The Awl is an online culture magazine founded by former Gawker editors Choire Sicha and Alex Balk, and over the years they’ve published quite a bit of interesting and original commentary on coffee. It’s looking like that high quality streak will continue now that Matt Buchanan, a New York based tech & culture writer, is co-running the place.
Buchanan wrote about coffee occasionally, but with great zeal, during previous stints at The New Yorker and at Buzzfeed, and he’s also covered the topic for Eater. At The Awl Buchanan’s coffee output has been sparing so far, but he’s not shying away from using his newfound position to say some controversial (ish) things, as evidenced by a feature today entitled “The Rise Of Fake Good Coffee“, excerpted below (with added emphasis ours):
It’s true, as Oliver Strand writes, that the coffee scene has never been better in New York—or Los Angeles or San Francisco or Portland or basically anywhere—than it is right now. There’s more superb coffee and more of it: from Budin’s single storefront in Greenpoint serving exquisite Tim Wendelboe, which often tastes more of tea than coffee (for five dollars a cup because shipping from Norway is like, expensive man) to the roughly six hundred Joe locations dotting Manhattan.
Less discussed, however, is the concurrent rise of coffee shops that trade in the signs of “good coffee”* but in fact serve hot sewage. These cafes offer a small smorgasbord of beans from a variety of places around the world, perhaps with an intricately constructed origin story and a slightly overexposed, super-contrasty photo of the farmer who grew them tacked to a board on the wall; the coffee was roasted locally; they pour swirly latte art; they do pourovers; the baristas have tattoos or beards or both; a cappuccino costs four dollars. But the coffee tastes like dirt or weirdly vegetal because swan-neck kettles and artsy milk foam don’t actually make anything taste good. (But damn don’t they look good?) I’ll even name some names: Brooklyn Roasting Company and Roasting Plant and Konditori are terrible. Locally roasted? Sure! Well roasted? Nope!
The Awl isn’t above a good comments dogpile, and the one bubbling beneath Buchanan’s article is shaping up to be a must-read. So far Awl readers have vehemently disagreed with Buchanan’s decision to name names; placed Brooklyn Roasting Company’s filter coffee on the “dece to charred poop” spectrum; and thrown brands like 9th Street, Grumpy, Sweetleaf Williamsburg, and Blue Bottle under the same trundling bus.
Long live Matt Buchanan publishing whatever the fuck he wants on The Awl. Coffee needs more voices like this. Instead of endless layers of editing, we need editors who are coffee lovers in the first place. The Awl is an otherwise un-coffee-affiliated culture publication that is at or near the center of more than a few small worlds; the fact that they’re running worthwhile and largely accurate commentary, in response to a rather comprehensive encyclopedia of New York coffee zeitgeist that just ran in The New York Times, goes to show just how far quality coffee has come in the public consciousness in the last few years.
Modern quality coffee may still be in its awkward teenage years, but people are starting to take notice of the (mostly) nice young person it has become. Soon it won’t even be necessary for writers and editors like Buchanan to end their posts with disclaimers like the one on “The Rise Of Fake Good Coffee“: