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The snobbery of coffee drinkers is a sensitive subject. The problem lies in the use of the word snobbery which implies a dislike or disregard to others but it needs not be the case. A coffee snob is a term which has been used commonly to describe someone who has a preference in how their coffee is served. It is not meant to be an insult in the same sense as wine snob but more akin to a film buff, it is merely a choice of terminology which has stuck. These connoisseurs of coffee have in fact embraced the term coffee snob as an affectionate term for their ability to appreciate coffee. According to the urban definition, the term “coffee snob” is anyone who prefers a certain place to buy their coffee or prepared in a certain way. Also, it refers to one who would rather not have coffee than one which is not prepared according to their taste.  In order to qualify as a snob, the first requirement is the knowledge or the ability to talk and discuss the subject. This knowledge will consists of what is one’s favourite, habit of consumption in terms of establishment to be procured from, method of production, type/origin, etc. The second requirement and more importantly, snobbery possesses the ability to dismiss some form of the product based on this overall knowledge of the subject.

Let’s investigate the word snobbery a little further. Since we are taking the element of superiority over others out of snobbery in the case of coffee snobbery, snobbery can then be simply translated to aesthetic appreciation. There are two types of snobbery and the distinction shall be made. The first are people who would choose a brand for its association rather than its quality and people who relies solely on quality and taste, in another words, pure aesthetic appreciation. A brand maybe particularly trendy and people prefer it so they can belong to a certain social group and that is just a matter of fashion and society. This is not true snobbery and snobbery should only apply to simply possessing a discernment and preference, may it be wine, coffee , food or even film.

Comparing to a coffee snob, wine and food snob is a more acquired status, one which require more work. There is definitely a value based element involved with wine and food snob as the range of prices are greater. Wine snob usually involves a positive step to become one, with attending a wine tasting class, choosing a more expensive bottle. It is also a less impulsive purchase: coffee is consumed there and then with street filled with coffee shop to take away and to have on the go for a caffeine fix. It is much less often for someone to refuse wine based on the choice on offer and have a completely different beverage or go without compared to the number of people who will go without a coffee faced with unfavoured choices. Although coffee and wine are the same as they serve as something to give pleasure and enjoyment and also an utility to deliver caffeine and alcohol respectively. The accessibility of coffee as a drink for any time of the day, its pricing, availability and variety mark the difference. One can only do so much with wine coming out of a bottle such as its serving temperature, amount of time allowed to breath and what glass it is served in. the same bottle of wine of the same year is the same regardless where you buy it. Therefore, being particular with wine is more difficult. The important distinction of a coffee snob, as compared with other type of snobbery is not to do with the value of the product, but rather a habitual development relating to a routine and comfort of the familiar. It is rarely about how much the coffee cost but rather a preference to a particular type, may it be instant or more artisan products.

The problem with the coffee snobbery is when it rears its head in a social context. The particularity of preference means there is a large possibility for a group of people to express their different opinion on the simple matter of where to have coffee. Amongst coffee drinkers, there is the inevitable discussion about how each prefer their coffee and there is rarely an overlap. Even on the preference of white or black coffee, with or without sugar divides opinion without going into beans origin, roasting method, size of ground, brewing method and how it is served. For a coffee snob, any deviation from their preference on any of these categories could prevent someone from ordering the coffee. The simple act of refusing a particular coffee or an establishment which serves it is in itself could be construed as snobbish in its tradition sense, which in turn potentially cause insult.

The snobbery of coffee comes from the fact that everyone who drinks coffee will have an opinion on how they would like their coffee. There is a pride which comes with the ability to discern and have a preference. The shear  number of options available in Starbucks alone is a good illustration of this. The question I leave you to ponder is why can’t it just be coffee, plain simple coffee? Coffee is just coffee after all.

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