“Shut Up and Drink Your Coffee”

Tony Konecny didn’t ask for it, but I’m rushing to his defense.

A couple weeks ago, the Tonx Coffee co-founder took to his company’s blog and wrote “a contrary view in the collective quest for the perfect cup” entitled “Brewing Perfection.” I really encourage you to read the piece for yourself, but, in summary, Konecny wrote that way too much time is spent fussing and obsessing over the minutiae of coffee brewing and not enough time is spent simply enjoying coffee for the simple pleasure of enjoying coffee.

Within an hour of its posting, this harmless opinion piece created a social media firestorm. Specialty coffee professionals all over the country were crying foul, taking a lot of personal offense to the article, spewing vitriol against the article and, to a certain extent, Tony himself in tweet after tweet. And I have to wonder why. I mean, the article was innocent enough; it isn’t filled with hate or malice, it doesn’t discount the industry at all, and it doesn’t attack anybody personally. But, for some reason, that piece really touched a nerve with an awful lot of people.

In my opinion, that piece offended so many people because it hurt their massive egos, knocked them off their pedestals, blemished their vanity, and upset their delusions of grandeur. But, hey—that’s just me.

It seemed as though I was one of the few that wasn’t offended by the piece. In fact, I rejoiced in its publishing because I agreed with everything it said. And, wouldn’t you know it, when I tweeted my agreement with the piece, industry professionals attacked me; attacked me personally, to boot! One coffee professional (who I will not name, because I’d like to think I’m a person of integrity) even told me that my love and appreciation of coffee wasn’t as valid as his, that it is “less than,” because I’m not nearly as obsessive with the science of coffee brewing as he and his type are.

It’s no secret that specialty coffee has an image problem with the general public. It’s certainly evident, just in the media, that baristas and coffee shops are viewed in a negative light. Click around the Internet—it isn’t difficult to find any number of graphics, text, memes, or videos that display disregard or prejudices against baristas and the specialty coffee industry as a whole. Gauging the reaction that Tony Konecny’s article received, it’s no wonder that the industry is such an easy target for lampooning.

The sort of personal attacks that were slung at me and the sort of snobbery that exists within a very small (but extremely loud) fraction of the specialty coffee industry is exactly the reason I approach my favorite beverage with a simple motto: “Shut up and drink your coffee.”

Now, I realize that’s an unpopular sentiment and I can see how it can be perceived as harsh, flippant, or dismissal; I hate to get all hippie dippy on ya, but I, frankly, find that motto very zen, very reassuring, and very peaceful; it takes me out of my own head and reminds me to live in the present. It reminds me that the simple pleasure of enjoying a really great cup of coffee is every bit as rewarding as the pursuit of a really great cup of coffee. It does not, however, discount that pursuit.

I feel the need to make that statement bold because, if nothing else, that’s the point I want to drive home with this article. There are those who enjoy drinking coffee, and then there are those who enjoy obsessing over the minutiae of preparing it; but there’s a third type of person that falls directly in between—those who geek out over the minute details, but are still able to sit back, relax, and simply enjoy a cup of coffee.

It’s so easy to get lost in the minutiae of coffee; hell, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of any interest and take it so far that it starts to alienate people. When I tell you to “Shut up and drink your coffee,” I’m not insulting you and I’m not dismissing your interests—I’m warning you not to lose the plot. It’s the same as saying “Don’t miss the forest for the trees.” HasBean founder, Stephen Leighton, famously coined the expression “Life’s too short for bad coffee;” I say, “Life is short, so enjoy your coffee.”

Benjamin Hoff wrote it this way in The Tao of Pooh: ” While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just is.” That’s the way I want to enjoy coffee: not with my intellect, not with head knowledge, not with charts and numbers and facts and figures, but with my very being. (and I’ll address this more in a soon-coming post entitled “The Tao of Coffee”)

I don’t believe that a person who obsesses over numbers enjoys coffee more than a person who isn’t a coffee geek; I don’t believe that a person who doesn’t obsess over numbers enjoys coffee more than a person who does. I do believe that there is a happy medium—a place where both of those people can relax and drink their coffee in harmony—and that’s where we should reside. On a personal note, that is the philosophy of this website. The Table is a place where anybody is welcome and all are encouraged to “feel free to pull up a chair.”

That’s the point that Konecny made in his article, and it’s really discouraging that so many people completely missed it.