First off, I love Anthony Bourdain. I watched his Travel Channel show as a child and thought he was just the most clever ex-anti-celebrity chef. Traveling the world, hanging out with cool people, what a nice human. He’s since softened up a bit, with his nice new show on CNN that I don’t really watch that often. Except the one in Iran, that was good.
Anyway, in an interview recently, when asked about his coffee situation, he said:
There are few things I care about less than coffee. I have two big cups every morning: light and sweet, preferably in cardboard cup. Any bodega will do. I don’t want to wait for my coffee. I don’t want some man-bun, Mumford and Son motherf*cker to get it for me. I like good coffee but I don’t want to wait for it, and I don’t want it with the cast of Friends. It’s a beverage; it’s not a lifestyle.
Coffee people went nuts. Some wished him dead! Daggers were thrown at poor Tony, and like, so what? He doesn’t really care about coffee too much.
First of all, that’s totally fine. I don’t really care about beer. People LOVE beer. People make their lives and livelihoods about beer. That’s totally cool, and I hear that, but sometimes when I think of beer I think of negative stereotypes around beer snobs that make me feel a certain way. I don’t really vibe on that. Beer makes me feel bloated. Sometimes I’ll drink it, usually a Tecate. With a lime. What, now I’m a bad person?
Second, he’s off-put by the man-bun, Mumford and Sons baristas that are out there. That is totally legit. He’s inflammatory, and he’s generalizing with the man buns and the bad music, but you know exactly what he’s talking about. Bus tub is over there, actually, you *shouldn’t* put milk in that, uhm, we don’t even serve syrups. The jerks who gave third wave coffee a bad name in the oughts and teens, the jerks we’re still figuring out how to un-jerk-ify, the over-sharers, the wide-eyed culties, the “hold on I just need to flip this record” person who should be making lattes. People like this, who we made fun of in January 2012, and who are still very much a thing.
Third, coffee: it’s a lifestyle to many, many, many PEOPLE. I live and breathe my life in coffee, and coffee people are my people, and my family, and right now I have five bags of coffee on my counter that I will drink in their entirety, and I’ve even been blessed to visit some places where they grow and process delicious coffee. It’s definitely a lifestyle for me. But it’s not Tony’s lifestyle. To him—and for many others like him—coffee is just a caffeine delivery system. For Anthony Bourdain, he prefers it delivered by a nice person behind the counter at a corner bodega, maybe in one of those Greek cups. In New York, nothing is finer to me than a pershing and a bacon, egg, and cheese from the cart on 8th Ave and 14th. It’s served quick, it’s delicious, and it’s the perfect breakfast.
If you’re offended by Bourdain’s lack of caring about specialty coffee, you need to pay closer attention to what Bourdain and so many like him are actually saying. Bourdain drinks coffee! He just doesn’t want to wait for it, and he really doesn’t want to go to an on-trend cafe in order to obtain it. Is that cool? Can specialty coffee make its way into his hands without the man-buns? I think it can. I think it’s happening. Kalle Freese is making instant coffee that tastes delicious, Maxwell-Colonna Dashwood is making Nespresso capsule pods with Gesha. These smart folks are getting nice coffee into the mugs of people who may not have time for a pour-over.
Nice coffee should make its way to the diners, drive-ins and dives across the world. It shouldn’t have to cost too much, and it doesn’t have to be a whole cultural thing. Bodegas could up their coffee program a scootch, maybe sell some nice ready-to-drink coffees in the fridge. Tony doesn’t care about coffee, but coffee should care more about people like Tony, because they are the mass market, the wider public, the world outside the cult. Coffee hasn’t reached Tony because of a host of sins—cultural, musical, sartorial—but remember, people giving a shit about good coffee is still a relatively new phenomenon, and hey, as long as everybody’s here, let’s party!
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network.