Our Take On The Bitter Barista Fallout

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Thursday, February 7th, we published a feature on a barista in Seattle named Matt Watson. Mr. Watson is the author of a blog called Bitter Barista. At the time of publication he was an employee at All City Coffee, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle.

We’re champions of baristas – our three plus years worth of published content offer ample proof of this – but about a week ago a few folks brought this website to our attention, due to its unfortunate exploitation of the outdated snarky barista archetype.

Sprudge.com has a long, rich history of writing about those who write about coffee, from personal blogs to The New York Times, from Tumblrs to famous food writers. We felt that covering the Bitter Barista fit the established editorial purview of our website, so we decided to learn more.

As we prepared the feature, we asked ourselves two key questions:

1. “I wonder who this barista is.”

2. “I wonder where this barista works.”

In our original post we wrote that “we uncovered the answers”, but that was a bit of hyperbole. It took exactly one Google search to find Mr. Watson, who repeatedly mentioned his identity as the Bitter Barista under his personal Twitter account – he even listed it in his Twitter bio. For example, have a look at these two key Tweets, both posted on January 30th:

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The story was public, the blog was public, and Mr. Watson’s Twitter account was public. It was easy to find out who Mr. Watson was because Mr. Watson made no effort to be anonymous. He openly advertised his identity on Twitter, which makes it public information. We decided to report these readily available facts.

Sprudge writes about coffee news, and this particular bit of coffee news went viral after Mr. Watson was dismissed by All City Coffee. The feature was picked up first by Seattle CBS affiliate KIRO and has since gone on to be featured by several news sources, from Gawker to the Associated Press, the Seattle Times to Eater National.

You might think we’d be stoked about all of this, but we are, in fact, not stoked at all. We don’t take any gratification in seeing someone lose their job. There’s been some misconceptions as to our efforts to “get Matt fired”, but at no point throughout the whole rigamarole have we been in contact with the ownership, management, or suppliers of All City Coffee.

Rough days at work? Of course. Upsetting interactions? Absolutely. Need to vent sometimes? That’s universal. But rape jokes? References to violence and animal abuse? Endangering customers with food allergies and dietary restrictions? Not one word of this was presented as satire by Mr. Watson to his readers, customers, or employers until after our story was published. You can call vitriol ”satire” after the fact, but that doesn’t make it any less hateful.

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New BB disclaimer added after our feature.

We have no desire to police the internet or censor thought, although we do agree with our friends who felt that Matt Watson was attempting to exploit an outdated and frankly offensive stereotype for personal gain. We believe everyone has the right to say anything they want, so long as they understand they do not have freedom from consequences for doing so. You reap what you sow - you’re allowed to write what you want, and others are allowed to comment on it. If you want to dish it out, you’ve got to be able to take it.

This is, of course, a two-way street, and the last few days have made that abundantly clear to us. For more on the name-calling, personal attacks, and threats of violence we’ve received, please check out our post on “Some Of The Hate Mail We’ve Received Since Publishing Our Bitter Barista Story“.

Coffee is an industry driven in large part by baristas, from those working in the trenches to those who have risen through the ranks to form their own companies, source beautiful coffees, build remarkable espresso machines, consult, teach, inform, guide, and advocate for what great coffee is and what great coffee can be. We’re lucky to know and work with many baristas, and we’ll continue to advocate for them and their efforts in what we consider to be a special, valuable, vibrant, remarkable, and growing culture.

Comments

  1. says

    Sooooooo awesome submit, I like a few words a lot and may i quote a few of them
    on my weblog? I also have e-mailed you relating to could it become possible for
    us to exchange our links, wish speaking with you soon. Thanks a lot!

  2. says

    I had received a link or two in the past from a fellow coffee obsessive but they’d never lead to me checking Sprudge with much regularity. Since this controversy erupted, however, I’ve checked back often, and explored the rest of what Sprudge offers. Based on their initiation and then fallout-handling of Bittergate, as well as on the rest of their content… I’m a fan.

    I fully support Sprudge and appreciate their audacity and forthrightness. As a grown-up barista myself, I feel that they’ve got the interests of my industry at heart, and that the community they foster through their coverage is one that is worthy of respect.

    Thank you Zach/Jordon/Sinclair. You’ve won a fan, and I think it’s pretty clear to the more level-headed among us that you’ve got the moral high ground on this one. Steady as she goes!

  3. namePark Brannen says

    One with a Pekinese ass should be mindful of a Bulldog mouth.

    Real coffee people still love Sprudge, and we don’t need fake addresses to state this publicly.

    Big love, boys.

  4. says

    I applaud your transparency in addressing this situation and your critics. You’ve done a great job of managing this on your site, in public social networking forums, and directly when appropriate.

    ~Marcus

  5. says

    Seems to me that Spooge.com is inserting ringers as commentators. It’s really sad when that happens. Just so that there is somebody on their side.

    It ceases to amaze me that this IRRELEVANT website and this Llewellyn Sinclair character does not have to guts to APOLOGIZE and show some type of remorse. But instead it just continues to move forward as though it was not their fault. They state that it was not their intention to “out” this person but yet expended time and effort i.e. writing a story about the bitter barista, to go after this guy like a ferious pit bull in a dog fight.

    Perhaps, it’s time that everybody boycotted their advertisers and let them know directly how pathetic Spooge.com really is!

    • T-Baggus Maximus says

      I FOUND IT!

      “Llewellyn Sinclair, the musical director of O! Streetcar!. His sister, Ms. Sinclair, runs the Ayn Rand School for Tots.”

      I couldn’t find that school online but I’m going to keep looking.

      • says

        The Ayn Rand School for Tots is a daycare center that Maggie Simpson was sent to while Marge was rehearsing for a play. Come on Maximus, do I really have to do your homework for you?

  6. says

    I think everyone should settle down. Let Bitter Barrista speak for himself.
    I believe that Sprudge has shared their opinion, has remained transperant on their beliefs as well as the beliefs of their haters, and have withstood with an incredible amount of integrity amid hateful comments.
    By slandering Sprudge.com you are not proving your point, if it is in fact alluding to them doing something dishonerable.

    Please keep in mind that our industry is hospitality. The reason our passion and insight have caught peoples attention is because of our ability to serve people.

  7. says

    You play with matches, you get burned.

    If you are dumb enough to post Twitter and blog updates in the middle of your shift, while talking shit about the people supporting your bosses and your wages, you should probably expect some consequences. It would be one thing if he was posting about something unrelated, but all the posts show is blatant disdain for his job as a barista and the people he served coffee to.

    It sucks to see someone lose their job, but I think All City Coffee had every right to fire him. I cannot think of many places that would not do the same. Just read the posts. If you were a business owner and had an employee posting that shit would you want them around.

    Sprudge didn’t do anything wrong by reporting who he really was. Someone who is posting such inflammatory stuff should expect a reaction, and should also expect to be called out on the negative stereotype they are perpetuating. I think in the years Sprudge has been around they have shown their true colors as a resource for great coffee information, about current industry trends and what has come in the past. I have been in the coffee industry for over 10 years and cannot think of another place I go to or have gone for better coffee writing about what is going on in our industry.

    If this story is what brought you to Sprudge for the first time take about 5 minutes to read the rest of the articles on here and you will find that not only does Sprudge champion the barista, they champion pretty much everyone from producer to roaster to machine manufacturer.

  8. says

    WOW! AWESOME JOB BY LITERAL EARTHMOVERS!!! DRINK COFFEE, REVIEW IT, AND MAKE TRILLIONS!! LOLOLOLOLCOFFEE IS LITERALLY RELEVANT TO MY LIFE! I LITERALLY THINK THAT COFFEE IS LITERALLY RELEVANT TO ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH WAIT MY OPINION IS LITERALLY IMPORTANT TO EVERYONE!!!……………………………………….

  9. says

    I agree with Bobk:

    “You stepped over the line and you lie. Your one intention was to get him fired since he was getting popular. You were probably one of the few abusive patrons that found yourself reading all about your actions, assumed it was you being implicated and lashed out in guilty anger because you are ashamed of yourself.”

  10. says

    Sprudge.com is a huge disappointment! I used t read the “articles” and smile. Now I realize that there is nothing worth reading here. Publicly outing Mr. Watson was dirty pool, Old Man! Shame!

  11. says

    First you say:
    We’re champions of baristas – our three plus years worth of published content offer ample proof of this
    Then you say:
    Sprudge.com has a long, rich history of writing about those who write about coffee,
    3 years is not a long history, and a rich history? that is satire yes?
    If you want to write about coffee writers then do it
    If you want to write about coffee then write about coffee.
    This guy was not a coffee writer and never said who he was in the blog and people enjoyed reading it. You cannot handle it that a guy who dealt with people and a lot of unhappy people as well as happy people and made jokes out of it so others could see what happens in the real world of customer service. Obviously he enjoyed being in a customer service industry both serving coffee to customers and customer service in writing a humorous take of that job. but you cannot read either and you have no sense of humor. I bet you pay more than 100 bucks to see a stand up comedian that insults you and everyone in the room and you judge this guy? you are just another self described better than everyone wanna be expert of nothing that matters hypocrite
    Then You call yourselves editorial reviewers?
    You stepped over the line and you lie. Your one intention was to get him fired since he was getting popular. You were probably one of the few abusive patrons that found yourself reading all about your actions, assumed it was you being implicated and lashed out in guilty anger because you are ashamed of yourself.
    How is that for some real reviewing of a coffee writers written review of a written writer’s writing review, written and reviewed by a non bitter writer with this written review?
    Isn’t sprudge that goo that comes off the pipe cleaner when you clean a coffee makers drip hole for the water that drips into the coffee loaded in a filter basket?
    Bobk

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