Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Lately it seems the opinions of individuals with a rather cantankerous disposition to speciality coffee in the US have been gaining prominent positions in well read “online magazines”. I thought this trend had waned, but yesterday a new article on Salon.com emerged, bringing this class of comment once more to the fore.
It isn’t that these people hold these opinions that is unusual, many many people hold similar opinions, rather the issue seems to be that these apparently reputable (I use the term loosely) publications seem so eager to give voice to these opinions, that they seem so eager to throw barbs at the speciality coffee community.
What the are you doing to piss off all these publications?
Would anyone care if Todd Carmichael was ranting off on his own personal blog, or if Giorgio Milos was being patronising on some coffee forum? The opinions expressed are not unusual. Many many people hold those same opinions. It is beyond tedious to try to rebuke these criticisms, because they have already been discussed ad infinatum – 5 or more years ago. We may as well go back now and debate whether we should give women the vote.
The key difference here is, Esquire.com, Salon.com and The Atlantic Monthly are read by an ass load of people (well, I’m not sure about the last one – I’m assuming). They are forums that I’m sure a lot of truly knowledgeable, leading light kind of coffee people, of which the US has no shortage, would be all too happy to have available to them.
According to his mini bio on the Atlantic monthly Giorgio Milos “is traveling the US through 2010, hosting illy Master Barista Series events at leading cafes and gourmet retailers”. In other words he’s spending 2010 selling illy in the US. So his articles on The Atlantic amount to little more than advertorial content. One of the ways he is selling, or at least trying to sell more illy. Would you expect him to go around praising the competition?
Similarly Todd Carmichael, develops a brand identity for himself as the anathema of the stereotypical hipster douchebag barista culture. He has much to gain. His company website is linked at the bottom of every post. You can’t buy that kind of advertising. When the speciality community got up in arms about it, it only created a hit frenzy on the Esquire site, cementing, for now at least, Todd’s position as someone who can draw hits. [notice no links in here]
I guess he also fits into Esquire’s editorial style. Loud machismo with no substance.
Are these types of magazines usually so eager to give voice to thinly veiled advertisements? Typically they require to be paid for such content. My only other conclusions can be (a) they don’t like you or (b) they get a sufficient plethora of hits from the article to justify it (hits which the speciality coffee community have provided in the ensuing discussions). Perhaps a combination of both.
Which brings me back to my earlier questions – what are you doing to piss off all these publications?
Perhaps the lesson to learn from this, is not about balance of taste, as Mark Prince suggested, not about the merits and evolution of tradition as James Hoffmann suggested, rather about perception. A negative perception seems to exist in some quarters (in the US) towards “speciality coffee”, towards those emerging trends, and evolutions in which we would hold great pride. I don’t know why this is the case, but I think it is a fair conclusion.
This antipathy is giving large forums to otherwise pretty anonymous individuals to garner personal gain from casting aspersions at the community.
In turn we have fanned the flames with over the top reactions to frankly, hackneyed, tired, boring criticisms.