I usually defend 'hipsters', sometimes to the point of arguing they don't exist. Typically, I have no complaints about young people making the most of limited means. But yesterday I found myself judging a dude just because he was walking around in Five Fingers and fuck, I own two pairs. I felt it yesterday. For the first time. I get it. Yet I think I'm supposed to get it. So this is going to be me flailing.
Long story short, the wife and i had to pick something up in Olympia. We were early, so we went to get coffee. So you google "coffee near me" (as you do) and hey - you're a 3 minute drive from a coffee roaster.
It should be said that Olympia, WA is effectively Hipster Ground Zero. Sleater-Kinney literally named themselves after one of the main drags down there. There's never been fucking anything to do economically - it's too muddy for logging approaches so they put the state capital there. Then the politicos needed beer so they built a brewery there. Then they needed some street cred so they built a university there. But Washington politics is boring and slow (see: "Seattle process") so it didn't make any money. And the brewery was Olympia which was bought by Foster's in the '90s and stopped making beer at all in 2003. And the college is Evergreen (motto is omnia extares - literally "let it all hang out"), which is graded pass-fail, which is the most expensive state school to go to, and which offers the fewest possibilities for meaningful employment upon graduation.
It should also be said that I have always fucking hated Olympia, I just forgot while I was in LA, primarily because it's full of the sort of people who go to Evergreen, graduate with a useless degree, then linger around Olympia doing fuckall for money while painting meaningfully-titled abstract oils involving lots of red and used panties under shellac that they hang up in each other's "galleries" so that you can see their five-figure price tags. There isn't a cleverer population of underemployed liberal arts majors in the US. It had a vibrant music scene (for a while) because there was no point in any of the decent bands schlepping their shit down from Seattle or up from Portland so it became this self-referential college radio shitpile that the rest of us mocked as they all got temporarily rich. Except the Pres of the USA. Holy fuck they played everywhere. But I digress.
So there we are, in Olympia, at a coffee roaster. Olympia, population under 50k, has metered parking everywhere (because fuck you). Fortunately, the ones in front of City Hall have fifteen minute free parking (because that way they can lure you into thinking you can accomplish anything in fifteen minutes and they can convert your free parking into a $30 ticket). And you can get a cup of coffee in fifteen minutes, right?
And hey, they're a roaster. They don't smell like a roaster, and they don't have beans out. But they have five different roasts! But which one would you like? Here's the conversation -
"What can I prepare for you?"
"What would you recommend? I don't like sour coffee."
"Well, some people have described the fruit notes and terroir of our more exotic roasts as 'sour.' You might perhaps do better with one of our darker roasts."
"Can I try a little?"
"We brew to order and each cup is made using individualized servingwear. I'm sorry."
"Uhm, okay, I'll have that dark one."
That's when I see their thing.
Worth noting - this rant started when my wife argued I'd never be able to find this fuckin' gadget because you can't google "five pour-over with wiggly nozzles." In fact, you can. You can image-search it. This will lead you down the rabbit-hole of discovering that if you call "adding water to grounds" the "Japanese tea ceremony of coffee" you can charge fuckin' $12k for a gadget that will do it five times at once. Worth noting - you need a $3k water heater to make it work, pushing the cost of the whole shebang within a grand of what I paid for a fuckin' Honda Fit not many years ago, and four large past what a Clover cost back when you could buy one, a price that people lost their shit over backintheday.
But all that is semi-immaterial because once I looked over the magic five pourover with wiggly nozzles machine, I saw the giant sign that said "free cuppings every Friday 10am" over the room full of people sampling coffee.
It was 10:45.
So I asked the studious woman who was busily anointing a chemex with water from an industrial-grade bottle washer,
"Hey, aren't they doing tasting over there?"
She gave me a look.
"The cupping started at ten," she said.
"And?" I asked.
"And you wouldn't understand what was going on this late into the service," she replied.
Rather than say "I'm pretty sure I know how to taste coffee" I sat down and watched her skillfully press a green button to make my coffee. That's about when the dude with the LumberBeard and the Moleskine and the Five Fingers and the skinny jeans walked by and I remembered how much I hated Olympia. Then I paid ten bucks for a drip coffee, a tea and a palmier (IN FUCKING OLYMPIA) and marveled at how much I hated Olympia.
Then I had a sip of the coffee. It tasted like Folger's Brand Battery Acid.
And here's the thing. I've had Clover coffee. It's good. I've had roasted-while-you-watch Kona on the plantation. It's good. I've had rootin' tootin' high-falootin' Beverly Hills roast. It's good. But the only places I've ever had truly bad coffee are:
c) and the aforementioned battery acid.
I've never had bad coffee at a roaster's before. It's kind of inconceivable to me. For one thing, sour coffee is, to my understanding, a sign of a bad roast. For another, fresh beans make all the difference and they have a giant fuckin' window onto the roasters so WTF.
And they have predictably worshipful reviews. Clearly, I am in the wrong. Clearly, I'm an old fuddy-duddy. Clearly, I have no palate. Obviously, I missed my cupping instructions.
But I never go to Olympia by choice anyway, so who cares? And I never buy $5 pourovers anyway, so who cares? And nobody who listens to me would have been one of their customers anyway, so who cares? Did I not get the coffee I paid for? Am I not entertained? I mean, watch the precision pissing performance from this piece of shit:
Star patterns, bitch. Taste the rainbow.
Thing is, long has it been argued that there is no correlation between the price of a bottle of wine and its objective quality. Long has it been observed that the more effort one puts into something, the more it is valued. Audiophiles love their thousand-dollar cables because they cost a thousand dollars. Wine snobs will absolutely prefer a $500 bottle of wine to a $50 bottle of wine... assuming they see the price first. But you can't get the table red for less than $10 a glass most places and even if you're going to be an audiophile on the cheap, you're still spending hundreds of dollars on headphones.
Coffee? Coffee can be had for $7 a pound. Water is effectively free. Even if you're paying three times as much as you should for a cup of coffee, you're still under $9. And if your excesses repel the proletariat, that simply proves your own refinement. Don Thompson pointed out that contemporary art collectors pay more for repulsive works because it makes their purchases less comprehensible to the general public, and therefore proves their tastes more refined. And a $5 pour-over is a lot more attainable when your economy consists of over-educated liberal arts majors selling each other locally-sourced marijuana accessories.
So really, the roaster is killin' it. They're making money (hopefully enough to recoup their nozzle-pisser), they're thrilling the natives and they're pissing off outsiders like me.
I just... I dunno. I guess I thought coffee was kinda universal. It makes me wonder just how bad it is right now that the kidz are drinking deliberately-bad coffee so they can feel exclusive about something. And anybody who can make me wish I'd gone to starbuck's is... well, a dick. Especially when I'm paying for the privilege.
Hey, at least we didn't get a ticket.