Some say I have an unhealthy affection for coffee. I have even been labeled, by some of those people, a “coffee snob” for not joining them in drinking whatever coffee-looking product is being served at the moment. And after I finish shooting poisonous darts at them with my eyes, I calmly remind them that I don’t look down on others for drinking bad coffee, I just choose not to drink it myself. Not because I think I’m too good for that coffee, but simply because it tastes like storm drain water filtered over a pile of coffee-colored garbage. I’m not snobbish or arrogant about it. A snob modifies their behavior as a means of elevating themselves above others. They use their distinctives to put others down. I don’t sit around criticizing other people’s coffee or laughing at how weak it is. I don’t wear a “my coffee can beat up your coffee” t-shirt (although, if someone could produce that shirt, I may perhaps change my mind). I simply value the experience of a good cup of coffee too much to settle for inferior substitutes.
I sincerely believe that most people would feel the same but they’ve only ever had dried out, poorly ground, watered down coffee their entire life and have come to expect that flavor. People are weird like that. We’re all creatures of habit often to our own detriment. We get used to something, regardless of how true it is or how it genuinely makes us feel and we accept it as normal simply because of repetition and familiarity. We’re very slow to open the door to things that are different, even if they’re better. Sometimes even after we’ve been convinced that they are better.
I have, over the years, been something of a coffee evangelist. Making sincere attempts to open the eyes of others up to what good coffee is supposed to taste like. Explaining how different coffee growing regions produce different flavor characteristics and how you can have entirely different experiences with different types of coffee. “There’s no such thing as simply a cup of coffee”, I’d say, with the soft, introspective inflection of an ancient Tibetan monk. “A cup of coffee is a doorway into another part of the world. It is a hot air balloon that can take you on an epic flavor adventure.” I usually lose them at the hot air balloon part. But if they stick with me and actually learn how to taste coffee, I mean to truly taste it, to let it roll around on their tongue until the different flavor characteristics leap out, then they start to get it. Some of you are beginning to roll your eyes right now. I can feel it. Stop it. It hurts my feelings. But, I understand. If you’ve never sipped a really good Central American coffee and had that bright, sparkly flavor dance on the tip of your tongue like a band of gypsy fairies around a flame, then you wouldn’t get it. You may even decide that it can’t be true. If you’ve never tasted a deep, full-bodied, Indonesian coffee and had the smooth, rich flavor surround your tongue like a warm sleeping bag on a cold night under the stars, then you may be tempted to say that I’m exaggerating. But I’m not. It’s true and it’s extraordinary.
I’m not saying that the first time you try good coffee it will hit you like this. It won’t. The first sip of properly brewed coffee, without the disguises of excessive cream and sugar, will seem overpowering. It will seem strong and offensive. You might even call it, even though I hate this word in relation to coffee…bitter. But I promise you, if you are patient. If you are consistent. If you learn, sip by sip, to appreciate the subtleties, the complexities and the depth it will open up to you a whole world that you never thought possible. It will be a kind of experience that will make you loose interest in that junk you were drinking before, not because you feel like you are better than that or those drinking it, but simply because you’ve tasted something far deeper and richer, something that adds to your life in a way that Folgers Crystals never could.
This is kind of how Christianity works too.