this up with milk and sugar and drink it, it's dismal. The actual coffee is pretty essential.

I've had some incredibly delicious Ethiopian coffee from a small roaster with amazing blueberry notes...and you know what? A little bit of cream really brings out the blueberry and it's absolutely wonderful. I'll drink it plain, I'll drink it iced, I'll drink it sugared...but cream is best.
posted by Frowner at 8:54 AM on April 14 [13 favorites]


I’m curious how many of you bemoaning these coffee shops’ policies clutch pearls when I say “Hawaiian pizza”.

true fact: in some Hawaiian pizza joints, they refer to the ham + pineapple option as The Canadian, I guess because the ham they use is what we Canadians call back bacon, but most of the world calls Canadian bacon, and also because Canadians seem to love the damned things so much. Seriously, a ham + pineapple pizza is as common up here as pepperoni. Which is one of those things that makes me feel at least slightly embarrassed to call myself Canadian -- right up there with Tim Horton's coffee as a matter of fact.
posted by philip-random at 8:55 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Oh no where will I find a place to get coffee with some sugar in it now?

This is a Soup Nazi thing. If you're going to one of these places intentionally you're asking to be berated and, if you accidentally stumble on the place you can turn and run like a sensible person.

This is also how the CEO of Starbucks grew the brass balls to think he could run for president.
posted by East14thTaco at 9:03 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Good coffee prepared well on clean equipment really doesn't need sweetening, as it isn't bitter,

We don’t all taste bitter to the same degree. I’m guessing you’re not a super taster, like 25% of the population. My niece is. We’ll both eat the same type of lettuce, for example, and she’ll declare inedible what I say is mild.

And due to the fact that women and PoC are more likely to be super tasters, oh look, coffee snobbery turns out to be racist and sexist, too. Because of course it is.
posted by greermahoney at 9:05 AM on April 14 [25 favorites]


There's a difference between "what you like is wrong" and "what you like is completely fine, we just don't serve it." Maybe these joints should coin a new term for what they are. Coffee parlor? Coffee speakeasy? Coffee gallery? Because the term "coffee shop" has meant one thing for a few decades now and if you're going to do something fairly different that's only going to be able to cater to a fraction of the patrons of the other coffee shop up the street, let's not act all shocked and appalled when people are like, wtf do you mean I can't have a cappuccino?

And as someone who legit detests coffee, I can tell you that the coffee is a pretty integral part of these drinks. That's why I don't like any of them. I do not like cappuccino, I do not like mocha, I do not like a frozen coffee slushy, not in a box, not with a fox.

"One does not put sugar in green tea."
And yet, one can have green tea flavored KitKats, Pocky, ice cream, cake, and all other manner of sweet desserts.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:06 AM on April 14 [21 favorites]


I confess to being utterly baffled about this whole...approach?

I mean, am I the member of a rare breed whose tastes vary depending upon how I feel that day? As in, sometimes I want black coffee, sometimes I want espresso with one lump of sugar, sometimes I want a latte or cappuccino, and sometimes I want a caramel mocha-whatever with whipped cream? Or maybe today I want fried chicken, but tomorrow I will want some baked chicken, or maybe roasted chicken, or perhaps a nice chicken salad? Or maybe a medium-well steak, but tomorrow some steak tartar, or a well-done burger, and what about some beef short rib that's been braised for 4 hours? Or what about a smooth red wine tonight, but then a nice dry white tomorrow with lunch?

Maybe there is something that I'm missing about this purist approach? I just do not get it???

Like, sure, if I go into this particular NO MILK/SUGAR HERE BUCKO coffee shop on a day that I want coffee with milk/sugar I'm going to be irritated, but it's not because I don't get what good coffee sans milk/sugar tastes like. It's because that particular day, I want my coffee with milk/sugar.
posted by skye.dancer at 9:07 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


true fact: in some Hawaiian pizza joints, they refer to the ham + pineapple option as The Canadian, I guess because the ham they use is what we Canadians call back bacon

Or perhaps because a Canadian invented the Hawaiian pizza! Fittingly, the inventor was tired of the "no topping choices" available for pizzas in the late 50's early 60's
posted by Zedcaster at 9:09 AM on April 14 [10 favorites]


We Americans (among others) are apparently as opinionated about coffee as the Brits are about tea. We also don't like being told our taste preferences are stupid. It's like the many, many restaurants that refuse to put salt and pepper on the table because patrons might unwittingly insult the chef, who is always right about our taste buds, apparently.

It is a little odd that the more money you pay in restaurants/coffee emporiums, the less choice you have. It seems like it should be the other way around, but, hey, I'm not really in the demographic which the pricey establishments are catering to. Not catering to, I mean.
posted by kozad at 9:10 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Our dairy products suck and are watery just generally so we have to dial it up in order to get something remotely creamy.

Nah, whole milk in the States is the same as whole milk in the U.K.

I lived in England years ago and made my own half and half a few times. My flatmates were bewildered until I gave them some coffee with half and half in it and they were all like “this is so much better than milk”

They also expressed derision at peanut butter until I gave them some Jif. The stuff they pass off as peanut butter in the U.K. somehow manages to be both gummy AND dry as fuck.
posted by Automocar at 9:21 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Amusingly, I was once at a bar in Chicago where a dudebro ordered a red bull & vodka. The bartender stared at him for a moment, then told him to get the fuck out and summoned the bouncer to eject the lad.

Someone told me petty much the same story last night but with London and snakebite and black.
posted by biffa at 9:22 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


If you took a shot of 18 year old whiskey and mixed it with coke, I'd be wincing. I don't feel this way about coffee, but I'm okay that there are people out there who do. I assume the "snobbery" here is intended to select customers who feel the same way, which works out better for everyone. (Being rude to people without provocation is not great, though!)
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:28 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


GIVE ME ALL OF THE BLACK COFFEE

Third wave shops love me. I can't stand diluting my coffee with anything except maybe more coffee, I love the complex bitter-sweet flavors of good coffee, but even better I'm no snob and will happily drink cold instant coffee in plain old tap water, so getting a really nice doppio pulled on a naked portafilter with single origin beans is a huge treat for me.

Every single time I've been in a snooty third wave place I've had the barista comment something like "Woah, you were really into that espresso." because they can tell. It might have something to do with the way I'll scrape every bit of crema out of the cup or even unabashedly lick my spoon or cup, or how I might even have some wickedly sharp dark chocolate with me to enjoy with my espresso.

I'm totally ok with this coffee snootiness. I've had maybe a million shots of espresso in my life, and so far I've had exactly ONE, ONE truly god-tier shot of a single origin bean at Seattle Coffee Works, one of the best and originals in this slow/3rd wave coffee movement, like five years ahead of this curve.

I have never tasted anything so good and so complex. It was like a wild parade or party with berry and citrus notes, with sweetness like the best milk chocolate, and the bitterness of dark, and hints of GODDAMN LEMON in the aftertaste, all partying together like the best balsamic vinegar on the planet.

Granted, I already like my coffee black but I've been chasing the spiritual high of that one shot for something like 6-7 years now, and I've had plenty of really good coffee since then.

So, yeah, adding milk and sugar to that isn't morally wrong, but it will destroy any chance of those flavors coming through or surviving. There's a reason why people get weirdly obsessed about coffee. It's a really delicate and fiddly balance of science, agriculture and industry.

Ok, yeah, I've been a barista. Yes, I have actually munched on whole beans. How do you think baristas get enough caffeine in them to start making coffee before there's any coffee? You have to prime the ol' tractor engine before you can turn it over.
posted by loquacious at 9:29 AM on April 14 [19 favorites]


Someone told me petty much the same story last night but with London

This Is Our Time!

It is now upon us to eject dudebros from every bar in the land, to harry them forth until they seek refugee upon the wastes, and then to leave them naught but isopropyl.
posted by aramaic at 9:30 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


My response to this kind of coffee store is the "I don't trust like that" meme. I've had the sort of amazingly good espresso that needs no cream or sugar, and it really is fantastic... But I've also been to Third Wave coffee shops that just weren't brewing as well as they advertised they were.
posted by meese at 9:33 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


I’m happy these kinds of businesses exist, and I go to them occasionally when I want the perfect tea or to taste a bunch of whiskeys or whatever. I haven’t tried a really purist coffee shop yet, but if I ran across one on a weekend I’d probably go in. You’re going for the experience more than the caffeine.

All I ask is that they be really clearly labeled, and preferably within two blocks of a more conventional coffee shop. The major failure mode I worry about is entering such a shop, early in the morning, before I’ve had coffee, and not knowing what I got myself into.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 9:35 AM on April 14 [5 favorites]


I skimmed this (long) thread but I do find this stuff interesting, in that people like to argue over coffee as a status object as well as the argument over functionality vs. individual taste and art. Whereas wine is subject to a similar debate but not nearly to the same degree; there aren't many people that would defend (or admit!) to pouring dr. pepper into a dry wine because it's "bitter," for example. The debate regarding wine (such as it is) is probably just more settled, whereas coffee as anything more than functional only started happening in the US in past 20-30 years.
posted by MillMan at 9:38 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


> "... there aren't many people that would defend (or admit!) to pouring dr. pepper into a dry wine..."

Isn't that ... basically what a wine cooler is?
posted by kyrademon at 9:41 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


The article itself kicks off with an open acknowledgement that one cultural expectation was expected and a different one was offered. That conversation is far more interesting to me.

Also in the article: the author trying the coffee without sugar and being pleasantly surprised, mentioning that one of the businesses named has added a sweetened latte to the menu, and one owner acknowledging that he could make more money selling more mainstream coffee styles, but coffee education is his passion.

I don’t know what else is to be gained railing against coffee elitism/persecution that we haven’t had the previous twenty times.

forbiddencabinet: I think we can all agree that gatekeeping is bad and any person (or business) that tells you that you are wrong to enjoy a thing the way you enjoy it is an asshole.

I actually want to be told how to enjoy something. Not joking. Especially something served in a way I’m not familiar with. Please, gatekeep away!

My desire is a lot more in line with the Japanese example above, ordering tea the way they decided it’s prepared, to experience it the way it was intended. I also try everything that is served at restaurants as-is before I decide to adulterate it, unless I’m there for e.g. the pho I am familiar with and know I came in for.

I’m not going to begrudge anyone trying to share their culture with other people, even if those people are serving something I don’t want at a price point I think is ridiculous.

I like that the universe provides ways to expand my idea of what a dish or a drink is, and I do my best to be open to the one being offered. When I go to the US east coast or to Malaysia, I know I have to order my coffee black explicitly if that’s what I want (which it usually is). No fits needed, that’s just the culture. If I’m looking for a very specific experience, I don’t expect that I’m going to be able to get it or recreate it anywhere that says they serve coffee. I’m a bad American that way, I guess?

From gas station coffee to instant 3-in-1, after-dinner espresso, this Third Wave stuff, there is intent behind the way it is served and the context it’s served in. Sometimes I just want to pound the Starbucks doubleshot can, but most of the time I like that the universe provides ways to expand my idea of what a dish or a drink is, and I’m here to be open to whichever one is being offered.
posted by Snacks at 9:43 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


heh this whole thread mostly reminded me of an octopus pie storyline.
posted by daisystomper at 9:44 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


there aren't many people that would defend (or admit!) to pouring dr. pepper into a dry wine because it's "bitter," for example...The debate regarding wine (such as it is) is probably just more settled

I think that the settled-ish nature of the wine debate stems from the fact that there are a zillion red wines to choose from, with mostly known characteristics. If someone didn't want a bitterish taste they would just order a sweeter red or perhaps a mixed drink. I certainly have chosen a different wine when the taste offered by the sommelier hit my tongue wrong.
posted by skye.dancer at 9:45 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


I like to watch people be snooty and over-analytical about subjective random stuff like: coffee, wine, chocolate, typography, guitar pedals. Makes me feel that the world can't be such a fucked up place if people have the time and energy for this sort of made-up distinctions and bullshit knowledge.
posted by signal at 9:46 AM on April 14 [9 favorites]


All I ask is that they be really clearly labeled, and preferably within two blocks of a more conventional coffee shop. The major failure mode I worry about is entering such a shop, early in the morning, before I’ve had coffee, and not knowing what I got myself into.
That's pretty much where I am on this. I think it's great that this kind of coffee shop exists, but I really don't want to accidentally go into one when all I want is a quick fix so I can get on with my business.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:48 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


On one hand, I get people who are enthusiastic about a product and want to help other people enjoy it in the way that they think is the most intense and direct (I was going to write 'authentic' but that's a pretty loaded word).

On the other hand, it seems needlessly restrictive and frankly narrow-minded to refuse to think about other ways to consider a product. You can enjoy espresso or pour-over drip coffee but also be interested in coffee-as-an-ingredient in a more complex recipe, where perhaps it's not just the flavor of the coffee but where it's still an important component. Those are not mutually exclusive things—a person can appreciate both, and be interested in one on Monday and the other on Tuesday.

If as a business decision they're only interested in this very ultra-orthodox coffee experience, that's fine, but it's a bit much to pretend that they're doing anyone a huge favor or engaging in "coffee education" when the lens is that restrictive.

tl;dr: Don't tell me how to fuckin' enjoy my coffee, dirtbags.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:49 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I like to watch people be snooty and over-analytical about subjective random stuff like: coffee, wine, chocolate, typography, guitar pedals.

H ey! Typoqrapny i s actuIIy pretty imPortant!
posted by loquacious at 9:59 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


I legit had an epiphany a couple of years ago when some coffee snob at work made fun of me for taking cream and sugar in my coffee with that old cliché, "So you don't really like coffee, then - you just like coffee-flavored milk?" And I stopped, and went "Yeah, I guess I do!" And it 100% changed my life, because in that moment I realized that life is short, we're all gonna die, liking shit is awesome, and if your genuine, true source of joy in this fleeting life is a pumpkin spice latte and a pair of Uggs, by God you go on with your bad self and I commend you for your self-knowledge.
posted by catesbie at 9:59 AM on April 14 [50 favorites]


Sidebar but re: pineapple pizza being Canadian - it’s even better than that!

“But the globalism of pineapple pizza in particular goes even deeper, stretching across much of the world, because Hawaiian pizza was invented in 1962 in Canada by a Greek immigrant who was inspired by Chinese cuisine to put a South American food on an Italian dish that went on to become most popular not in Hawaii, but in Australia, where—at least according to a survey printed in Pizza Marketing Quarterly—pineapple is the single most popular pizza topping.”
posted by lazaruslong at 10:02 AM on April 14 [24 favorites]


I'm kind-of sympathetic to this, as my husband is (I tease him) condemented, in that he dumps (/dumped) condiments all over things before he tastes them and it made me absolutely crazy. I would spend lots of time making a delicious meal and he would pour ketchup or salt on it before tasting it! It hurt my feelings, and he did not understand why because he grew up eating bland 1950s food and treating all food as a ketchup delivery vehicle. I'm not a foodie by any stretch but I put work into making something that tastes good, and pre-emptively dumping condiments on it negates all that work! Anyway afters several years of marriage I trained him out of it and he sticks to condiments appropriate to the dish (instead of ketchup on everything) and generally tastes before adding more seasoning. (He even orders his hotdogs without ketchup now!)

So I kind-of get the impulse behind "okay but stop drowning the delicious coffee in sugar and milk" and I admit I'm a tiny bit puzzled by Starbucks because it seems like a huge part of the business model is selling coffee to people who don't actually like coffee? (But obviously this is a very successful business model so who am I to judge.)

But it seems like a really different thing for me to be offended by my husband's over-condimenting his food and for a coffee shop to be offended by their customers' tastes. Like, you're not my MOM, coffee shop! Anyway, yeah, it's nice that places exist that provide very "pure" ways to experience things like coffee and wine and cheese and tea and other workaday foods that can ALSO be gloriously nuanced, but like everyone else, I'm much more interested if they're enthusiastic and educating and I'm over it if they're snobs and exclusionists.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:02 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


loquacious: "H ey! Typoqrapny i s actuIIy pretty imPortant!"

Hey, I concur, I was just explaining the all-important distinction between Helvetica and Arial to my wife last night!
posted by signal at 10:03 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


Gotta say though it’s weird how many people think it’s totally ok to dictate how other people should experience the joys of the world who will still think of themselves as progressive.
posted by mhoye at 10:04 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


‘If your coffee needs doctoring, it must be broken.’

No, if your coffee needs a mechanic, it must be broken. If your coffee needs doctoring, it's ill. This whole Third Wave thing is bullshit, Q.E.D.

(I might allow the slogan to stand if it can be shown that coffee has bones, hearts, or noses.)
posted by Spathe Cadet at 10:08 AM on April 14 [5 favorites]


Gotta say though it’s weird how many people think it’s totally ok to dictate how other people should experience the joys of the world who will still think of themselves as progressive.

But are you talking about the baristas or the adulterated coffee drinkers here?
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:09 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


Can we talk now about all the snobby restaurants that don't let me tell them what to put in their recipes when I order?
posted by srboisvert at 10:11 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


It would be one thing if it felt like this came from a generosity of spirit, a desire to share something slightly hidden with other people, but it really doesn't seem that way. It is more akin to some sort of social posturing--"Artists are the aristocrats of the working class"-- sort of thing. If your intent was to really be a proselytizer for "true" coffee why wouldn't you just offer some kind of machine drip coffee for the plebs to dump milk into, (I raise my hand,) while recommending that your customers try something better?

I have always been fascinated by the idea that creation of the profession of medicine at the end of the 19th century was to fill the requirements for the new members of the bourgie class to have earning power without the dirtiness of commerce, aping the aristocratic notion of acceptability. In a lot of ways I feel that these kind of food fetish things with their attendant snobbery and finding of deficiency in the hoi polloi to be a sort of echo of the same process, much more about the ennoblement of the practitioner than the service of the client.
posted by Pembquist at 10:12 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


METAFILTER: like a wild parade or party with berry and citrus notes, with sweetness like the best milk chocolate, and the bitterness of dark, and hints of GODDAMN LEMON in the aftertaste, all partying together like the best balsamic vinegar on the planet.
posted by philip-random at 10:15 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


I great way to never be burdened with my continued business is to tell me how to consume my food.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 10:17 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


i'm back in this thread to also echo the following points:

- it would be great if these third wave shops could uniformly be expected to brew good (pourover) coffee

- yes, i've noticed the same, that a lot of them prefer 'bright' acidic beans. is it because it's an immediately 'different' flavour profile to recommend to people? give me my spice notes, my chocolate tones.

- i'm kinda glad they are limited quantity, but i would pay $$$ for a good cup of geisha.

and if there's coffee hill i would die on, espresso is over-rated. (but really because most conventional espresso/espresso-based drinks seem to go for beans roasted too dark for my liking)

that said, a cup sweetened with palm sugar is *chef's kiss*
posted by cendawanita at 10:26 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Pineapple on pizza

Okay, I'm intrigued. Will be trying that after all.
posted by M-x shell at 10:27 AM on April 14


I’m curious how many of you bemoaning these coffee shops’ policies clutch pearls when I say “Hawaiian pizza”.
My kids and grandkids eat ranch dressing on their pizza, so weird pineapple pizza is nothing. Hideous, and I've learned to live with that heresy because ... children and grandchildren. Your example, however, is backwards: the case here is the pizza shop is saying you can't have dressing on their pizza because it's just too good already.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 10:31 AM on April 14


American people, do you really put cream in your coffee? Like the top bit of unhomogenised milk? With a spoon or something? This is not an option we have.
For sure. However, the only real way you can do this is in the privacy of your own home, since coffee places will at best have "half and half" which means "half light cream and half milk, mixed." Not the same as actual heavy cream (which I keep on hand because I like whole milk and my wife likes skim). I will have my pourover with real cream and sugar about once every two weeks. It is really a completely different beverage this way--I have a colleague at work that calls it "dessert coffee."
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 10:35 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


On the "takes all kinds" issue, my neighbor will occasionally join us for coffee. He always brings over a handful of those little vanilla-whatever nondairy coffee creamer things with some of the pink fake-sugar packets. I understand the fake sugar, but I don't understand the irish-creme-and-casein vs. real cream thing.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 10:39 AM on April 14


This is the sort of thing I'd try once, and maybe make a weekly habit. Meanwhile my daily cuppa comes from the office Kurig with a couple of little creamer packets, and when in a Thai place I get the condensed milk version, and this wonderful shop down the street serves a wonderful concoction with both steamed milk and local honey, and we have a great ice cream place that does its own coffee-based recipe. I'll try it however I find it, and some things I'll do twice.

It's not the policy that deserves the eyeroll, it's the notion that limiting yourself to coffee + water + heat is on a different level of authenticity. As much as we bag on Starbucks (myself included), I remember when authentic American coffee was a Barney Miller joke. If your dish is good without condiments, don't offer condiments. But don't position yourself as more authentic than my Folgers-drinking, percolator-using grandparents.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:49 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Chicago Red Bull stories aside, I’m really glad bartenders don’t think like this (mostly), otherwise we wouldn’t have Irish coffee.
posted by valkane at 10:51 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


If coffee is just a caffeine-delivery vehicle for you, just take a pill. It's cheaper, and faster, and it won't stain your clothes or your table.

I don't know shit about coffee, but I do know that in the world of tea, if you drink flavored teas, or tea with milk and sugar, or the trendy bubble tea, which are all you can get in tea houses in the West, you're paying a heavy markup for what is effectively a scam. The additives are there to hide the fact that the tea is low in quality, stale, bitter, and poorly processed. The corners cut in production allow the middlemen to take a much higher portion of the profit, and the farmers are effectively anonymous interchangeable serfs who can be replaced with another source if they get uppity.

With the snooty stuff, much more of the price of the tea comes from, and goes to, the farmers, who also have a greater input as to the method of production and the flavor profile and experience they're trying to achieve. They cannot be easily replaced by the distributor, because the product would be drastically different. Rather than being masked in the final product, their work is being celebrated, and properly compensated for. And the funny thing is, it costs about the same as your average teabag, sometimes less. Can you obtain this tea anywhere in American tea houses? Hardly. Even most of the loose leaf here is low quality, with very little information about where it's from, how it's made, and when it was harvested.

I can only dream of having the equivalent of Third Wave coffee in the tea market. We're twenty years behind where coffee is. And to see such a hostile, proudly anti-intellectual reaction to it on MetaFilter of all places is deeply discouraging. I see the same reaction when people try to do authentic regional Chinese cuisine here in America. Immediately people huff and puff and demand their fortune cookies and crab rangoon, as if there weren't already a billion shitty takeout joints you could already go to for that. Of course the proprietors are gonna have a chip on their shoulder: they want to change the status quo. Why not discuss what they're trying to accomplish instead of policing their tone?

And yet, one can have green tea flavored KitKats, Pocky, ice cream, cake, and all other manner of sweet desserts.

...which are not marketed as tea. They're marketed as sweet desserts. In fact they are made with very poor quality Japanese-style tea grown in China, and I would like to see you to try and drink the stuff. There's a reason they don't dare sell it as an actual beverage, because Japanese people can tell the difference.
posted by hyperbolic at 10:52 AM on April 14 [22 favorites]


Good coffee prepared well on clean equipment really doesn't need sweetening, as it isn't bitter, and if you're going to spend $3-5 on a cup of brewed coffee I think it's really worth it to taste all its tastes.

I add cream to coffee because it tastes amazing, adding to, not taking away from the coffee. It's alchemy. I mostly do this at home with beans from a good local roastery. Lucky enough to live in Canada, where we have Half and Half (i.e. 10% fat). I am shocked to hear that this is not universally available.

> If you don’t have the minute it takes to drink and enjoy your espresso at the bar from the pretty little cup...maybe you’re too busy for good coffee.

Or maybe I rather enjoy walking with a quad cortado on my way to whatever hungover activity I have planned for that Saturday afternoon, enjoying it a sip at a time over a few minutes, rather then standing in a noisy cafe. I don't, like, need the shop's opinion on this, man.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:53 AM on April 14 [13 favorites]


I am a service industry professional with opinions about coffee, beer, whiskey, and cannabis. And I what I feel regarding foodie/cocktail/etc discussions is summarized thusly:
Excellence is trivially easy to achieve. Profitability & longevity, that's the rarest magic.
Friend of mine works in a bar inspired by Japanese "vinyl bars", where the acoustics are tuned to appreciating Jazz with actual needle drops. People are supposed to sit quietly with their drinks and appreciate.

And when too many people on an Friday night show up more interested in drinking and socializing that quietly appreciating the archeotech entertainment, ruining the vibe the owner is going for…

If you can make not only a profit but a sustainable one (including paying yourself a living wage) by indulging your particular fetish/aesthetic, rock on with yo' bad self.

If.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:55 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


I great way to never be burdened with my continued business is to tell me how to consume my food.

Every business in the food industry tells you how to consume your food. You just don't notice it when they tell you to do it the way you and everybody else in the country already like it. It's like how everybody has an accent, but you can claim not to have one if you have the dominant/prestige dialect. But you'd be wrong.
posted by hyperbolic at 10:59 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


Snacks, I understand wanting to be told the best way to enjoy something. I just think there is a world of difference between being told, "No, you can't have it like that. You are wrong to like it that way." and you asking the professional for the way they think is best. There's even a middle ground where the professional says something like, "Are you sure? Our product is a little different from what you may be used to and you might like to try it this way first." It's different again when a business just doesn't accommodate something like cream or syrup. If they haven't got it then they haven't got it. Hopefully signage makes that clear before you waste time in the lineup.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 11:00 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


But are you talking about the baristas or the adulterated coffee drinkers here?

Hardly matters.
posted by mhoye at 11:03 AM on April 14


Your example, however, is backwards: the case here is the pizza shop is saying you can't have dressing on their pizza because it's just too good already.

It's funny because the first thing I thought of in seeing this thread was the "No Ranch" sign at Arinell Pizza in Berkeley and SF. Sometimes it's fun to see a place validate your arbitrary personal preferences about how to eat and between that and the fact that they were staffed entirely by metalheads and played death metal and the pretty good pizza I loved that place.

I drink black coffee, too, but I'm really not a coffee snob so I'm kinda nonplussed about the spirit behind these places but happy to drink their coffee.
posted by atoxyl at 11:05 AM on April 14


Two quotes from comments that kick off my thoughts:
Going into one of these cafes and asking for a milky tea is a bit like going to the local curry house and asking for egg and chips, or demanding salad at the steak shack;
posted by The River Ivel
if I walk into a random nearest coffee shop and it turns out they don’t even have milk and sugar, it’s a surprise and they need a big sign on the door that says IF YOU ARE COMING HERE FOR WHAT A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THE POPULATION THINKS OF AS COFFEE WE DON’T HAVE THAT
posted by freecellwizard
The problem is really that we don't have widely-accepted terminology to distinguish two similar but different things. Like, what if lots of people drank wine coolers and they were just called "wine?" In that environment, how do you sell just the wine part of the wine?
posted by RobotHero at 11:06 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


The half-teaspoon of honey in my first pour of coffee in the morning is my only caloric intake for at least an hour, so I basically need it for nutritional reasons. I dilute it to the point of homeopathy by adding more coffee throughout the morning as I drink it, without adding more sweetener. I would probably try this type place once, but it would have to be after 11:00am.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:08 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Can we talk now about all the snobby restaurants that don't let me tell them what to put in their recipes when I order?

This is a ridiculous comparison, for a number of reasons.

For one thing, many restaurants (even high-end ones) will change what's in a dish if you ask. It's not at all uncommon for a restaurant to say that they make everything from scratch, so if you want something omitted or changed they can accommodate (within reason -- for example, if a component requires braising ahead of time for 12 hours, they probably can't whip up some without a key ingredient at a moment's notice).

So, the idea that a mid- to high-end restaurant wouldn't change a recipe is absurd. If you're eating someplace that won't do substitutions, it's most likely that's because they're basically microwaving and deep frying stuff right off the truck from Sysco, so they couldn't change it if they wanted to.

For another thing, there's an enormous difference between requesting that a restaurant, say, carry dozens of random ingredients just in case someone wants them, versus a place that serves coffee having sugar and dairy products on hand. It would be much closer to a restaurant saying, "oh sorry we don't have table salt" -- which is a thing some restaurants do, and those restaurants are run by assholes who deserve to be called assholes (I say this as someone who basically never messes with seasoning at a restaurant).

I don't have a problem with foregoing the dozens of flavored syrups. I don't have a problem with saying "we recommend you drink our coffee black, it really is great that way!". I do mind a lot people saying, "we're a coffee shop but we're not going to stock even the most basic things that people expect because we think they're all wrong" -- and from the sound of it, given that they've had to start caving on some of this, it looks like the market agrees with me.
posted by tocts at 11:10 AM on April 14 [12 favorites]


Not having milk and sugar lowers labor and inventory costs, increasing profit per drink. I'm sure that had absolutely nothing to do with their principled stand.
posted by muddgirl at 11:14 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


Come on you people, coffee is using these shops to evolve into a sacrament, and you're messing with it!

Don't you want to see what a Church of Coffee might be like?
posted by jamjam at 11:23 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


What happens if you try to order ketchup at the Fat Duck? I suppose different Michelin starred restaurants would have different policies for that scenario.

Back in high school my good buddy was a chef in a very high end little restaurant in Vancouver. The kind that published the very limited menu that changed based on the chef's judgement, week to week, a regular group of fancy pants diners, etc. etc. Not Michelin but in that style.

So he was apprentice to the owner, a very renowned chef. I will always remember this story, of the waiter coming in to report that the customer at table so and so has asked for ketchup for his steak.

The chef comes out of the kitchen, he wants to personally see who has insulted him. He says only one word then returns to his station.

"Leave."
posted by Meatbomb at 11:28 AM on April 14 [5 favorites]


a dudebro ordered a red bull & vodka. The bartender stared at him for a moment, then told him to get the fuck out

One reason I support prison reform is that it would give us a humane way to remove him from society.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:28 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Americano

The worst sin of the coffee shop is when they tell you they don't have any brewed coffee, and offer you this instead. Yeah, a shot of espresso diluted with water, that'll hit the spot. YOU ONLY HAD ONE JOB.
posted by thelonius at 11:30 AM on April 14 [11 favorites]


If a supertaster goes to Harvard, which one will they mention first in order to tell other people that they're wrong?
posted by sinfony at 11:37 AM on April 14 [27 favorites]


THE STREETS WILL FLOW WITH THE BREW OF THE NON-BELIEVERS
posted by orange ball at 11:37 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


I think we venerate coffee too much already, tbh. It's a good drink, but it's also this really weird cultural touchstone. How you take your coffee isn't just about your personal preference, it's a signifier of who you are, whether that's an old-fashioned down-to-earth cheap black coffee drinker, a workaholic yuppie drinking a quad shot latte, or an intellectual foodie who makes it a point that you know they know the tasting notes...

I mean, not all coffee drinkers are like this, but working in a coffee shop you meet a lot who are, and it's just ... aaaaaaah ... aaaaaah ...
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:38 AM on April 14 [17 favorites]


In Chicago, we know we're dealing with an Other when they order a cup with a side of ketchup.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:56 AM on April 14 [5 favorites]


Funny enough, my taste in milky tea was influenced by lessons from a Tibetan diaspora. (More fat! More salt!)

If you have the best product on the street by virtue of meticulous sourcing, equipment, and preparation, then sell that. But rhetoric that other ways to prepare and serve coffee are broken is just a form of class-based prejudice. Serving coffee or tea is an important ritual of American hospitality.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:01 PM on April 14 [7 favorites]


Surely there is room in the world for coffee aesthetics diametrically opposed to your own, even ones with alienating orthodoxy? This is to be celebrated. Sneering "well, the free market's gonna take care of them" is indicative of an underlying rot in our society, a pathological free market amorality. If third wave coffee isn't your thing, there are roughly infinity billion other places to get a cup of coffee. As you pass by the third wave shop, your middle finger should be a salute to their commitment to a crazy, doomed dream in the face of toxic capitalism, not the indulgence of petty anger at not having your personal preferences validated.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 12:02 PM on April 14 [17 favorites]


In California, all coffee is served with a shot of sriracha and an avocado garnish. Anything else is doing it wrong.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:04 PM on April 14 [10 favorites]


Are we totally sure this isn't someone's MFA in Performance Art?
posted by aurelian at 12:06 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Ambitious coffee shop opened across the street. Went in there, and I observed people asking for low-cal sweeteners. "No way, we don't endorse those! They cause CANCER!". They closed in less than a year.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:12 PM on April 14 [6 favorites]


I am proud to be a heretic against the coffee-orthodoxy.

I'm open to anything between a "coffee with milk" and a latte. Then I will be putting at least two sugars (or artificial sweeteners, if available and I'm not feeling like I need Actual Sugar) in to that.

At home, it's a (semi-skinny) latte from a remarkably adequate Lidl/Silvercrest espresso machine, with a big squirt (at least 8 drops, possibly up to 14 or 15) of sugar-free "toffee flavour" sweetener. This gives me all of the delights of a really atrocious super-calorific commercial coffee-milkshake, but on a far more tolerable level of sugars.

But you do you. My coffee does not harm you, nor yours me. I guess put me down for Coffee Universal Unitarianism?

(Steak: medium please, no sauce. Hot dog: Entirely plain, kthx.)
posted by BuxtonTheRed at 12:13 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Don't you want to see what a Church of Coffee might be like?

Pretty sure that's the Unitarians...
Hymn (to the tune of "Holy, Holy, Holy")

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee,
Praise the strength of coffee.
Early in the morn we rise with thoughts of only thee.
Served fresh or reheated,
Dark by thee defeated,
Brewed black by perk or drip or instantly.

Though all else we scoff we
Come to church for coffee;
If we’re late to congregate, we come in time for thee.
Coffee our one ritual,
Drinking it habitual,
Brewed black by perk or drip instantly.

Coffee the communion
Of our Uni-Union,
Symbol of our sacred ground, our one necessity.
Feel the holy power
At our coffee hour,
Brewed black by perk or drip or instantly.

by Christopher Raible, Minister of First Unitarian Toronto. Published in "Songs for the Cerebration of Strife"
posted by Secret Sparrow at 12:21 PM on April 14 [12 favorites]


What is it about coffee, specifically, that turns Metafilter into assholes?

If there were a chocolatier making expensive, carefully sourced truffles, and someone wanted to buy them to melt into smores, we might understand the storeowners apprehension.

We'd understand a sommelier cringing when someone asked for a fancy wine to mix into a sangria.

The steak restaurant that specifically picks cuts of meat, advises customers on how they're best cooked, and really doesn't want to be a "well done and A1" sort of place.

For some people, chocolate, wine, meat, and yes, coffee are all things to be actively enjoyed. They're not just vehicles for sugar, alcohol, protein, and caffeine, respectively.

This isn't about snobbery, per se, but about wanting to offer a different, curated product. If they're making cups of coffee that cost $4, but aren't particularly different after drowned by milk and sugar, their reputation isn't the "specialty coffee shop," but "the overpriced coffee shop."

If coffee is just a brown sludge you knock back to get your morning zoom, that's fine, but what are you even doing in this conversation? Let people enjoy nice things without accusing them of being snobs!
posted by explosion at 12:21 PM on April 14 [10 favorites]


Dare I mention the anti-snob variety of snob? Seriously... go look at Snobbery, by Joseph Epstein.
posted by aurelian at 12:27 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Although I've never been to one of these places, my inner Japanese approves of the concept. I have very strong ideas about what's right and long to impose them on others. I know exactly what everyone should order from the menu and what wines will go best. Then I silently grieve as I watch them order all the wrong things.
posted by HotToddy at 12:29 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


If there were a chocolatier making expensive, carefully sourced truffles, and someone wanted to buy them to melt into smores, we might understand the storeowners apprehension.

I understand being controlling about what you put in your mouth (I can be picky as heck). I understand being judgemental about how someone else eats a particular thing you think is best enjoyed in a specific, different way (I’m with HotToddy on that 100%). I don’t understand trying to set rules about how someone else consumes your product after they’ve paid you the price you’ve set for it. If you decide to sell beer for $1000 a can to try and force someone to savor it, and some asshole comes along and wants to shotgun it anyway, more fool him. Let people make idiots of themselves and waste their good time and money, it’s no reflection on you.
posted by sallybrown at 12:33 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


What is it about coffee, specifically, that turns Metafilter into assholes?

Why do you assume coffee is somehow special in this regard, particularly since you then go into a rant about meat, chocolate, and wine?

I have as much disdain for a chocolatier who scoffs that someone's going to (gasp!) eat his chocolate wrong as I do for a bartender who flips out because someone wants to use a premium scotch in a mixed drink, or a yarn seller who demands to know what you're going to make before they'll sell you their wares or a butcher who demands to that you sign a contract that you won't go above medium rare to buy his steaks. All of it is bullshit.

If you want to make a great product, that's awesome, and if people want to pay for that product, that's awesome, but if you want to demand that people then use or enjoy it the way you think they should, that's bullshit. If you want to dictate how I enjoy a thing, step one is you pay for it, not me.
posted by tocts at 12:34 PM on April 14 [22 favorites]


I firmly believe an independent shop has the right to refuse to carry sugar and milk. They should just make sure to clearly state that sugar/milk are not served and let the customer decide whether they want to get the coffee there or not. Being told after you have ordered and paid for your coffee is a real peen move.
posted by pleem at 12:35 PM on April 14 [15 favorites]


"If coffee is just a caffeine-delivery vehicle for you, just take a pill. It's cheaper, and faster, and it won't stain your clothes or your table."

It's... not for everyone. Pills can change your outward appearance and jog your heart.
posted by Selena777 at 12:41 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


For some people, chocolate, wine, meat, and yes, coffee are all things to be actively enjoyed. They're not just vehicles for sugar, alcohol, protein, and caffeine, respectively.

When my great-great aunt offered me my first iced coffee at age 16 back in the 1980s, which I remember as involving instant crystals, ice, and sweetened milk, that wasn't just a vehicle for sugar, protein and caffeine. That was a brilliant octogenarian trying to impress a teenager, and it worked.

The snobbery isn't the choice to offer a curated product, it's all this dunking on other people's cuisine. With the arguable exception of Soylent and Ensure, it's almost never just about the nutritional contents.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:55 PM on April 14 [6 favorites]


Hey, I concur, I was just explaining the all-important distinction between Helvetica and Arial to my wife last night!

That's... really kinky and I'm here for it.

I mean, not all coffee drinkers are like this, but working in a coffee shop you meet a lot who are, and it's just ... aaaaaaah ... aaaaaah ...

I have only one power-trigger word for you: Macchiato. Argh, I think I just triggered myself.

I have written about this before but I'll make coffee however anyone likes it with whatever I've got, and sometimes even some things that I don't. I've served people who liked weird things like an actual hot-steamed caramel latte dumped over ice, foam and all. I had a regular that liked a really thick hot chocolate with extra sauce, breve, and with a fuckton of paprika and chili powder on it - which, yeah, is amazingly good and a quick take on mesoamerican drinking chocolate. Then there was that ubiquitous regular who wanted quad and octo shots pulled long and dumped into coffee or made into a really caffeinated latte because they were high powered AV tech mutants who needed to get jacked the fuck up in a hurry.

I don't care if you want a Starbuck's milkshake, which, no, no, we don't have a blender so how about a "caramel macchiato" with extra whip and caramel and a short and sweet doubleshot?

Then there's the people who would ask for impossible, illogical things. The no-foam cappucino, which, what? I'm sincerely confused here, do you want a couple of shots with some unsteamed milk? Plain shots? Are you sure you don't want a latte?

But then, then every so often someone comes in and makes it all worth it. Maybe they ask for a macchiato and they mean it.

During one conference season I had a regular who was an Italian expat, he was one of the music program teachers, and when he found out I loved making really good macchiatos he was just beside himself that he could get a good one out here in the middle of nowhere.

He enjoyed them very much Italian style, consumed very quickly but appreciatively on the run, standing, and always in a proper ceramic cup. We only had a few small proper demitasse saucers and cups and I took to keeping one set always reserved, warm and ready to go because he'd often get several macchiatos throughout the day.

And it was a goddamn creative joy to make them in an endless sea of dreary, sugary oversized to-go lattes. It was always an excuse to slow down, clean up my group heads and station, prep to pull the best possible shot I could and even do the whole presentation and "marking" to taste right in front of him and letting him tell me exactly how much foam he wanted, which would vary between just a little to enough to turn it into a mini cappuccino.

Dude tipped very well, too, so that helped.
posted by loquacious at 1:03 PM on April 14 [17 favorites]


I spent most of my working life in hospitals which, like the Navy, are populated with highly-caffeinated workers but, unlike the Navy, have uniformly crappy coffee. The lack of fresh diluent (besides that powdered milk-like product) actually got me into drinking it black with a pinch of salt to cut the bitterness. Then, my friend JR opened a little road-side shop (Itinerant Coffee Peddler) and got these fantastic beans which he roasted himself. Truly well-prepared Ethiopian with its chocolate notes was a revelation. Well, the shop did not fare well with average palates of South Florida drinkers.

Still, it got me on the search for fine coffee. My brother and I went to Indonesia on a surf trip which I looked forward to with great anticipation. Java! That Sumatra coffee that JR had one time was fantastic! When we got there, the coffee was execrable. Oy! It’s a tea drinking country, you fool. Most places just dumped grounds into boiling water and decanted the product, silt and all. The best stuff was for export; locals don’t drink it. I was crushed, until we took the Mabua Express (ferry) from Bali to Lombok. The coffee was fantastic. I asked the steward what it was ... Folgers Instant.

So, what options are there? Starbucks - too burnt, Dunkin - too variable, home brew - good but my wife and other housemates drink it all up. I’d like to have one of these shops nearby, even with the attitude.
posted by sudogeek at 1:12 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I can't believe no one has said this but in this situation I just bring my own, I mean I love the coffee in a good 3rd wave place but I'm not having it without cream and sugar and no way in hell is my antisocial self ASKING for them... plus there's a lovely hint of anarchy in the act.

So yeah, bring my own, I'm old and grumpy and they are millenial milquetoast, it's not like they're going to say anything.
posted by Cosine at 1:15 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Half and half is half whole milk and half cream, but "half" isn't mathed great and half and half can be anywhere from 10-20% milk fat

Unless it's that ontological abomination called fat-free half and half.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:27 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


It's an interesting dilemma, but the responsibility is on the shop owner to educate and sell this policy. I don't know how (which is why I'm not a coffee shop owner), but maybe work it into the name itself? Just Black or something like that. Signage that explains why sugar and cream isn't necessary. And I would actually have coffee and sugar available, but with further signage that says "feel free to use, but why not try it straight first? You'll be surprised how much you like Just Black!" You get the idea.

It's a business, and if your niche is the lack of something many customers take as a given, that could be a killer. You have to change people's minds about what coffee even is, and that's really hard.
posted by zardoz at 1:29 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


While we're on the subject of proper presentation, did you know Canada is currently convulsed over #NanaimoGate? Seems their new Nanaimo Bar commemorative postage stamp is just wrong.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:47 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I mean, you might as well toss a french fry into a bowl of gravy and call it poutine eh.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:48 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


in this situation I just bring my own
I call this my "purse sugar" -- all of my bags have a fine layer of sugar lining their bottoms because Domino's sugar packets (which I purchased for this express purpose) invariably rip/tear at some point. I even bought a little fabric envelope to put them in, but still: purse sugar appeared eventually. It's like sand; once it's in there, it's there forever.

That said, I'd much rather have a cup of coffee without sugar than without cream or some kind of dairy, but just sugar will do in a pinch.

I don't know, as far as these kinds of stores go, I like them. Small local businesses are great. Also, they often have interesting pastry selections.
posted by sockermom at 1:48 PM on April 14


What is it about coffee, specifically, that turns Metafilter into assholes?

If there were a chocolatier making expensive, carefully sourced truffles, and someone wanted to buy them to melt into smores, we might understand the storeowners apprehension.

We'd understand a sommelier cringing when someone asked for a fancy wine to mix into a sangria.

The steak restaurant that specifically picks cuts of meat, advises customers on how they're best cooked, and really doesn't want to be a "well done and A1" sort of place.


I'm too lazy to look this up, but I know there were looooooooong threads on Mefi in the past couple years about chefs refusing to change dishes for individual customers, and cheese store owners refusing to sell to people whom they deemed to be putting the cheese to unworthy uses.

My feeling is that education is better than coercion. Sell the glory of your unaltered product to your customers. Put the cream and sugar behind the counter so people don't automatically dump it in. But once you hand them their cup, you need to understand that they're going to do what they want with it. If you can't sell your customers your vision, you're a crappy capitalist.
posted by praemunire at 2:02 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


to a crazy, doomed dream in the face of toxic capitalism

A dream is not worthwhile just because it is crazy and doomed. Even under capitalism!
posted by praemunire at 2:03 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


See, now I'm just sitting here, stroking my chin thoughtfully: a chocolate truffles S'more, you say.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:06 PM on April 14 [24 favorites]


In 2015 I was in Kansas City for a few days and stopped at Oddly Correct twice. At that time I usually ordered unsweetened lattes at coffeeshops, but I figured I'd go ahead and submit to what the barista offered. (He may indeed have been the type of hipster with a waxed moustache, but I can't quite remember.) The first time, I didn't love my pure black pour-over, but I appreciated that I could taste a few interesting notes. The second day, I liked it more. But the third day, at a different coffeeshop, I got my usual latte.

But over the next few years I came to drink black coffee much more frequently, and now it's what I have about 95% of the time. Lattes seem like a completely different drink to me, only appealing in certain situations. And for what it's worth, pour-overs, cold brews, and standard black coffees are much easier for me to make at home, and at coffeeshops a straight coffee is usually a buck or two cheaper than a latte. So my Oddly Correct encounter not only helped me alter my coffee preferences but definitely saved me some money in the long run.
posted by lisa g at 2:07 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


I agree that walk-ins deserve to be informed about the coffee before ordering or paying. But I think it's wrong to argue that people pay for a thing thus they can choose to consume it however they want. That's not even generally true as a culturally normalized practice in any consumer market, and thus really shows instead that consumerism is an incomplete social contract. Objectively whenever a consumer can take a limited luxury product and make it the serve same purposes as a mass product, then the limited product is wasted. Then that is an economic inefficiency because they could have used the regular good while that unit of the special good could have been sold to a different consumer, thus entailing a different consumer demand curve. So what we're describing here is a kind of market allocation failure to distinguish between two goods, and as consequence the environment ends up bearing the externality whether in land use of specially cultivated coffee beans, or depletion of rare and endangered fish stocks, and so on.
posted by polymodus at 2:14 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


"Sneering "well, the free market's gonna take care of them" is indicative of an underlying rot in our society, a pathological free market amorality. "

Isn't that... a bit much? Is "good luck with that" the equivalent of a middle finger now?
posted by Selena777 at 2:16 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: I'm just sitting here, stroking my chin thoughtfully
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:27 PM on April 14


While we're on the subject of proper presentation, did you know Canada is currently convulsed over #NanaimoGate? Seems their new Nanaimo Bar commemorative postage stamp is just wrong.

Eh? First I’ve heard of this. How bad could it be?

*clicks link*

WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING??!

I just... has the artist never seen a Nanaimo bar in person? How would you even eat it? The custard would go everywhere!
posted by Secret Sparrow at 2:40 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Isn't that ... basically what a wine cooler is?

Or sangria, or punch. In fact, wine was historically not served without being watered and flavoured to the host's specifications. And there are the equivalents with beer (e.g., shandy) and, even today, spirits are most commonly served as mixed drinks or cocktails. I suppose purism has its place, but I happen to enjoy the little rituals involved in crafting food and beverages.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:59 PM on April 14 [9 favorites]


I mean, I get pretty miffed by the annoying shit that people in front of me order at the coffee shop, but ultimately people like what they like even if it's a stupid thing and they are idiots, it generally doesn't take too much longer for the barista to prepare their stupid order, and this planet will be incapable of sustaining meaningful life within about 20 years.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:59 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


I drank the melted butter coffee, and it was not good at all.

Actual hot buttered coffee can be very tasty, though!
posted by eviemath at 3:29 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Sounds cool to me, part of why it often sucks to go to coffee shops is you have to spend 15 minutes waiting for your drink because everyone is ordering some milk monster wet milkshake thing, which I'm sure are delicious for the mutant freaks who can digest lactose, but I want hot or cold, bitter brown water and it should be a process that takes only as long as it takes to pour it from one vessel into the one intended for me. It's a delicious drug but I guess some folks just want the drug and like other flavors. Can't super faqult them for that until it inconveniences me, at which point it becomes a very small first world problem nobody cares about.

At the same time, I'm generally hostile or skeptical to food pretentiousness. I like my coffee black, but at any temp, and mixing it with ice or iced tea already in Special Cup is not a problem for me. I like the taste but I'm not over analyzing it, I really don't care to convince myself to appreciate a specific bean or roast.

Anyway, it's fun how fired up folks get over simple shit like this and I will be interested to see how this type of business fares. Must save a lot of money on extraneous supplies, hot water and beans is pretty straightforward inventory.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:31 PM on April 14


I would be loath to eat the cooking of the folks from the link and anyone in here who's claiming that cream and/or sugar somehow mask the tastes of the coffee, since that's not how taste works, like, empirically, and just like with salt, adding cream and sugar can actually augment the flavors of the coffee.

i'm also a firm believer that y'all can drink what you want.

now, with that said, if you drink coffee with sugar, milk, and/or flavoring, let's be honest: you don't like coffee, you like sugar, milk, and/or flavoring.


Are you Mitt Romney? It's rare that to see someone so plainly uncomfortable with the faux magnanimity they're trying to put on.
posted by invitapriore at 3:36 PM on April 14 [7 favorites]


Is "good luck with that" the equivalent of a middle finger now?

Well, bless your heart.
posted by RobotHero at 3:45 PM on April 14 [11 favorites]


While we're on the subject of proper presentation, did you know Canada is currently convulsed over #NanaimoGate? Seems their new Nanaimo Bar commemorative postage stamp is just wrong.

This is obviously a ploy to turn public opinion against Canada Post so that future cuts to service will go unopposed.
posted by rodlymight at 3:57 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


It's so nice when we can all get together and have fun with our differences.
posted by duffell at 4:03 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


now, with that said, if you drink coffee with sugar, milk, and/or flavoring, let's be honest: you don't like coffee, you like sugar, milk, and/or flavoring.

Oh, this: I can distinguish the differences in taste between sweet cream and coffee ice cream. I like sweet cream, but I like coffee ice cream better. Am I deluding myself?
posted by praemunire at 4:14 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


If you eat ice cream with coffee flavoring, let's be honest: you don't like ice cream.
posted by Drastic at 4:35 PM on April 14 [15 favorites]


If there were a chocolatier making expensive, carefully sourced truffles, and someone wanted to buy them to melt into smores, we might understand the storeowners apprehension

You've clearly never had a s'more made with really good chocolate and homemade marshmallows. Transcendent. (Don't bother trying to do homemade graham crackers. Not worth the hassle. Just get HoneyMaid. I do like the cinnamon ones, though.)
posted by Weeping_angel at 4:40 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


I used to think that black coffee wasn't for me, but with one small trick* I began to really love the flavor of black coffee.









*I smoked cigarettes for 10 years, leaving my sense of smell and taste slightly and permanently (so far) dulled.
posted by Groundhog Week at 4:50 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


You've clearly never had a s'more made with really good chocolate and homemade marshmallows.

That's faulty because nobody really uses truffles to make hot chocolate. The example was, Would it be okay to use truffles which classically is chocolate plus dairy butter. The correct analogy, of using expensive dark or milk bar chocolate for desserts and beverages, is an accepted category in culinary discussion. But even there, historically people of all sorts have been reluctant to use fine chocolate in baking, desserts, drinks etc. That is completely understandable from an economic class point of view and connoisseurs could benefit from empathizing with that better.
posted by polymodus at 5:07 PM on April 14


I’ve been to these places and the coffee is just not good tho. It’s watery and acidic and blah.

I’m throwing down the gauntlet here, but the coffee in LA sux ass. The best coffee I’ve had here is from the nespresso machine at work.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:33 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


We really need that "foodfight" tag.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:54 PM on April 14 [8 favorites]


Perfect time for the sugar packets from the glove box.
posted by clavdivs at 6:14 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


[hipperthanthou]Is this something I'd have to drink coffee to really get?[/hipperthanthou]
posted by Naberius at 6:19 PM on April 14


Sounds cool to me, part of why it often sucks to go to coffee shops is you have to spend 15 minutes waiting for your drink because everyone is ordering some milk monster wet milkshake thing, which I'm sure are delicious for the mutant freaks who can digest lactose, but I want hot or cold, bitter brown water and it should be a process that takes only as long as it takes to pour it from one vessel into the one intended for me.

You are going to absolutely love the quick, efficient, and time-sensitive process of hipster pour-over coffee.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:25 PM on April 14 [15 favorites]


My partner likes to get hazelnut lattes from Starbucks, and lets me try them from time to time.

They are still too bitter for me.

I understand I am inferior but please. Have pity on me. I love the taste of coffee but pretty much the only thing acceptable to my traitorous tongue is coffee flavored milk chocolate.
posted by brook horse at 6:27 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


coffee threads on mefi are dismally predictable. There ought to be a German compound word for such.
posted by salt grass at 6:40 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Future concept for The Good Place: Third Wave Coffee guy is soulmates with Pineapple Pizza guy.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:46 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


There ought to be a German compound word for such.

Die Bohnenzähler.
posted by clavdivs at 7:16 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


A whole lot of feelings about this; I apologize for not reading the entire thread.

I have a friend who is a *serious* coffee dude (wins competitions, works at a roaster, opened many coffee shops, etc, etc). Normally I drink my coffee with cream and sugar, but *his* coffee I drink without; it's good enough and I really don't want to mess with the taste. I learned that there is a bunch of coffee at those standards - the sort of coffee you drink within two weeks of roasting, you generally have a medium roast, etc...

The thing is, some folks add cream and sugar to his divine coffee when he serves it to him. It doesn't bother him a bit. I certainly can understand the frustration of folks making coffee that's miles better than anything a given consumer has ever drank and doesn't need adulterants and having the customer add crap to it that masks its flavor. I mean, why get coffee that is that high of quality (and isn't cheap) if you're going to muck it up.

But again, my friend doesn't care. Serving coffee is part of the hospitality business, he often reminds me, and his job is to ensure the customer has a good experience, not to tell them that they are doing it wrong.

It's possible that this shop is trying to stand apart, make some press (heh), and attract a different kind of client. I have to imagine though, that if I showed him this story, he'd roll his eyes very far back and start on a rant about how wrong these folks are.

All that being said, for folks (like myself) that normally add stuff to their coffee; there is coffee out there that it's worth drinking 'black' (generally not a dark roast though, that shit is bitter).
posted by el io at 7:24 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


If you can't sell your customers your vision, you're a crappy capitalist.

This is like the opposite of damning with faint praise. Praising with faint damnation?
posted by Dysk at 8:28 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


I've had amazing single-origin coffees. Some were best black, some (especially earthy Asian coffees) were better with dairy. Not all coffee should be treated the same.

I will also register my dislike of the fashion for light, acidic coffees. I much prefer one with chocolate notes.
posted by jb at 8:52 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


I think this thread would have gone differently, and better, if the author (or more likely an editor) hadn't titled the article with "these coffee snobs ban milk and sugar." How even-handed! Of course, that's what gets clicks and pageviews, and heated argument on their Twitter and Facebook, along with angry linking elsewhere, bringing them yet more engagement.

This is really a pretty straightforward article about some coffee companies that are trying to emphasize the taste of their coffee. Surprise, some people make a hobby out of coffee, which is a complex drink with a lot of variables you can tweak for different results. There are some business decisions to consider (like, what are the appropriate terms for balancing how we see our product vs. how the public might see it). It's all actually pretty interesting. But no, let's make sure people are primed to hate-read about the jerky snobs who sneer at normies.

The reason I hate headlines like these (and just the headline here -- the article itself feels pretty even-handed) is that they only reinforce the perception that enthusiasts are "hipsters" who want nothing more than to judge people who don't share their passion. I've worked several jobs that had this kind of reputation, and as much as there can be real jerks behind the counter, I've always felt like people were expecting us to be snobs. It was obvious sometimes that people were really expecting the worst. I've had customers assume I was being smugly superior, when I was really just tired, and so on. It's really, really easy to read something into someone's behavior that isn't there, based on what you expect of them. It's like driving -- you might not see someone in your blind spot, but to them, you're deliberately blocking them from merging because you're a jerk who wants to ruin their day. In other words, I've been on the receiving end of this kind of headline, and it's a bummer.

I agree with the people who say this kind of coffee tends to be too acidic for me. But I do genuinely love coffee. I missed it a lot when I couldn't drink it, and I'm happy to have it back. I drink it black because milk and cream feel too heavy for me. I'm still willing to give these places a try, but it usually depends on there being a roast that won't be quite so bright. That's the real issue I have with these places. Usually the staff have been as friendly as people are anywhere else, no more, no less.

Anyway, fuck 21st century online journalism. That's my biggest takeaway here.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:00 PM on April 14 [16 favorites]


Supposing you go to Victoria's Secret to get you some plaid, scratchy wool underpants. It's not a big deal -- once you're in the store you'll be told "No, that's not what we do. But if you're interested we can slide you into a pair of skivvies like these here." And then it's simply up to you -- you either buy what they have on offer or drive to Canada to get the shorts you're wanting, and it's nobody wrong nobody right, no harm no foul. I don't get the big fuss here...
posted by dancestoblue at 9:38 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


a dudebro ordered a red bull & vodka. The bartender stared at him for a moment, then told him to get the fuck out

Speaking as a former bartender, he probably assumed dudebro was under age, as that is not an order one would expect from a grown up.
posted by she's not there at 10:03 PM on April 14 [6 favorites]


(checks the year and date of this post)
no this can't be right
posted by raihan_ at 10:05 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Coffee is the flavor.
posted by fairmettle at 11:29 PM on April 14


"a dudebro ordered a red bull & vodka. The bartender stared at him for a moment, then told him to get the fuck out"

Speaking as a former bartender, he probably assumed dudebro was under age, as that is not an order one would expect from a grown up.

Um, can anyone clarify this whole thingy? Is this an American thing? Vodka Red bulls are expensive but very popular here, you can buy pre-mix versions, no normal bartender would blink an eye, they have them ready to go.
$4 nights at the one shitty nightclub where I graduated HS, when a can of cheap lager was $6.

Like, yes, a lot of the market is people who would be underage in the US, but also not. It's fairly ubiquitous, festivals, bars, clubs, warehouse things. A bougie place might choose not to serve them though, allegedly from a safety perspective.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 11:46 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


Red Bull came on the market years after my bartending days were over, nonetheless, I stand by my claim that it's not an order one would expect from a grown-up. That there is apparently a market for Red Bull and vodka among those who have graduated high school surprises me.
posted by she's not there at 12:11 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


The way to get revenge on elitist coffee places to it casually but firmly, correct all their references to "beans" as "seeds". Science has got your back: the stuff that we roast is the pit of a coffee berry - analogous to a cherry stone and thus the seed of the plant. It is called a bean simply because it looks like one.
posted by rongorongo at 3:12 AM on April 15 [8 favorites]


I mean, am I the member of a rare breed whose tastes vary depending upon how I feel that day?

I know, it's weird to me that people can only enjoy things one way.
I like black coffee best, I like espresso. Sometimes I put milk or cream in it, because why not?
What I don't like is that pale, acidy, fruity nonsense that I payed a stupid amount for at some of these shops that to me tastes like gas station coffee from the 80's. That I put cream in because it sucks. Then I stop and get another coffee somewhere else.

I find it really weird when people say "you don't really like coffee" just because someone puts cream or sugar in it. They obviously like coffee with cream and sugar. They're standing right there paying for it.

Seriously, I don't mind suggestions about the food, I ask for them. But I want it how I want it or give me my money back. I have gotten to the show down point with waiters at some of the better steak houses in the country and had to say "that's very nice, but I'd like mine well done". After the second "suggestion" I'm done with them.

There are bigger issues. Some people eat mayo on purpose.
posted by bongo_x at 3:51 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


There are bigger issues. Some people eat mayo on purpose.

Hey now.
posted by zrail at 3:55 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


One thing I'll definitely never understand is people falling over themselves to condemn the judgeyness of an attitude like this, just give the customer what they want, people have different preferences, stop being a dick, only to then turn around and sneeringly do that exact thing.
posted by Dysk at 3:57 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


It’s kind of like iOS vs. Android. Some people buy coffees that don’t immediately taste how they like them, so they tinker with the coffee. Some people buy phones that don’t immediately do what they need the phone to do right out of the box, so they tinker with the phone.

I suspect there are a lot of iPhones at these purist coffee shops.
posted by emelenjr at 4:13 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


What really bothers me is the people who get all judgmental about people who judge people who judge people who order coffee the wrong way. The nerve!
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:33 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I gotta say, pretentious or not, this seems to be brilliant marketing. I mean after all, here we are talking about it...
posted by panama joe at 5:40 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Huffy Puffy, if someone wants to get all judgmental about people who judge people who judge people, who are you to judge?
posted by duffell at 6:02 AM on April 15 [6 favorites]


Supposing you go to Victoria's Secret to get you some plaid, scratchy wool underpants. It's not a big deal -- once you're in the store you'll be told "No, that's not what we do. But if you're interested we can slide you into a pair of skivvies like these here." And then it's simply up to you -- you either buy what they have on offer or drive to Canada to get the shorts you're wanting, and it's nobody wrong nobody right, no harm no foul. I don't get the big fuss here...
That is a bizarre example, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I suspect that I'm not the only person in the room who doesn't go to Victoria's Secret because I've had bad experiences there shopping for bras in a mildly unusual size. Years ago, I asked if they carried bras in a 30F, and the sales woman laughed at me and said "no, we only have bras in normal sizes." I haven't been back since. And they actually carry perfectly fine cotton undies in cute colors, so I might shop there if they hadn't been assholes to me.

Second of all, Victoria's Secret is in big trouble, and a lot of analysts attribute it to the fact that they refuse to change to accommodate contemporary women's sensibilities. Their whole business model is that they're bras for women who want to look conventionally sexy for their male partners. They have an extremely narrow view of what's sexy, which seems to be defined by what appeals to the elderly dudes who run the company. The CEO recently had to step down because he said dismissive things about the prospect of including trans and plus-sized models in their fashion show. And they've never successfully adapted to the idea that customers may want bras that do other things than be sexy, such as for instance being comfortable and/or supportive. They can't wrap their heads around what customers want in 2019, and it's killing their sales.

So no, I am not cool with Victoria's Secret trying to impose their narrow standards on me. It's a problem for me, and it's a problem for them. And they also make crappy bras, so I don't think the fancy third-wave coffee shops want to take them as a model.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:17 AM on April 15 [14 favorites]


That there is apparently a market for Red Bull and vodka among those who have graduated high school surprises me.

With enough alcohol, you can basically dial an adult brain back to the good-decisionmaking capacity of a glue-sniffing highschooler, so this seems about right.

Why yes I have played Edward Forty-Hands as a grown-ass adult, and it seemed like a great idea at the time.

And with enough caffeine, you can be a toddler hopped up on Pixy Stix.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:51 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I absolutely adore the taste of Red Bull and a vodka Red Bull is no more caffeinated or alcoholic than, for example, an Irish Coffee (although I think it would be rare for someone to have more than one of those?)

But it is the sort of order that indicates that you're there to ****party**** and that three drinks later, you're going to be both drunk and hyped up and difficult to eject peaceably. I think that is more likely the issue than the aesthetics of the whole thing.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:57 AM on April 15 [6 favorites]


By the time the 2000s came to a close, ordering a Vodka Red Bull came with a scarlet letter. Google the drink’s name with “frat” and you’ll get no shortage of results linking it to college campuses and the variations that proliferated there, like the “The Snorkel” or “Y Bomb” (the drink, shotgunned). One 2011 article on “Jersey Shore cocktail recipes” also offers a Grenade Launcher, a riff on the Jägerbomb, where you toss a shot glass of Jägermeister into a glass of Red Bull and chug. The common belief became that only bros (or Snooki) drink Vodka Red Bull.
posted by octothorpe at 8:09 AM on April 15


Re: not having, or ejecting consumers of, redbull & vodka:

High-end cocktail bars in the US thrive largely by being a distinctly different sort of place than the bog-standard bar that makes rent on Bud Light and Vodka & Red Bull.

For years, the earliest example in Houston (Anvil) *didn't even have vodka in inventory*, and they still don't have Bud Light. It's not that kind of bar. It's still not, though I think they have vodka now.

It's absolutely ALSO the case that a young dude ordering a Red Bull & Vodka is statistically likely to be moving in a direction of binge drinking that a fancy cocktail bar isn't interested in serving.

A couple years later, the same ownership group opened a really great craft beer bar. They don't have any mass-market beer, and they're always busy. The list is well curated, and the descriptions include tasting notes and objective information (IBU, ABV) to help newcomers find something they might like.

Both Anvil and Hay Merchant have THRIVED with this "enthusiast space" approach, but I parse it as different from a coffeeshop refusing to stock milk & sugar. I think the delta is in controlling how the product they sell is consumed vs. not stocking lower-end options.
posted by uberchet at 8:15 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Anyway I don't care if people are bad at capitalism if there's a reasonable alternative within a reasonable area. So, for example, if Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea wanted to be terrible about something coffee-wise, I could not possibly be aggravated because all I had to do is walk five feet to another supervised drug ingestion facility that met my personal preferences.

It is really annoying when one store/cafe is the only option, though, and for space reasons there literally cannot be a competitor within a reasonable distance. Then I think you have some obligation to serve your customers the kind of coffee that they want, within reason, or else you are being a bit of a jerk.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:21 AM on April 15


For years, the earliest example in Houston (Anvil) *didn't even have vodka in inventory*

This is...weird. Vodka is the basis for all sorts of perfectly respectable drinks. Did they refuse to sell gin and tonics, too?
posted by praemunire at 8:37 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Did they refuse to sell gin and tonics, too?

I've been in ones that did, yes. They had gin, of course, but would not make a G&T with it. The sort of place where you'd outline what you're interested in, flavor-wise, ("herbal, but with an undertone, maybe smoke or spice?" or "something unexpected with bourbon") and then just let the bartender make something interesting.
posted by aramaic at 9:03 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Supposing you go to Victoria's Secret to get you some plaid, scratchy wool underpants.

Why have you been reading my fan fiction? Where the hell did you find it!?
posted by loquacious at 9:41 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I usually drink my coffee black, but even if I didn't, I'd still love the hell out of this trend. Anytime a place makes food/drinks the EXACT way they want to, that is fricking awesome. My gf is a server (at a restaurant that is not a chain, that's been around for almost 20 years) and routinely she will come home with a story about how a customer requested some bizarre substitution, and the owner just flat out refuses. Waaaaay more customers need to encounter that experience of being told "no, we won't do that" imo- tons of people think that just because a place serves food/drinks, that EVERY food/drink request should be granted.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:17 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


High-end cocktail bars in the US thrive largely by being a distinctly different sort of place than the bog-standard bar that makes rent on Bud Light and Vodka & Red Bull.

I don't order it often, but I actually really like Vodka and Red Bull in limited quantities, but, granted... I'm a younger-ish gen X raver that still DJs and goes dancing and mainly hangs out with millenials and I like to get jacked up.

But it is not a good drink mix for most people and is definitely a recipe to get jacked the fuck up and cause trouble, and it is definitely a warning sign or red flag for most bartenders, especially if you roll in and it's your first order and opener.

I like it because I'm apparently mostly dead inside and unfortunately it takes Hunter S. Thompson quantities of just about anything before my alternator starts turning over, and I am not opposed to putting vodka in black coffee because if you could pour me a glass of hypergolic rocket fuel I'd probably be into that, too.

But, yeah, my favorite local craft and/or enthusiast bar or whatever refuses to stock a number of different things, and one of those is Red Bull. Another is Jaegermeister. They definitely don't stock any Bud, Bud lite, Coors, Miller. They do have Rainier, often on tap, and PBR in bottles.

These missing parts of the menu are very intentional and planned gatekeeping refined after about 4 years of being open, because those missing yet common beers and mixers are what is most commonly ordered by either the Navy kids from the local base or the deep sea fisherman and boat people in town on a repair or refit layover - and both of these demographics have a history of starting trouble or otherwise causing problems in this particular bar with the very LGTBQ and counter culture friendly patrons that usually inhabit it.

It's basically an art/music bar, there are no TVs, they never watch sports and they don't serve hot wings. But you can get a lovely full absinthe service or a fancy shrub cocktail or an Irish coffee.

It's such a common trope around here that if someone new comes in and either looks like a 19 year old Navy kid with a crew cut or a grizzled old fishing boat worker and they order a Bud or Coors or something like that that they will immediately get a lot of subtle scrutiny and side eye from nearly every regular at the bar until they've proven themselves to not be assholes.

I've seen this happen dozens of times now. Everyone at the bar who knows each other will exchange quick glances that convey a concentrated mix of "Oh, really?" and "Here we go again."

And to be fair - we do get some awesome Navy kids and deep sea fishers and boat people coming through, not all of them are troublemakers. Sometimes we get LGTBQ Navy kids that want somewhere chill to hang that isn't a cis-het minefield of binge drinking. But the odds of them being trouble spike exponentially if they're asking for stuff like Redbull and Vodka or Jaegerbombs or other binge drinking focused drinks.

This system works remarkably well, as it tends to shunt the trouble makers off to another local bar that's more prepared to deal with it, because for whatever reason they really, really have to have that Bud Lite or whatever.
posted by loquacious at 10:20 AM on April 15 [6 favorites]


*didn't even have vodka in inventory*

But then how will they make a martini? (Runs away before the explosion.)
posted by RobotHero at 10:29 AM on April 15 [6 favorites]


There is no middle way in anything, anymore, it seems. Either you get super dark roast, bordering on burned, or you get something so light it's like sucking on a lemon. Frankly, both of those extremes need a bit of cushioning to bring them back to the realm of drinkability, even as someone who usually enjoys black coffee. Major, major props to Philz Coffee (a San Francisco-area chain) for offering a range of roasts, so that people who like light, medium, and dark roasts can get what they want. I see the same pattern play out in beer, where the craft revolt against American lager has lead to an equally ridiculous extreme where everything is a triple dry-hopped IPA. Any middle ground has been hollowed out.
posted by wnissen at 10:57 AM on April 15


"Red Bull came on the market years after my bartending days were over, nonetheless, I stand by my claim that it's not an order one would expect from a grown-up. That there is apparently a market for Red Bull and vodka among those who have graduated high school surprises me."

Seems weird to stand by a claim you have no grounds on which to make, particularly since you seem to have stopped bartending at exactly the time in which you would have had the experiences to shirk a, frankly, silly stereotype (Like, if you really must have some condescending view on this particular drink, the established cultural stereotype involves college-aged adults who might be called "bros"). Liquor + Thing is not only the most fundamental and basic of any mixed drink, but regardless of stigma or not, is a gnarly flavor by itself that compliments alcohol like a great deal of other gnarly mixers you probably wouldn't drink alone.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:04 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I'm looking at my Recent Activity and it is dominated by this thread and the one about whether or not a maker of masocore video games should be adding accessibility features and I keep feeling like they are kind of circling around the same issues under the surface.

Are these coffee shops assholes or artists for insisting on only serving Difficult Coffee? Should they be censured; should they be made to dilute their vision of what coffee should be to satisfy the desires of those who want their bitter alkaloids cut with some sugar and fat? What about people who physically cannot drink coffee without those adulterants; should they be forced to accommodate those?

Is From Software assholes or artists for making intentionally hard games? Should they be censured; should they be made to dilute their vision of what games they want to make to satisfy the desires of those who don't want to beat their head against one boss for three days straight? What about people who physically cannot Git Gud; should they be forced to accommodate those?

Personally my feelings on both are "shine on you crazy diamonds, good luck continuing to be profitable with those choices". But I wonder if there is anyone who is all "I am glad these coffee shops exist" but is also calling for From's games to change, or vise-versa...
posted by egypturnash at 11:04 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


[Not having vodka] is...weird. Vodka is the basis for all sorts of perfectly respectable drinks
Maybe. But it's the backbone of lots of crappy stuff, and is, in the opinion of the owners, very overused. They focused on other spirits, and did very, very well. (And continue to do so 10 years later.)
Did they refuse to sell gin and tonics, too?
Nope. But you knew that.
posted by uberchet at 11:05 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Are these coffee shops assholes or artists for insisting on only serving Difficult Coffee? Should they be censured; should they be made to dilute their vision of what coffee should be to satisfy the desires of those who want their bitter alkaloids cut with some sugar and fat? What about people who physically cannot drink coffee without those adulterants; should they be forced to accommodate those?

Does the scarecrow really need a brain?
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:07 AM on April 15


The kind of craft cocktail bars that don't have a menu and expect their bartenders to custom-craft drinks for each person... also tend to make themselves exclusive and set barriers to entry, such as requiring reservations. So if these third-wave coffee shops are by reservation only, well that seems fine.

Funny that someone mentioned Philz. Philz does single-cup pour-overs only, and if you order your coffee "the Philz Way" it comes medium-sweet with cream :)
posted by muddgirl at 11:29 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I love all the coffee. As a teenager, I used to drink rotgut canned crap by the industrial sized percolator. Black, strong, oily, and viciously bitter.

I got older and had more money and less time and coffee culture provided better options, so I adapted to whatever I could get. Still black, dark, and bitter, though.

Time passed, and coffee options got better and I had a little more money and time, so I had a few cups of really, really good coffee. I loved it. I pursued it.

Got older still, purchased the equipment to brew exquisite coffee, looked for amazing suppliers and brewers.

More time passed. I no longer have time or easy access to exquisite coffee. I mean, I could get some, if I had time. Or I could make some, if I had time. I don't have time. I don't even have time for this comment. I had to rent a time machine just to finish it.

Also, my palate has changed in recent years. I still like bitter, but not to the same degree I used to. Some of this may even come down to exquisite coffee having ruined me for rotgut. But it could just be age.

I start my day with an 8 shot skinny vanilla 16 oz. latte from Starbucks. Because it's on my way to work, it's all the time I will likely have for coffee during the day (even though my company supplies free coffee of various degrees of quality), and because I pretty much require an adrenaline shot straight to the heart just to make it into work most days.

Starbucks espresso isn't good enough to drink eight shots without a little something to cut the bitterness at the bottom of the cup. I am not ashamed of this choice. I will happily drink the better stuff if it is in front of me. I'm glad that there are people out there making the good stuff and championing exposure to it, although I always prefer that to be communicated as joy in offering an exquisite experience as opposed to shaming people on their preferences.

So I guess I contain multitudes. Highly, highly caffeinated multitudes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:56 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


FFS, I just like a little bit of sugar in my coffee. I like coffee. I like the way coffee tastes like coffee. I don't use sugar because I think coffee is too bitter to drink. I like lots of bitter things. I just prefer the way sugar amplifies the flavor of the coffee. I don't want a giant frou-frou coffee drink with flavorings. I don't really just like drinking sugar and milk with a caffeinated boost, thanks, this isn't a zero-sum game.

Please just give me my one packet of fucking sugar.

I will drink cheap not-great coffee in some situations and certainly it requires a heavier hand with the sugar to be pleasant, plus sometimes even a wee pinch of salt. I don't really like milk/cream in my coffee any more, though I do occasionally deeply enjoy a properly large cafe au lait, if I happen to have a leisurely morning in a cafe and want to remember my first coffee love.

Anyway, faced with Very Fine Good Strict Coffee, I do take a sip to see what it tastes like plain. Yet, there is no amount of smoothness that doesn't whisper to me "sure, but nicer with just a little sugar."
posted by desuetude at 11:58 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Are these coffee shops assholes or artists for insisting on only serving Difficult Coffee? Should they be censured; should they be made to dilute their vision of what coffee should be to satisfy the desires of those who want their bitter alkaloids cut with some sugar and fat?

IMO, this is exactly the sort of thing the market economy excels at. So from an official position, like in terms of regulation or some censure from On High, no, laissez faire is probably the way to go.

But it seems totally appropriate for customers and would-be customers to vociferously communicate their preferences, so the market can do what a market does. Discussing it, and certain groups of people perhaps deciding together to act based on a consensus opinion, is part of that process.

Personally I think the video game thing is a harder issue, because it touches on accessibility and raises the question of whether an entertainment product is a sort of public accommodation. It gets hard to draw a bright line, when you consider that we require movie theaters to do stuff (like provide assisted-listening devices) that a really finicky auteur-type filmmaker might say detract from experiencing their full artistic vision or whatever. And we rightly don't care too much about that. So there's at least a reasonable argument in there somewhere beyond "ugh let the marketplace sort it out and we'll clean up the bodies later." But black coffee vs. milky coffee? That's just, like, your opinion, man.

For stuff that's fundamentally a matter of taste, and where there's no objectively wrong or right position in terms of externalized harm, it's probably fine to let the chips fall where they may.

I could justify a law that says all coffee has to be Fair Trade or organic, or even just sold at a minimum price, long before I could justify a law requiring cream and sugar to be available.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:05 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I start my day with an 8 shot skinny vanilla 16 oz. latte from Starbucks.

I probably could have called this and totally get it. One of my regulars did this and was also a very busy high speed mutant. I think he preferred caramel syrup, but would take vanilla or hazelnut if we were out.

I remember one month he was on restriction and doctor's orders and it wasn't ok. He tried a decaf once and just made a face and rightfully left it on the counter because decaf espresso is usually pretty gross.

I am definitely in the camp that a coffee shop or barista really shouldn't get upset or judge people for their choices or preferences and that really good shops can do both high end coffee and cater to their market.

But I can also understand why a shop might choose to not stock animal products or refined sugar or make curation or quality choices about what they want to do and serve. There's plenty of vegan restaurants where you're just not going to find animal dairy products for your coffee. And I could see why they might be upset if someone brought in outside food or condiments in a situation like that.

If a coffee shop or barista got upset that some took a coffee to go and did whatever they wanted to it, that would be really silly and just antagonistic.

I occasionally really like an affogato, and there's two places in town on the same street that serve them. One is an ice cream parlor and the other is arguably the best coffee house and espresso in town. I'll get a scoop of ice cream to go from the parlor and walk it down to the coffee house and get a shot or two in a nice ceramic cup, then I take it outside and sit on the nearby beach or plaza and mix the two, and it's just a perfect, affordable little town life hack in this vein of "well, I want it this way and you can't stop me."

And both places think it's brilliant and they're ok with it, but I'm also very respectful and discreet about it and I always enjoy it outside so I'm not being weird about bringing outside food into an establishment.

The way people enjoy things is complicated, and that extends to how people present, curate and try to prepare things. There's a lot of give and take going on.
posted by loquacious at 1:26 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


Me 45 minutes ago: "Boy, am I proud of myself for managing to forego coffee this morning! I'm wide awake and will not need any today. Now time to take a big sip of tap water and open up Metafilter..."

So much for that.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:33 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


very busy high speed mutant

It's been a while since I created a new sockpuppet, but this one is very, very tempting.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:44 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Nope. But you knew that.

Why? Gin is also the basis of many terrible drinks and the gin and tonic may be the most overused drink of all. It's basic upon basic.
posted by praemunire at 2:22 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Funny that someone mentioned Philz. Philz does single-cup pour-overs only, and if you order your coffee "the Philz Way" it comes medium-sweet with cream :)

My boyfriend used to work on the Philz truck in SF's financial district & their standard line when someone wandered up in search of an espresso drink was "So we do things a little differently here, but if it's a latte you're after, I can make you something I think you'll really like." Then he'd make them a sweet & creamy pourover, tell them he'd fix it if they weren't happy, & most of the time they'd love it because (let's be real about Philz) it was basically a friggin tiramisu.

I feel like dedicated human-on-human interaction is the important thing here. First you get some signage outside your shop that indicates you're a fancy pour-over place. (No one will notice, but they can't claim later you didn't warn 'em.)

Then when they come up for their regular coffee, tell them you're a different kind of place, & stress that your goal is for people to have nice things & new experiences. If they're really not your target market, they'll leave for the nearest Starbucks, but most people will probably give you a shot, since they're so close to just getting a damn coffee.

Find out their roast & flavor preference. (Have options; keep something smoother in stock than that acidic sourdough stuff that's so popular now!) Make them a coffee, & tell them that you have sugar & cream available but your coffee is so good that most people don't need it, and you think they should try a sip before they doctor it. (Let supertasters have lipids or whatever if they need them to make the food not hurt!)

My point is, you can try to share something that you think is good with someone, & offer suggestions that you think will enhance the experience, but if they try the thing & determine they will enjoy it more with alterations, who benefits if you don't let them make the alterations?

(For example, if I'm showing anime to someone I wanna show them the subtitled version, but if they're dyslexic or something & reading subtitles is too uncomfortable I'd rather show them the dub than insist on watching the sub, thereby leaving them with no idea what anyone's saying.)
posted by taquito sunrise at 3:26 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Opinions about coffee, beer, whiskey, and cannabis.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:27 PM on April 15


in this situation I just bring my own

I call this my "purse sugar" -- all of my bags have a fine layer of sugar lining their bottoms[...]
It is not often since my wife introduced me to Duluth Trading Company’s “firehouse pants” and their plethora of unfashionable pockets-on-pockets-in-pockets, flaps, belt loops and hammer hangers that I have felt purse envy, but being able to carry condiments does sound exceptionally luxurious. I would no longer be restricted to selecting a single flask for the day!
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:02 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


This is...weird. Vodka is the basis for all sorts of perfectly respectable drinks.

"Respectable" is one of those eye-of-the-beholder judgement calls. Folks who take spirits seriously don't tend to take vodka seriously. It is, of course, the least complicated of all the options and unless flavored, it's virtually tasteless. About the only thing it contributes to a mixed drink is more alcohol.

N.B.: I say this as some one whose standard drink order is "vodka rocks, soda back". And as long as the well vodka is a step above McCormack, I don't even call a brand.
posted by she's not there at 8:47 PM on April 15


Vodka is the choice of professional drinkers: not much of a body high, not too obvious on the breath, not too bad in the hangover department. Grey Goose is the only one with a discernible taste, but it's way overpriced. Tito's was good enough for me when I was drinking.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:18 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


If your coffee has no mix-ins
Then your store could use some fixin'....
(Apologies to the Dead Milkmen)
posted by xingcat at 8:12 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Vodka is the choice of professional drinkers...

Given my above comment re my standard drink order I feel compelled to add that I rarely drink these days.

(However, I would not be opposed to some distractions of the chemical variety, should I be able to get my hands on such.)
posted by she's not there at 10:04 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


For example, if I'm showing anime to someone I wanna show them the subtitled version, but if they're dyslexic or something & reading subtitles is too uncomfortable I'd rather show them the dub than insist on watching the sub, thereby leaving them with no idea what anyone's saying.

OMG yes. English dubbing has fallen out of fashion and is looked upon as lowbrow, but there are so many great non-Anglophone and non-Francophone movies I know I'm missing out on because my particular flavor of visual impairment just isn't conducive to subtitles (especially modern all-white subtitles that don't seem to take into account that they might be appearing on a white or light-colored background.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:33 AM on April 16


A couple years back in my old neighborhood, in desperate need of a mid-afternoon caffeine spike I was upbraided at the new, fussy coffee shop for putting sugar into my double espresso. I told them to mind their own business because grandpa needs his medicine.

After reading this thread today and feeling obliged to do penance, I went to a new location of theirs and consumed an espresso strictly according to their instructions (unadulterated, with a palate-cleansing seltzer on the side for between sips). Reader, it was delicious.

Time and a place for everything.
posted by whuppy at 11:16 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


Major, major props to Philz Coffee

I have been thinking about Philz while reading this thread, as kinda the quintessential 3rd wave coffee shop. Although the whole concept of this "wave" seems like a lot of trend pieces where someone's editor finally noticed something that's been going on for a while and assigned it some inches. The title kinda points to such an editor too.

Re the roasts, tons of American coffee places have been roasting coffee to various degrees of roastedness for at least 25 years now, so it's not like this is . . . a new thing. Coffee snobbery has been on a steady rise in the US for most of my adult life.

But that's a digression, I thought of them because Philz in particular is the first place in years I've experienced anything like the anti-snobbery snobbery. They spend quite a bit of effort to tell you how special and artisanal and cruelty-free and single-origin is their $5 cup of coffee and how this is the perfect way to enjoy it, and here it comes in your bog-standard paper cup with a retro tag logo that looks like it jumped straight out of Beat Street, and there's a FUCKING PIECE OF MINT IN IT YOU NEED TO FUCKING WARN ME YOU PSYCHO HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TELL HOW THE COFFEE TASTES WHEN IT TASTES LIKE A FUCKING MENTHOL CIGARETTE NOW?!?!!!

Now that I know that's what they do, I might go back at some point I suppose, since it's not completely objectionable, just unexpected. But if I'm having a really nice overpriced acidy coffee, I'd prefer to sit and drink it out of a ceramic cup, and I didn't particularly care for the sprig of mint.

And there's a perfectly serviceable pastry shop across the street that has a nice espresso machine. It's just Illy, but that's occasionally quite nice, as I know exactly what to expect from it, and they can give me an allongé or something reasonably like a long black or just a regular drip coffee depending on how I'm feeling. And there's a really fancy coffee place a few blocks away that does basically what Philz does, with single-origin pourovers etc., except you can also get espresso or a press if that's what you want.

I like coffee lots of different ways, I don't particularly like it the Philz way, I can't have milk or sugar so would happily try it from the place in TFA and not notice they didn't have those things, and actually find it hilarious how much personal ire I suddenly experienced due to unexpected mint.

Anyway, it made me sort of appreciate this thread in a slightly deeper way than I would have a few years ago, when I'm almost positive we had the exact same thread.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:38 PM on April 16


Switzerland wants to declare coffee nonessential for human survival. But the real story is even more dire.
Peacefully tucked away in the European Alps, Switzerland isn’t the kind of country you would associate with the end of the world.

But deep beneath the about 700,000 bell-clanging dairy cows chewing soft grass, drinking from clean glacier rivers and staring at snowy mountains lies a hidden, far more disturbing reality: 300,000 shelters, designed to withstand nuclear attacks or other threats to humankind.

Unlike the world they’re supposed to protect against, the nuclear shelters have provided a measure of reassurance to the Swiss for decades.

But to some, it may have taken until this week to realize what a war those shelters were built for would really mean, when Swiss authorities said they were planning to categorize coffee as nonessential for human survival. Once the plan is implemented, coffee would not be treated as a priority and stockpiled for times of war or crisis.

“Coffee has almost no calories and subsequently does not contribute, from the physiological perspective, to safeguarding nutrition,” the Swiss government’s unsparing assessment concluded.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:51 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I guess, but then maybe hope and love aren't essential either.
posted by bongo_x at 1:10 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


So in those 300,000 shelters are at least 150,000 people going through caffeine withdrawal. In the words of Aunty Entity from Mad Max Thunderdome, how is one to build a civilization up to the armpits with blood and shit without caffeine to speed things along?

Caffeine fueled the Enlightenment. You will also need something to loosen up all that stored cheese.
posted by jadepearl at 7:34 PM on April 17


Wait, has cstross's short story Extracts from the Club Diary not been mentioned yet?
posted by hades at 10:17 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if it was my own private bunker, I think I'd stock a smallish amount of coffee - just enough to wean myself off it. I guess caffeine pills could help with the physical side, while some other, more nutritious, hot beverage might replace the coffee-drinking ritual.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:57 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


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