Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On Snobbery

I'm a coffee snob.

Well, no.

Well - I mean, I am a coffee snob. Where I'm going with this, though, is that I'm a coffee shop snob. Which is weird, because I would buy a latte from a man off the street if I hadn't had caffeine before 11 AM.

Still, I have a tendency to change my order based on my opinion of the coffee shop I'm standing in. If the baristas behind the counter are harried, covered in spilled syrups, clearly having a bad day and there's a line halfway out the door I'm going to order coffee and steamed milk. I make roughly the same decision if the person behind the counter seems to understand as much about coffee as I do about football; I'm not going to order anything I'm especially particular about from someone who has no idea what I'm trying to say. It's like when there are football games my in-laws go to; they know I'm not going to have any idea what went on, so they don't try and tell me anything about yard lines or downs or whatever it is those men in tight pants are doing out there. They just tell me about the tailgate and how much fun they had and we're all good here.

There are certain Starbucks locations in Greenville that I know are good (or when I go to the Barnes & Noble on Haywood, where I used to work). In those places (especially when ordering from friends), I tend to preface my order now with "Okay, I'm about to be that person," and then I just go ahead and rattle off something insane.

Right now, several planets have aligned (pumpkin spice is out, I have a baby so I can't caffeinate myself to the same level, I'm burning excess calories like crazy so I can actually drink whole milk for once) and my order goes something like this -

"Hi, I need a grande half-caff pumpkin spice latte, half the pumps, please? Oh, and whole milk/soy milk (depending on the day)."

By the way, a whole-milk pumpkin spice latte is basically ordering hot ice cream, and I'm pretty sure it's considered hedonism. It honestly might be illegal. It probably should be, since it's basically a drug.

Also, I get that the internet is in the midst of a gigantic battle over whether to hate pumpkin spice or LOVE IT, but as far as I'm concerned order the coffee you love and joy will follow and who cares what the person behind you in line wants, as long as they're nice to their baristas?

If they're not nice to their baristas, try to step on their feet or maybe spill something on them if possible*.

They deserve it; those baristas work hard. Especially during the Christmas season.

So... there it is.

I'm that awful person in front of you in line with the hideously complicated drink order. You know, the person you're rolling your eyes at? (By the way I SEE YOU BACK THERE DOING THAT.) The fun part is when Jason is with me, because then the order goes something like this:

"Hi, I need a grande half-caff pumpkin spice, whole milk, no whip, half the pumps. Oh, and... a tall black coffee."

And everyone knows which drink goes to whom.

There are some coffee shops where I know being that person who orders the crazy complicated thing just mostly means I'll have to repeat it six different times to three different people, I'll only get about two-thirds of my order correct and there's a distinct possibility everyone in the entire store has simultaneously decided to burn me in effigy.

At those places, I just order coffee.

Because I want to live.

Granted, there are some independent places in town that I love, where the baristas are on top of it. Coffee Underground, for one, being my favorite place to get coffee in Greenville. (They serve an awesome brunch, too). 

I never really considered it snobbery until yesterday when Jason and I ran to Target with Audra to snag a mirror so I can see her little face when I'm driving. I had this particular thing I wanted in mind; a half-coffee, half-steamed milk thing with a little syrup but not too much, maybe soy milk... when I caught myself taking a look at the blank-faced barista (and the other employee who stood silently staring at us, who let us know 'someone' would be over to take my order but then went back to standing idly, just... staring at us... and who never actually moved during the entire process).

When the barista did make it over to take my order, I simplified.

I just got a latte.

And I loved that latte, but that's not the point.

I realized that having worked as a barista has turned me into an insufferable coffee shop snob, the kind of person who watches them wipe the steam wands down (and would notice if they didn't), who wants to customize their drink order until it takes longer to order it than it does for them to make it. The kind of person who changes her order based on where she is and if she thinks it will come out right.

 I wish I could tell you that I'm ashamed of myself.

I probably should be ashamed of myself.

Is there a support group for coffee snobs?

* if you actually take this advice, I will not be held legally responsible for the fistfight you get into in the Starbucks seating area, so don't point your fingers at me folks. Try to videotape it, though, because I think we all know that's gonna go viral.


  1. Well thank goodness.
    Most self-proclaimed coffee snobs seem to be pretty anti-coffee-with-extra-stuff. And considering I actually don't like coffee taste at all (despite it smelling so damn good) my orders are more extra-stuff than they are coffee. Long live the PSL!

    1. I LOVE coffee-with-extra-stuff. I like regular coffee too, and can tell you all about good coffee and roasting techniques vs. bad coffee and bad roasting... but I also like me a PSL. And I get very, very tired of the PSL-bashing. I think it's just popular now to dislike it, haha.

  2. I like your kind of coffee snobbery, especially since it doesn't seem to involve berating anyone else. I'm a long-order person too, but I tip really well. So I hope it evens out.

    1. Yeah, that's how I see it. If I'm going to create more work for a barista/food service person, I'm going to tip in accordance with that. So really I've never seen a barista get actually mad at me, just some that have been frustrated when things are already crazy. At which point I'm likely to change my order to something easy and tip 'em anyway.

  3. If there isn't a support group out there, I'll help you start one. Though I tend to dump butt loads of coconut milk and truvia into my coffee, I still know the difference between good stuff and bad stuff, I swear. If you for some reason ever find yourself up here in Michigan, you must visit Zingerman's Coffee Company. They have a giant grid on the wall up behind the counter with each staff member's brief description of each of their roasts made via various processes (French press, Chemex, pourover, etc).


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