To: Keith Pandolfi and SeriousEats.com
From: Max Nicholas-Fulmer and Royal Coffee, Inc.
RE: The Case For Bad Coffee, 10/29/15
There is a real and very relevant conversation which can be had about the merits of “high-end” coffee. The point of view espoused by Mr. Pandolfi, and echoed on blogs like Coffee Contrarian, that “fancy” coffee has become too precious for its own good, is one to be taken seriously. There is a real risk of alienating consumers by turning coffee into “something to be fussed over and praised” while asking them to wait 15 minutes for it to be prepared. If we are honest with ourselves, coffee people will admit that our beverage can be neither transcendent nor mindblowing, and the hyperbole dominating modern coffee marketing needs to be reined in, for everyone’s benefit. There is merit to the statement made on a recent Cat & Cloud Coffee Podcast that “the best cup of coffee in the world is the one you like the most.”
But let’s throw out taste preference entirely for a moment here, as the false dichotomy of “Third Wave vs. Old Skool” isn’t really what his article was about anyway. If Mr. Pandolfi honestly prefers the taste of commercial coffee to any other type, that is his prerogative. Likewise, his emotional attachment clearly comes from a deeply personal place and should not be laughed off as modern hipster retro-chic.
“There is nothing cool about Maxwell House” Mr. Pandolfi chirps, while failing extraordinarily to acknowledge what makes mass-produced, bottom-dollar coffee the most uncool of all: the fact that it represents a retrograde, race-to-the-bottom approach to agriculture and the people whose very lives depend on it. Commercial grade coffee exploits workers, uses massive chemical inputs and, increasingly, propegates genetically modified organisms with untold potential consequences. Nothing cool at all.
There is certainly no guarantee that an $18/12oz coffee bag or $5 nitro was sourced any more responsibly than grandma’s canned brand; just like the presence of Edison bulbs and FKA Twigs in the café doesn’t guarantee the coffee was roasted or brewed with any amount of skill. But there’s one thing that’s for certain, and which will continue to drive companies like mine which seek a better way of doing business: commercial coffee sucks, and not just because it tastes bad.