Still keeping your coffee in the freezer? Tut, tut

Breaking news, people. That coffee you’ve been storing in your freezer is really what’s wrong with society today. According to Coffee Common, a coalition of coffee roasters and farmers, based out of the US:

Once more consumers understand that coffee shouldn’t be stored in their freezer like a bag of corn; it opens up the conversation to everything else. This understanding will create curiosity about the origin, the farm, and why a coffee from Ethiopia tastes different than a coffee from Colombia. When roasted properly, the terroir of specific regions and even farms are accentuated instead of being masked by the carbon taste of over-roasted beans. This also leads to a sweeter drink with less bitterness that doesn’t require cream and sugar.

My own theory? It’s this kind of obnoxious speak that keeps people lining up at Tim Hortons. No one wants to be told that they’re idiots who can’t tell their coffee from their corn, or that if they only understood that, they’d see the light and learn to appreciate their java au naturel, like it was meant to be. Raise your hand if you like being scolded.

My other theory? Most people don’t want to have a conversation about their coffee, and they’re not curious about it either. They want to get their java fix and get back to what they were doing before, and be slightly more awake while doing it. At most, they want to tear up over a Tim Hortons ad about immigrants, or enjoy a brief moment of smarmy self-satisfaction for either possessing the elevated tastebuds to reject Tim Hortons or for being smart enough not to fall prey to the hoity-toity snobs at Starbucks. Whatever line we end up in, we’re probably patting ourselves on the back for it. Very little of the coffee-drinking public is not standing in one of those lines.

Map of Tim Hortons in Toronto

The corner near my office. Red dots are Tim Hortons; blue dots are everyone else. Guess who’s busy ALL THE TIME?

The Coffee Common approach infuriates me not because I’m a Tim Hortons customer, but precisely because I’m not. I like espresso, so I often end up at the Starbucks in my building, but I prefer an indie cafe to either Timmy’s or Starbucks any day. Largely for the exact reasons that groups like our own Toronto Coffee Conspiracy or the Coffee Common advocate. But the myopic thinking that tends to go hand-in-hand with it is off-putting—the implicit assumption at work here is that we are all equally concerned with what’s in our morning joe and that people are choosing their cheap/tasteless/low-brow fix because they don’t know better.

Just like it’s easy and lazy to use Tim Hortons as a stand-in for all manner of social dichotomies (so predictable, yet endlessly compelling), it’s equally lazy to assume that people make choices because they just don’t know better.

Consider that there are people out there who don’t have the time or the inclination to worry about the terroir of their coffee. They want the cheaper coffee, whether that’s right or wrong, because that’s what they can afford. Or because they don’t notice or care about the taste difference. They might even like the Tim Hortons better. Or they don’t buy the hype about fair trade. Or they’re worried about their jobs, or they’re trying to save money like their parents taught them.

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2 Comments

  1. Nav on April 10, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Not much of a comment, but… agreed!

    Lately, I’ve become intrigued by the ways good ideas seem to get hijacked by the fact that they’re expressed in contrarian, condescending terms that always assume there’s something wrong with another person if they don’t agree with some ‘obviously true’ idea. It’s frustrating.

    Anyway, great blog. I don’t always have time to read every post, but I definitely try to get in as many as I can.



    • Lea Zeltserman on April 12, 2011 at 8:55 am

      Hey Nav, thanks for the kinds words about my ramblings 🙂

      I’ve been having somewhat similar thoughts – like we’re on an endless train of “good ideas run amok.” A tyranny of good ideas.

      I also wonder how the internet factors into that – the accessibility of, well, everything (ie. we’re all expected to aspire to certain levels of fashion, decor, etc, that formerly were clearly only accessible to the very rich), as well as the ease with which we can now judge people for the most minute (and mundane) choices, like their coffee.