A Few Brief Thoughts on “Ninja Barista”
Sprudge.com often highlights video content with value, merit, or cultural cache. From ‘Notes, Notes, Notes’ to origin reports to a wide variety of well-made marketing films, we’ve been effusive with our praise for excellent coffee videos.
What follows in an exception to that rule. The “Ninja Barista” video series, available on Youtube or at the eponymous -.com, contains absolutely no value, merit, or cache, cultural or otherwise. His (the Ninja’s) insistence on “only extracting a double ristretto” or “only using clean equipment” could charitably be deemed a positive reinforcement of specialty coffee standards, but it seems more likely that Ninja Barista’s creator is merely working from a cursory script.
These videos have been intentionally developed for viral marketing purposes, and they support only their own desire for you to 1. purchase the Ninja Barista iPhone application*, and 2. “join me and like minded [sic] baristas” at ninjabarista.com, where there are forums for the discussion (!?) of Ninja Barista content. You should not do either of these things, for a variety of reasons, but most especially because your brain stem is precious, and your dollars are powerful, and your avocation of trends and fads carry weight. If bushwa intentional viral ur-marketing like Ninja Barista is successful, then the lowest common identity denominator for coffee is only going to get lower, and we’ll all be forced to contend with even more egregious “philosophies on being a barista” from the Ninja and his like- and capital-minded ilk.
*To be fair, the application also features a game, which we have not played and could very well be briefly fun, but is also likely offensive in all sorts of ways we’re not going to spend $.99 to find out, even if it makes us semi-lazy semi-journalists.
This second video we’re featuring, in which the Ninja Barista travels to Kenya, is the most offensive of the bunch. To wit: the jejune “Kenyan Coffee Plantation” signage; the portrayal of Kenyan coffee producers as loincloth clad Maasai warriors (as opposed to, say, highly educated co-op planners and organizers, with agronomy degrees up the wazoo – degrees that stand in stark contrast to whatever shitty University of Phoenix “Viral Marketing” coursework we’re willing to bet was the guiding light for these animations); Kenyan cultural customs do not call for a bow upon greeting (there are some obviously opprobious Orient / Occident concerns raised here – and by the Ninja himself, come to think of it); the Kenyan coffee producers in question clearly do not live in a coffee producing region, but rather a semi-arid savanna plain bearing no resemblance to Wagonga, where Fair Trade “Masai AA” [sic] is actually grown; the whole notion of pre-bagged (and roasted and labeled!) coffee emerging from a Maasai warrior’s hut is literally appalling and almost too stupid to comprehend; the fight scene is inexcusably lame; shuriken are not intended to boomerang after striking an object; and how, exactly, are we to believe that the Ninja Barista is enjoying fresh coffee on his (oarless?) boat trip home?
Not to mention the fact that sourcing “the best beans” is, we’re sure you’ll agree, immensely important and difficult stuff with ramifications throughout the global industry, and only rarely does it involve sword fighting, which, when it does occur, is probably much, much cooler than what’s presented here.
We could go on and on, and already kind of have, but to summarize the salient point of this article: Communities control what does or doesn’t measure as cultural currency, become popular, “go viral”. There’s no gatekeeper for that control: it is literally democratic. But surely democratization reflects value? “Notes, Notes, Notes” was popular and is oft-quoted and has become tattoo fodder because it was clever and cute, not merely because it was directed at “us”, right? If someone gets a Ninja Barista tattoo, well, we were really only guessing about the shuriken boomerang thing…