We've all had it happen to us. At least once, maybe more. It hurts. It's embarrassing. It touches a part of your humanity that is almost too dark to talk about. It's one of the worst things to have come out of Pandora's box. You know what I'm talking about: The Barista Shun.
You walk into a dimly lit coffee shop only to be grunted at by the barista huddled over his pour-over line. As you get to the counter you try to understand the very short list of Italian words that, in your mind, all roughly translate to 'coffee.' When asked, "What's up?" you hastily respond with the first most Italian sounding drink you can remember ordering: a caramel macchiatto. You get your eyes rolled at you and a sassy, "We don't do that." That's the feeling. That moment of feeling ostracized by some community you have no avenue of interaction with. Defensiveness immediately springs up and, regardless of how good the milk is steamed or how perfectly weighed out every step is, you're going to leave dissatisfied.
This is sadly commonplace in specialty coffee shops all over the country. Even as an involved member of the coffee community, I constantly feel simply being on the other side of the counter is offensive. I am the grand antagonist in his pursuit of a perfect understanding of a particular flavor note. It's one of those every day things that just needs to change, why put up with it? I understand exclusivity and all, but my money is as good as yours, and I want in on whatever gold opportunity all you mustache toters are hoarding.
So, as a suggestion to my fellow baristas and coffee aficionados, next time you hear someone say, "eXpresso," (because it's X-treme!) don't immediately cross your arms and chuckle inwardly, because literally nothing else induces such intense plug-ripping rage. Reach out to these people, let them in on it. While it's fun to talk about how lame you used to be when you drank mainstream coffee, imagine being able to discuss the complexities of one of your life's mainstays with almost anyone! Imagine never getting lectured again about how dumb it is that is that you can't just ice their cappuccino. Imagine the flavor profiles and combinations that could be developed if more people from different walks of life got to have a voice. There will always be those that just don't get it, but they would make themselves known quickly by being the only people with piles of whipped cream on their drinks.
So, if third wave coffee is the current specialty coffee, maybe it's time to take it to fourth wave; approachable specialty coffee. We've been experimenting with something here at N7. Most shops have a couple of flavors for their lattes, most often, mocha, vanilla, or caramel. But we've been developing seasonal drinks that combine really high quality ingredients with very specifically profiled coffee to see if we can't elicit a new reaction from the most seasoned coffee sipper. Lavender, ginger, beets, cranberries; whatever seasonal item fits with the mood. Coffee being pared with these extra items takes it to the next level, without ever compromising on the quality or integrity of the coffee itself. So many people who would normally never touch something that wasn't blended, will get out of their comfort zone if a barista who was genuinely excited about sharing this world with them introduced them gently with something relatable. Like a cup of lavender infused vanilla latte, or a machiatto with a lemon zested above it.
Think about it. Its exciting, I swear. Better yet, try introducing someone you're pretty sure would gag on their doppio to something they might enjoy. Add a little more vanilla syrup to their iced latte, and see if they ease into it. We all know it's significantly better than what is available otherwise, let's make that the standard instead.