Coffilosophy

I haven’t written anything in a while. I hope you’ve all found a hobby or something. For those of you who have too much free time… I have a rant for you.

I’m a barista. I’m pretty happy with it. I’m okay at it and I’m getting better at it every day. I have other interests too. I like reading, video games, and cooking. I cook fairly often, and I’m happy to throw some fresh ingredients together and make something new. It’s usually turns out okay.

So I’m a chef too, right?

I read about the science of extracting coffee, try to understand it.

So now I’m a chemist.

I blog about my thoughts on coffee, I argue in the comment section of other blogs.

I’m a philosopher.

Well, no. I’m not any of those things. Yet my claim of being a philosopher will be the least challenged of the three idiotic statements.

Why, oh why is it okay to claim you are a philosopher when you make no contribution to the field, you write no peer-reviewed papers, and you just vomit whimsy onto a keyboard?

I don’t mind people sharing what they feel. I don’t mind people coming up with debate and argument and toying with philosophical concepts. In the same way, we discuss chemistry concepts, but we rarely believe we are actually adding something to the field of chemistry, and we don’t call ourselves chemists. I respect the field of philosophy, and if you do too I sorta think you should stop calling the random crap you think up “philosophy”.

We are in a field that is so specialist that people have a hard time respecting it. They don’t know how deep the coffee rabbit hole goes. That’s fine, we can’t all specialize in everything. What I don’t like is when we, as coffee people, disrespect other fields. It’s just too ironic. And not in a moustache way… in a bad way.

Storytime: I was cruising through some coffee forums, generally wasting time (I hope that’s why you’re here), when I saw something stupid. 

This is more common than I’d like, but hey, it’s a free internets. 

Apparently, there had been some people making fun of Barista competitions. Saying things like, “Jeez, they have competitions for everything…” For them, making coffee is a humdrum activity. That’s an annoying viewpoint, especially as they probably have some specialized interest in something that the average person wouldn’t understand (death metal, ice dancing, investment banking, etc.)… or they are just exceedingly boring. Anyway, some upstart started vehemently defending the noble Baristocracy. Neat. However, they crossed a line when they said, “We care about what we do, it’s not like we’re flipping burgers or anything!”

See the issue?

I do understand the sentiment; we are not performing a task that is without nuance, passion, or skill. However, we really shouldn’t forget that making coffee can also be reduced to repetitive button pushing… and burger flipping can be exalted to sublime grill mastery.

Burger flipping, coffee making… any activity can be reduced to mediocrity or elated to art form not by any inherent virtue, but by the virtue of its practitioners.

Why is this relevant? I just think that it can be hard for us to prove that we are pursuing worthwhile goals… so the last thing we should do is ignore the speciality of another field. Is the flagrant disregard for flipping burgers so different from the insidious lack of respect for the field of philosophy? It’s nice that philosophy is appreciated, but I feel like it is undervalued. 

It’s all good though, what we do might be misunderstood by philosophers, too. We’re certainly misunderstood by pop philosophers

To be immensely clear, I think it’s great to talk about deeper concepts in coffee… or in anything really. I love the discussion, the debate, the logical reasoning… all of it. I just don’t think it’s on par with philosophy, any more than I think that brewing is on par with chemistry. Too often, when someone claims to be saying something “philosophical”, it is just the opposite. It’s poorly reasoned, based only on belief, and not open to debate. Let’s just cut that right out. Part of me wants to give specific examples… but I won’t. I upset too many people in general, I don’t need to name anyone.

My advice:

DO:

  • Stay logically consistent, such as your feeble mind understands it.
  • Try to keep to the point of any debate you might have.

DON’T:

  • Say you’re a philosopher, not even if you’re a philosophy student, undergrad, or self-proclaimed hippie.
  • Ride a bike while enjoying a lollipop. It’s just an accident waiting to happen.

Jason Gonzalez

bath, uk