Jason Diamond writing “Good Coffee Is Now Bad”:
But it’s all part of a larger problem, about how everybody thinks they’re a coffee snob now because supposedly “good” coffee is easily attainable. It’s the same with beer or wine and especially with cocktails. 15 years ago, most bars’ versions of “cocktails” were two-ingredient drinks, but then owners caught onto the “mixology” trend and saw a new way to charge more for drinks even if the quality or care wasn’t there. All of a sudden every other bar had “cocktails,” but the bartenders maybe didn’t know how to make them or they just didn’t have the same amount of time or space afforded at places that were owned and operated by disciples of Dale DeGroff or vets from Death and Co. But the price didn’t reflect that. It was still 13 or 14 bucks for a not-so-great Old Fashioned.
As someone who has found a local coffee roaster I like and enjoy, a place that seems to have a good ethos around coffee and serves me a tasty cup every time I am there, I cannot help but agree with this premise. There is money to be made in great coffee, which invites a crowd of entrepreneurs who know they can sell just “good coffee” to the masses by trimming costs and making it up on margins. The business model is not meant to inspire loyalty to a great craft, but rather emulate the vibes of the cool coffee shop where people will pay $5/cup more so for the experience and atmosphere than for the actual coffee in their cup.
I see the same with craft beer. Many new breweries over the last five years have had cookie-cutter menus: a pale ale, a stout, an IPA, something with fruit. When a brand new brewer makes such a wide spread of beers right off the bat, you can tell they’re not passionate about anything other than opening that brewery. They don’t have that one beer recipe which made friends say “hey you should open a place to sell this.” They simply grabbed some recipes for everything on Google, because when you cover the spread you appeal to the broadest customer base. The beer can be mediocre, but you’re not selling the beer. You’re selling the atmosphere of a local brewery. The people who live nearby could drive an extra 10 minutes to get to that place that really has passion in their recipes, but they’ll opt for your swill because it is closer by, or perhaps you’ve invested more in the mood lighting than the quality of the draft.
I suppose that is a shame.
A comment on that post from Tonx (founder of Yes Plz):
There’s more decent coffee in more places than ever before but arguably fewer places to have a really wow experience than 10-15 years ago.
A rising tide lifts all boats, even if some of them remain stuck in the mud? They’re a little bit better off than before, and on average the tide of good coffee has increased, so net-net do we all come out ahead?