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How To Be a Coffee Snob

Dec. 5, 2016
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Some need a reason to live. Others need a reason to get up in the morning. For still others, these are the same thing. Engulfed in a seriously dark year that has some seriously wondering if it is the actual worst in history, school bells and Mondays are not helping the bedridden-by-despair of the world rise to the challenge of facing the sun. Then there’s nature’s cruelty:

Despair not, dear reader, I too have found myself in a similar vortex of hopelessness, and I assure you there is hope. It’s name is Coffee! And it is euphoria! Just ask this goat:

As the story goes, one day, after eating some coffee cherries, an Ethiopian farmer was surprised to witness his goats dancing in a joyous circle. Reasoning that the coffee cherries caused this magic, and jealous of his goats’ enthusiasm, he collected a few of the cherries and set out to cook his nightly dinner over the fire. He did not like how they tasted and threw them into the fire. Once they began to roast on the fire, he became entranced by their amazing aroma, ate them, and voila! This farmer had discovered the antidote to all hopelessness and gloom!

Believe it or not, coffee is the second most traded commodity on the planet Earth! It’s also beyond beyond good

Today, there is a new and ever growing coffee bonanza known as Third Wave Coffee. You’ve probably heard “the buzz” about manual brewing, pour overs, single-origin, and the like in your city. If this swarm of new terminology frightens you, please, do not fear the bees.  The the buzz is real, and the buzz is good, and the honey is delicious. Getting involved can seem overwhelming, but it’s not. It’s the best decision you will ever make.

But where to begin?

For starters, find your local Third Wave Coffee shop. Forget disgusting epithets like Starbucks, Peet’s, or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. These have forever become invisible to you. I recommend you find a shop in your town that is a multi-roaster, meaning they carry a variety of beans roasted all over the world. Shops that roast their own are good, too, but to become initiated to the wider world of coffee, seek out a multi-roaster, and open your mind to learning. 

There are many, many wonderful roasters out there. Look for shops that brew manually (via pour over, Aeropress, or if they are brewing batch, ask them if it’s a Fetco: you’ll look super engaged). Seek out light roasts, classic dark roasts violently destroy flavor complexity, and avoid the hellish “French Roast” at all costs from now on. It’s not French, it’s bad. If you find a shop that carries any of the following roasters, you’re already well on your way: Heart, Coava, 49th Parallel, Ruby, Roseline, Verve, Parlor, Tim Wendleboe, or Ceremony.

An extremely brief list of shops that I heartily endorse are:

G&B and Go Get ‘Em Tiger, Los Angeles, CA

Verve, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, CA

Bear Coast, San Clemente, CA

St. Frank’s, San Francisco, CA

Slate, Seattle, CA

Houndstooth Coffee, Austin, TX

Ceremony, Annapolis & Baltimore, MD

Budin, New York, NY

Slipstream, Washington D.C.

Elixir Coffee, Philadelphia, PA

ReAnimator, Philadelphia, PA

Ok. That gives you an idea. It is one of life’s great tragedies that there are too many shops for one brief life. What next?

Ask Questions!

Most baristas working at elite coffee shops are cheery folk, happy to be brewing life-affirming cups of this wonderful elixir to weary travelers. They will likely be thrilled if you ask them about their beans, how they brew, or what they recommend to drink. Trust me, their eyes will light up! Listen to what they say because they have developed an extremely special and secret knowledge that is very difficult to obtain for the common citizen. These are your new sages. Treat them with respect.

Listen to what these masters say about tasting notes. If a bag of beans, a barista, or a menu claims that certain beans contain aromas of delicate lavender, hints of key lime, or a dark chocolate toffee finish, find it in the flavor. Allow the coffee to cool, and notice how the flavors change. Often you will be surprised how delicious coffee becomes at temperatures as low as 130 degrees, or even cooler, let alone the refreshing chocolate bomb of a supreme cold brew. Sip with vigor and joy. Try many different beans from all over the world. Discuss with a friend, or with the barista, and allow the slow build of caffeine’s euphoria to enhance your tasting mechanism. Relax and enjoy. You’re on your way to hope.

This is just the beginning. While a wonderful nearby coffee shop is an essential haven, soon you’ll be brewing for yourself, obsessively crafting recipes, buying new equipment, monitoring your grind size, and reassuring everybody that knows you that this is a perfectly healthy, life-affirming new hobby, not a life-consuming addiction from which you will never recover. 


Cover Image by Jodeci Zimmerman
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