Third Wave Coffee Thoughts

Dave Lieberman in the OC Weekly Blogs:

There’s one place I won’t go anymore, though, and that is the so-called third-wave coffee shops, the new generation of coffee bars with patent machines and a heavy concentration on knowing exactly which patch of steep, shady, equatorial land the coffee beans came from.

Mostly, though, I’m tired of the attitude of the people who make it.

It is fairly apparent the author takes issue with a certain “attitude”, “condescension” and “superiority” of some who work in these “third wave coffee” establishments. Should we put up with arrogance, rudeness or indifference when we are handing over our money? Absolutely not – a point which I touched on in a previous post. Here I agree with the author, however am mindful this is not limited to, nor the main feature of, any particular industry (or sector within it).

We should be very careful in placing blame at the feet of an entire sector of an industry over behaviour related to a smaller subset of it (and a subset of characteristics unrelated to the industry itself at that). I am referring to the fact that in any event, a certain proportion of the general population exhibit these very characteristics. Do they all work in “third wave coffee establishments”? No they don’t. However, a condescending attitude or the arrogance in these people (or anyone for that matter) has the potential to show through where they have a certain amount of knowledge (and often a great deal of passion) – in the case discussed here, coffee.

Is this an excuse? No.

My point is simply this, a more appropriate title for such an article would be, “Some people are rude, condescending and arrogant in our society – they work across many industries and therefore you may find some working in the coffee industry”. Not the most catchy title, and as you can see, I didn’t use it either – for obvious reasons. At times an attention grabbing title and a quick scan through an article without too much thought does not do justice to the issue at hand.

Sure, what the author writes is not fiction and does at times occur, however there are some hardworking purveyors of specialty coffee out there, who serve with humility, passion for their craft and do everything possible to make you feel at home. They are only too pleased to educate you on all things coffee and get excited when a customer shows a genuine interest in what they are doing and seeks out their knowledge. They deserve our support and respect, and I tip my hat to those very people. Lets not forget, it is they who provide us as consumers, access to features of an industry that may otherwise only be available to those within it – much to our benefit.

As for the rest, well, do as the author has done and speak with your feet, however it is not far before you will find somewhere you can feel at home. A place where the staff may cringe if you put sugar in a carefully filtered single origin, but they’ll never let on, and continue to serve you with enthusiasm and a smile.


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