Encounters with Coffee Culture

(Alternatively titled, “My Very Cute and Persuasive Girlfriend Says I Should Blog More”.)

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Seattle is known for its coffee culture.  A little company called Starbucks started here (duh), but there’s jazillions of other independent shops and small chains around too, as any self-respecting Seattleite will be sure to inform you.

Upon returning from my trip I got a job at Top Pot, a place known for its donuts but which also serves up a fair amount of espresso each day, too.  I had to do three days of coffee training once I got hired.  Three days.  And I’m still getting corrected on my form.  Making a latte, much like falling in love, is a lot about chemistry.  It’s pretty complicated shit.

All that aside, my job is boring.  Most days are fairly slow and uneventful.  But I do have some interesting and/or funny encounters with customers from time to time, so I thought I’d relay some of those here.  Those of you who don’t live here (or who are mostly stuck in the SPU bubble—you know who you are) will get a little window onto the Seattle scene.  In fact, I might even use these posts as a springboard for some comments on Seattle culture generally . . . hm . . .


It’s a Wednesday afternoon and the place is empty.  We close at seven and most people want doughnuts in the morning, not in the afternoon, so weekdays are usually pretty sleepy after around 1 PM.  I read the paper while I wait for the dishwasher to finish.

A couple of young guys come in around 5.  One of them is in a button-down and jeans.  The other is sunglasses and all denim, baby.  Lookin’ sharp.

“Hey guys, how’s it goin’ today,” I say.  It’s a statement more than a question.

“Good, good,” says the less fashionable of the two.  He must have left his denim jacket at his girlfriend’s house or something.  “Hey, I was wondering, what kind of coffee do you carry?  Like, do you know what it’s called?”

“Well, we roast our own beans,” I say, somewhat proudly.  That gives you a bit of cred in the culture, I think.  “But I don’t know that much more about it.  It’s called Diplomat.”  I know this because the bins they come in say, “Diplomat”.  This is coffee for important government officials.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be soon be negotiated over a cup of Diplomat coffee.  It’s a very dignified brew.

He looks down his nose at the doughnut case.  “Yyyyeah . . . do you know where it’s from?”

Zero idea.  “You wanna try a sip?”

“Yeah, that’d be great.”

I pull out an 8-ounce paper cup and pour him a sample.  He swirls it around like it’s a glass of Merlot and gives it a whiff, finally tipping the cup to his lips for a taste.  He pauses.

“You know what this is?”

Yes, I do.  It’s drip coffee, you wiener.

“This is like diner coffee.  This is like, like, a coffee you would drink with donuts.”

Yes, that’s exactly what it is.  Because this, my friend, is a donut shop.

“You want a donut?”  I smile all friendly-like, so he doesn’t know I think he’s a wiener.

“No, no, that’s OK.”  He pauses again.  “It’s just that—and really, I don’t mean to tell you my whole story—but I grew up in New York City, you know.”

Oh, Lord.

“And in New York City, and in the midwest too, really, coffee is just a vehicle, really, for cream and sugar.  It’s not even coffee. But, when I moved to Seattle, my friend here really taught me the nuances of the craft, you know, how to tell the difference between how the beans are roasted, where they’re from . . . that kind of thing.”

At this, Denim Dan perked up. “Well, I didn’t teach you, I was more of a portal, really . . .”

“Exactly, a portal.  And I just think, you know . . . if I don’t want a cup of Sumatran coffee . . . I don’t have to have a cup of Sumatran coffee.”  The sneer in his voice finally got to me.  He needed to leave.

“So, do you want to buy a cup?”

“You know what man, I think I’ll pass today.  Thanks.”  He walked out the door, with Denim Dan firmly in tow.

This, my dear friends, is the coffee snob par excellence.

Welcome to Seattle.  Snobbery is the new gluttony.

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5 Responses to Encounters with Coffee Culture

  1. Anna says:

    I love this.
    Also, I’m glad Bekah told you to blog more, because your words are GREAT.

  2. Noah says:

    Awesome. Probably really frustrating, but well told and hilarious. Ahhh, Seattle…

    and yes, you should blog more. You’re really good at telling stories and I enjoy your perspectives.

  3. trif says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this.

  4. teamchauncey says:

    I wanted to slap those guys for you…Goodness. Portal, vehicle? Get a real job guys. Find something that matters so you can use real words in the context of real things, not just transcendental nonsense to fancify ideas like “coffee helps milk and sugar blend together in a tasty way”.

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