From craft beer's IPA fetishism to many restaurants' abuse of the term farm-to-table, every industry has its tired trends. Coffee is no different. While normal cream-and-sugar types might hate coffee shop pretension, it's even more annoying to industry insiders, especially when they're constantly being forced to apologize for that barista in a bow tie.
What else about the current state of our coffee culture gets these geeks riled up? We asked some friends to find out.
"Whether people just have Sith-like needs to feel 3 million milligrams of caffeine rushing through their veins or they're just in love with the idea of being free from sleep, the idolization of caffeine needs to calm down. If your idea of a coffeehouse beverage is a quadruple black eye sprinkled with the blood of innocents, then you might need to evaluate some of your life choices. Coffee was not meant to be guzzled and snorted. Drink it because you like the flavor." -- Bill Walsh, Pure Coffee Blog
Labeling abuse because there's no industry standard
"One big issue is the misuse of 'direct trade' to the point that it's basically meaningless to consumers. At one point in the mid-2000s there seemed to be a standard (set by the likes of Intelligentsia and Counter Culture and Stumptown), but now there are coffees marketed as direct trade where the roaster may not have ever even met the farm owner. For the most comprehensive list of criteria, visit Intelligentsia's website. -- Jared Linzmeier, owner of Ruby Coffee Roasters
Hating on milk
"As coffee roasters, we taste our coffee all the time in a constant pursuit of that perfect roast. Do we drink it black? Of course! Even still, we wish there wasn't such a stigma about adding milk to specialty coffee. Can you taste the perfectly nuanced floral and jasmine notes washing over your tongue when you add milk? Probably not, but who are we to say it doesn't still taste great. Stop being such a downer! Take a deep breath, slowly breathe out, and pass the milk." -- Jeremy Mason, Craft & Mason Roasting Co.
"Specialty" coffee being sold by faceless chains
"For so long coffee was dominated by faceless companies buying through commodity markets. Growers lost out in terms of price and the consumers in terms of quality. Specialty coffee brought a movement of sourcing the best coffee possible, and often going to source to get it. And not in the 'Indiana Jones traipsing around the globe saving the poor growers' sense that you might see on TV, but often in a real sense of mom-and-pop roasters buying from mom-and-pop farmers. When small businesses across the globe can communicate directly and do business together in a transparent format, that is pretty powerful, and it can often lead to some pretty tasty coffee. With larger companies 'going specialty' through acquisitions and marketing campaigns, the pendulum seems to be swinging in the other direction." -- Joel Shuler, Casa Brasil Coffees and Little City Coffee
Coffee served with irony and ego
"The trend that irks me the most is asshole baristas. Just because someone orders a caramel macchiato doesn't mean they're unworthy to set foot in your shop. People often come to a coffee shop when they're vulnerable. They just rolled out of bed, they're on a first date, or they're cramming for a final. A good barista helps a customer pick a drink they'll think is delicious and they're nice about how they do it." -- Roman Leal, Evocation Coffee
"As a brewer of cold coffee for many brands, I get to meet a lot of roasters and visit a lot of shops. The most memorable ones are those which serve up happiness and joy. I would rather be served a satisfactory cup of authenticity rather than a perfect cup of irony! Coffee, like any plant medicine, absorbs the intentions of the handlers, the best-tasting coffees come with the least amount of ego. I find it annoying that so many newer roasters behave as if they invented the art itself. Not to come off as curmudgeon, but I believe that much can be gained by approaching the coffee arts with a greater sense of humility... and a few less handlebar mustaches!” -- John Goerke, founder of Bona Fide Craft Draft Brewing Co.
Hiding low-quality coffee with latte art
"We all know this place. The cafe sent their baristas to barista camp. They learned all about good techniques on tamping, ratios, and extraction. They even all placed in their local latte art competition. But when it came time to choose the coffee beans, the cafe went with the roaster that gave them the most free equipment and now this coffeehouse pumps out the prettiest cups of underwhelming coffee in the city." -- Bill Walsh, Pure Coffee Blog
"Many state that by roasting lighter, you're able to maintain the 'origin' notes of a coffee, but what does this mean exactly? Will I be able to taste the volcanic Guatemalan soil, or a hint of 'banana' from the banana tree that provided shade in my cup? No, the truth is that any underdeveloped fruit, whether it be an apple or coffee, regardless of origin, will contain significant concentrations of citric, malic, and chlorogenic acid which will create a very sour and astringent cup. Most people would never eat an unripened apple, why do we expect consumers to drink 'unripened' brewed coffee?" -- Joseph Rivera, founder of Coffee Chemistry
Bad coffee in good restaurants
"Why do the best restaurants think it's OK to meticulously curate an entire experience from atmosphere to food to dishware and cutlery, then feel like it's OK to serve not even mediocre coffee, but absolutely terrible coffee at the end of a meal? I'm looking at you, Michelin star winners." -- Lance Schnorenberg, roaster at Lofted Coffee
Relying on branding over personal preference
"If you are looking for good coffee, you should pay attention to its sensorial features, not the brand name. A fancy package, a modern design, a trendy brewing method, a sales speech, these won't guarantee a really good coffee. Trust in your own tastes, not in marketing." -- Kelly Stein, Brazilian contributor at STiR Tea and Coffee
Shaming the customer
"There's nothing wrong with a barista suggesting a coffee that a customer might like, especially if she asks for guidance. But let's make 2016 the year we stop telling them how they should or shouldn't enjoy it. Let them use milk and sugar if they want to, for fuck's sake. And think of a hazelnut latte order as an opportunity to make that customer the best damn hazelnut latte he's ever had, rather than school him on why he'd do better with a pour-over, or dismiss him altogether with a dramatic eye roll." -- Sarah Allen, editor of Barista Magazine
Coffee shops "educating" their customers
"When I give my team a speech, it goes something like this: the people that walk into our coffee shop don’t want to be educated, they want to be served. The people who sign up for training or tours, want to be educated. Know the difference. Don’t focus on how much you can impress them with your knowledge of coffee, focus on providing them the experience they expect and deserve." -- Mike McKim, owner of Cuvée Coffee
"Adding butter to coffee? Thanks, but I finish fine French food in butter, but not a gorgeous Kenyan cup." -- Ryan Hall, co-owner of Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors
"Small batch, old-timey aprons, old-timey facial hair, the almond milk craze, vinyl music only, taxidermy in coffeehouses, 'organic,' 'passive organic,' quotation marks and hyphens, artisanally hand-hewn-but-now-digital graphics, local custom ceramics, single origin, single farms, single baristas, snotty customer service, good customer service, no Wi-Fi, lighter-than-thou roasting, more indie than thou, selling out, kraft-paper coffee bags, DIY anything coffee, bottled brew, cold brew, hot brew, 'extraction yield,' pour-over coffee, craft affogatos, scoffing at prices, charging too much, smiling and saying thank you, taking coffee (and yourself) too seriously." -- Jeremy Tooker, Four Barrel Coffee