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