From a self declared coffee snob…
I love coffee. If you talk to me for more than 5 minutes the topic will surely come up. After some time you might find yourself thinking this guy is a coffee snob. Until recently I would’ve agreed. After thinking about this for some time I have decided instead, to choose a different label. I want to talk about what makes a snob and why I decided to stop claiming to be one.
Ok, what is a snob?
A snob is closed minded in their preferences and can’t imagine anything outside of them being any good. This is especially true for anything that they’ve already deemed bad. If coaxed to try something outside of their preferences they would only “confirm” that they don’t like it (except for blind tests, it’s always fun to put a snob in a blind test!). Snobs aren’t looking to learn or expand their tastes, they only seek to validate what they already believe. They draw value from their specific preferences. That is, the fact that they prefer this over that makes them better. A coffee snob for example would NOT drink anything that they consider “beneath them”. They tend to lord their preferences over others. They use it as a way to feel superior. They will expound on their preferences if and when it allows themselves to feel superior or elite in that regard.
Snobs are exclusionary
A snob will scoff at anything outside their preferences. Tell a coffee snob you like Folgers or Starbucks or really ANYTHING that is not what they like and they’ll likely roll their eyes or scrunch their face. They’ll immediately tell you why you’re wrong. That your preference is wrong. Some classic coffee snob remarks include: “Ugh, Folgers isn’t even real coffee” or “Oh my god, Starbucks? More like charbucks. Corporate coffee sucks!”. While extreme, I’m sure you can imagine a coffee snob saying the following: “Oh, you like Starbucks? How cute. I only drink organic coffee that comes from a shaman that grows a single plant of coffee each year on a small island off the coast of Brazil. I doubt you’ll have heard of it.”
Why was I okay with the term “coffee snob”?
I really love coffee. My love for coffee compelled me to explore it and gain a decent amount of knowledge on it. My affinity for it combined with my knowledge makes it so that I can (and will) go on at length talking about it. When I go off on coffee talking to other coffee lovers, we just high five and move on. When I talk to people that maybe don’t subscribe to sprudge.com I usually get quite a different response. Often a look that conveys “oh you’re one of those people”. Either way, in both of those scenarios I am labeled a coffee snob. Eventually I started preemptively calling myself a coffee snob. The reason is that it allowed me to redefine the term and take it from a negative to a positive. The problem was that the term remained and others wouldn’t know the new definition.
So then, if you’re not a snob, what are you?
Aficionado or connoisseur would be more accurate terms. I don’t like either of those words though. They seem to carry an air of self righteousness and ego. It screams of “oh, I only enjoy the FINER things” and skates a little close to the previous term. Plus, I mis-spell connoisseur EVERY TIME! No, after thinking about it a bit, the term I most agree with is a buff.
A buff is defined as a person who is enthusiastically interested in and very knowledgeable about a particular subject. Think of a history buff, a movie buff, a literature buff etc. They all love learning what they can from their chosen subjects. They will all have specific preferences and inclinations to certain aspects within that subject. They take pride in their knowledge and are always looking to talk about it. In the same way I, a coffee buff, enjoy learning about coffee and given the chance will go on at length about it (as evident in this post!). It just so happens that I can drink the things I learn about!
Buffs are inclusionary.
I honestly like hearing people talk about why they like what they like. Similarly, I don’t mind sharing on why I like what I like. For me it’s a learning experience. There is something to be found in everything. At my in-laws they have a Keurig. Whenever I’m there I don’t refrain from drinking the coffee on hand and I still approach it the same as I do any other cup. I try to learn something, whether it’s something I enjoyed or something I didn’t.
Whenever offered coffee, regardless of whether it’s Folgers or single origin Geisha, I accept based on whether I’m interested in coffee at the moment. I never decline just because it’s not within my preferences and I never look down my nose at those with preferences different than my own. My mom drinks a cup of Folgers pretty much everyday. It’s not my cup of
tea coffee but if she offers, I take some. Starbucks, again, not my ideal coffee, but to be honest, it’s where I started to drink coffee as an adult. A gateway cup if you will. I also stay mindful of the fact that Starbucks is responsible for bringing about the 2nd wave of coffee. Without them, you wouldn’t have 3rd wave coffee that’s so prevalent now. Starbucks provides millions of coffee to millions of people everyday, surely those people can’t be wrong. Again, how is a preference wrong anyways?
Taste is about finding what YOU like, not ripping what others like.
So what’s the difference between a buff and a snob?
I think the main point would be an open mind. Through my exploration of coffee I have found coffees that I really like and some that I don’t. I can say that for the most part I am partial to Latin American coffees. I enjoy the body and the fuller more rounded flavors found in them. Flavors of toffee, chocolate, caramel, shortbread, jam, things like that. It doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate those that don’t fit neatly into my preferences. I’ve had some amazing coffees from pretty much all regions. More interestingly I’ve had coffees that I SHOULD have really loved but didn’t. For example, I really like blueberries and so a Yirgacheffe that was without question a cup of blueberries should have been amazing. People really loved it but I just couldn’t quite get into it. I’ve also had a coffee that tasted like the smell of soil on a rainy day. I really loved it. It’s weird, try telling someone, “Hey you’ll love this coffee, it tastes like dirt!”. Point is, that through exploration I keep finding things that challenge my perceptions of what I enjoy. I go into each cup with an open mind and try to find something.
Why does any of this matter?
I think we should all be more inclusive in general. We should strive to be more accepting of each other and each other’s preferences. We should be able to have open discussions about these preferences and what brought us to them. It shouldn’t be offensive. We should feel safe in offering our opinions as long as we don’t try to force them on others or make them feel inferior. We shouldn’t try to belittle others for their choices. After all, I’m sure we all can think of some preferences that have changed over time.
What do you think about switching to the term buff?
Give me a shout out on the twitters @dev_vine and let me know with either #stay_snob or #buff_switch. Also, feel free to throw in what you are a snob/buff about and why.
Keep the party goin'
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