TIME To Hire Some New Writers: Bemoaning The Mains...

TIME To Hire Some New Writers: Bemoaning The Mainstream Media

James Beard Award-winning food writer and Time Magazine paycheck autographer Josh Ozersky offers his summation of specialty coffee over at

Here’s some excerpts:

In cities across America, a fervid generation of caffeine evangelists are changing the way we drink coffee. They tend to be male, heavily bearded, zealous and meticulous in what they do. And the coffee they produce is as much an improvement over Starbucks and its rivals as Starbucks was over Taster’s Choice

Try this kind of coffee, and soon. Even if, like me, you’re a brute who puts evaporated milk and Sweet’n Low into it, you’ll find that your days will start better drinking coffee of this caliber, and not just because of the caffeine. Who knows? You may even feel like growing a beard and opening a roasting plant of your own.

It seems that every attempt the mainstream media makes at covering Specialty Coffee is deeply, fundamentally flawed. Hiring someone to write this story who drowns their beverage in Sweet’n Low is akin to featuring a food writer who douses his foie gras in Heinz ketchup. Neither of us are sure where to start with the blatant misogyny and gender stereotypes. Dollars to donuts there are misquotes and out-of-context moments in this article that would put NPR to shame. And while we’re loath to sound overly snarky (believe it!), we thought we could expect more from others who write about coffee professionally, who, despite our mockery, we’re quite sure have the tools and knowledge to know better.

That said, comparing Stumptown to Starbucks is actually worth thinking about. People who read this site or who are responding to the Time story on twitter are interpreting the comparison as a diss; Macro inverted into Micro through some kind of fast-and-loose looking glass, by someone who, admittedly, chemically alters his coffee before tasting it.

But here’s another way to think about it; take a step back for a second and think about who is actually reading all 3.5 million copies of Time Magazine in weekly circulation. To a lot of people, “Starbucks” is shorthand for “premium coffee”; and Mr. Ozersky is right when he says that Starbucks, more so than anyone else, is responsible for advancing the national palate from beyond the depths of the flavor crystal and Juan Valdez’s donkey. What’s troubling is presenting Stumptown as the next step in that binary. Starbucks was, and is, and always has been about global growth, expansion, and market share domination. Stumptown has different aims, to say the least. It’s an expression of a very different culture, a very different cup, and Mr. Ozersky’s article is obtuse in its comparison.

Does TIME really mean to imply that Stumptown is the new mega-dominant-take-over-the-world-30oz-frappuccino 10 ton gorilla in the middle America airport lounge coffee game? It kind of reads that way. Is Stumptown the new shorthand for “premium”? Or are what they doing still so careful, cared for, micro and local as to make this assertion laughable?


  1. Sam penix

    11 March

    I’m not bearded or zealous! NYC will and does accept a businesses both large and small. I would hope to continue to see lots of small shops owned by people with different personalities. Not split personalities, but having the strength to stand firm on quality and maintain their own identity. I of course would love to have another Everyman Espresso. Do I believe I can have several and still maintain a humbleness that allows that location to take on it’s own personality? YES! How…don’t micro manage. Allow your staff to take pride in were they work and allow them to be involved. So many owners overlook the talent that is right under their nose.

    Also if you don’t meet the needs of the community… you’re done. Listen to your customers. A lot of them have really great ideas. Some have really shitty ideas, but we love them anyway because they drink great coffee and they’re cute!

    I am tired, but patient. I am tired of seeing a disrespect of the craft in large publications. I do feel that The NY Times is going in the right direction by casting Oliver Strand as their coffee guy. He loves coffee and seems to be gaining a firm grasp of our culture. That is exciting! Take a HINT Time Mag.


  2. smoovebcoffee

    9 March

    To answer the question that no-one but TIME is asking, yes, Stumptown is the next Starbucks, but not in the way that TIME’s “writer” explains it. I’m of the belief that Starbucks, McDonalds, and similar chains (while they currently exist and are large) could not start with one store in the year 2010 and expect to grow to 16,000 or 30,000 stores respectively during the course of the next 20 years. The growth of a founded-in-2010 Starbucks or McDonalds (assuming that current consumers would even buy into their products enough for them to grow at all) would look very similar to the path that Stumptown is taking- regional roasting, training, and cafe/wholesale operations that not only offer on-trend food and beverage that today’s consumers want, but that further try to tightly integrate themselves into the fabric of the communities they serve. The far-away-mothership model is quickly becoming extinct to the extent that Starbucks is willing to break their own business model in order to try out something closer to the Stumptown/Intelly model (see 15th Ave and Roy St Coffee & Tea). For further evidence, witness the rebuff (at least by some consumers and media sources) that even widely-lauded Stumptown received (or continues to receive) as it enters New York. If today’s NYC rejects Stumptown, who will they accept? Coincidentally, this highlights an even newer tactic- buying existing regional players and using their brand to establish profit centers in markets that might rebuff “non-local” roasters.

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