Two sides of the coffee elitist coin flitted across the interwebs this weekend. On one, stereotypical whiny, entitled Starbucks customer Ron Leiber suggested in the New York Times that the company’s new loyalty rewards aren’t enough (he wanted special seating, shorter lines and reserved laptop plugs in addition to the newly offered free Wi Fi, syrup shots and refills).
On the other side, Amateur Gourmet Adam Roberts documented a competition between some of New York City’s best and most indie baristas, who went head to head at local caffeine cult favorite, Joe: The Art Of Coffee, in a latte-art throwdown. This seemed to represent the more fun-loving, whimsical side of the coffee elite.
Both pieces exemplify to a trend that only a hack would continue to point out, 20 years after the rise of the latte: Nobody drinks regular old coffee anymore. Even fans of black, drip coffee are starting to flock to boutique joints like San Francisco’s Blue Bottle and Philz, where one-cup-at-a-time brews have replaced the percolator.
But in this increasingly time-consuming coffee world, where people use the cafe as an office, status symbol, and canvas, is there any room left for the hurried Nine-to-Fiver, just trying to get his or her fix before that daily grind pulls him or her ever further under its heel?
Instead of shorter Starbucks lines for elite customers, how about shorter lines for less-involved drink orders. Maybe a drip line and an espresso line? Why not a competition to see, not how pretty coffee drinks can be made, but how much a barista can kick out in a certain time?
Of course, the most healthy move for our society is away from the ever more frantic pace of daily automated life and toward pretty drinks made by people you like, but sometimes the tone of your day comes down to just a few minutes in the morning — whether you make that train, get to the meeting on time, punch the clock at 8:59 or 9:01. In those cases, all you want is a simple cup of black Joe.
If a coffee shop came along that could dole out high-quality mud in less than a minute for just such a rushed crowd, it would probably make a killing in one hour a day. Until then, we’ll stick to the brown water at the corner deli. It’s nasty, but at least we’re on time to work. Usually.