We all have them. Sometimes it’s the bad (but oh so good) TV shows we watch about fake reality love, the movies we sneak off to see in theaters during weekday matinees so nobody will see you, trashy pop music you have buried in deep on your phone under a playlist titled “Workout Jams 2007” in the desperate hopes that none of your friends will pick that collection to blast through your car stereo on your road-trip to that fast food joint you know is terrible for your but it’s just so tasty that you and your buddies will gladly take a small punch to your pride (and your arteries) to live a little dangerously.
Guilty pleasures are fun, they keep you grounded.
Everyone who operates in some field of taste or has any interest in one, be it food, beverage, television, music, writing or what have you, should be able to take a step back and not take themselves too seriously every now and then. Not being able to do so can very quickly lead one to become a true snob – and by that I do not mean just being intelligent about a topic. A real snob is, well, snobby. They sneer at those they believe to be beneath them, chortle at your attempts to create conversation about the thing they know soooo much more about than you do. They try to impress, to flash, and to use really arcane words to describe very simple concepts about things that most people have actually figured out.
Enter stage left: Coffee
I used to be a snob. Actually, I probably still am a lot of the time, but it’s something I am working on. When I first started getting into specialty coffee I was a college freshman, very susceptible to judgment and surrounded by new people I was eager to impress. Nobody else had ever seen a moka pot or had ever heard of a pour over or cold brew. All the new ideas and techniques I had just read about 10 minutes ago off the r/coffee subreddit online I proudly demonstrated to my impressionable floormates the magical wonders of good coffee and the ritual in technique of pouring hot water of fresh coffee grinds and all the different flavors that could be evoked from this humble bean
(pro tip: just say “marzipan” if you taste something vaguely almond-y, nobody really knows what it is and you’ll sound smart).
I became the Coffee Guy, and it went to my head. It wasn’t until a close friend straight up walked out of my room because I described a citrus scent as “you’re downwind of an orange grove a few miles away”. I really wish I was joking. That was when I realized I wasn’t just the Coffee Guy, I was that Coffee Guy. The Snob Coffee Guy. You know something? Nobody likes the Snob ____ Guy, whatever fills up that blank, and so I began to rethink my reputation and my approach to the beverage, both my own self and for others.
Since this time I have had a lot of time to actually understand much of what there is to know about coffee, both good and bad, and not just kid my way through talking with a lot of cool bingo words. I hope that I can think of myself as more humble in that regards, and I’ve also learned to embrace some naughty habits and guilty pleasures that I don’t intend to get rid of anytime soon.
Diner coffee. I work with incredible specialty coffee every day, but that rusty black bitter stuff that’s been sitting on a warmer for 3 hours? I want that. It reminds me of grabbing a burger with my dad after a long day of fishing in the sun when I was 13 or 14. I love it, it’s comforting to me, there’s some sort of old-school-cool about sitting at a diner bar with a cup of bad coffee and a slice of pie or a greasy burger.
Espresso and half-&-half. On the days when I’m called to leave the comforts of my bed at 4:30am to open up shop for all you glorious early-risers (God bless you for getting up that early every day) I go through the motions of dialing in our espresso to make sure it’s delicious and ready to serve. That final shot I pull before opening the doors goes into a demitasse and is promptly met with a tablespoon of cold half-&-half. Dopey-eyed and barely awake, I’ll happily sip the not warm but not cold disgrace to espresso as my breakfast, and I love it.
Like I said, guilty pleasures can be grounding. They take away from the seriousness of things, they let you be a little innocent in some way, they give off a sense of vulnerability. Embrace your guilty pleasures, even if you feel you might be judged by the snooty purist sitting next to you. You know what? You’re probably happier than a snob, because you know what you want and you’ve taken it.
You do you, and don’t ever change, cool people.
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Hayden Kaye is our Master Roaster and head of the Say Interesting Stuff department.