Foodie Underground: How Sexy is that Espresso?

coffee cup

I have a love for coffee.

Admittedly, that love could verge on obsession, but that topic is for another day.

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last few years, you know that the coffee scene is big. Double tall frappucinos are out and Chemex pour over is in.

Why do people get so excited about coffee? Because it’s yet another area where quality and craft win. Good coffee isn’t just good coffee, it represents a craft, an art, and a love for a single ingredient. Don’t believe me? Look at how many chain coffee spots advertise how their coffee is either handcrafted or directly sourced. In Europe, Starbucks has just launched Origin Espresso, indicating a trend to coffee drinks with a bit more sophistication. If the public craves it, serving good coffee is good marketing.

And that’s exactly what it has become.

Just like mass food producers have embraced the word artisan in a sort of culinary green washing, coffee makers have done the same thing. You can now get quality espresso in the comfort of your own home without having to do more than press a button. And you don’t even have to go and buy the beans!

But no matter how much marketing you do, quality coffee simply can’t be garnered in a single-serve capsule.

This is convenience quality: the illusion that we get a good product, while at the same time cutting all ties with how it’s really made, and reducing the craft of the trade to something that can be accomplished by pushing an “on” button.

But if you think the power of marketing only touches the consumer, think again. More than 700 gourmet restaurants around the world serve Nespresso. In France, that makes for a quarter of gastronomic restaurants that are doling out single-serve. Restaurants that will rigorously source their cheese, their arugula and their fennel-infused salami. Restaurants that love their local, small-scale producers. Restaurants that have built a reputation because they have a respect for the food that they serve and how they make it. But come to the end of the meal, and they’re serving a coffee that has nothing to do with local, artisan or small-scale.

There are many things that factor into a restaurant menu, and it’s hard to pay attention to all of them. While a restaurant may have a sommelier, the chance that they have a high-end trained barista or in-house coffee roaster is small, but that doesn’t excuse them from being seduced by marketing. No matter how sexy the man with salt and pepper hair is, you should still be supporting your local roaster, pulling your own shots and serving a cup of coffee that honors the process and the craft as much as the plates on your menu. Oh, and did I mention that single-serve is bad for the environment?

Call it snobby, but a love for good coffee is a love for small-scale producers that are committed to mastering a craft. A craft where every cup counts. That’s a kind of lifestyle you can’t just buy yourself into. Because there are plenty of ways to brew coffee at home that are just as sexy. Here’s to a good French press.

This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.

Image: Anna Brones

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