When the Best Intentions Lead to the Worst Coffee

I’m not a hero when I drink coffee black. I genuinely like the taste of coffee when there is care to the beans, it’s roasted well, and the barista brews it in a way that really makes the notes of the coffee come through. I tend to go to the kind of cafes where I know I won’t have to add anything to my coffee to make it taste good.

Coffee Marzocco

If I’m at a diner or a place not known for their coffee, it’s different. Diner coffee isn’t meant to be the best coffee in the world and I know that, which is why I have no qualms about doctoring that thing up, adding cream and sugar until it becomes lighter than the color of my skin and it tastes good to me. I’m not going to go in the back and examine the beans or ask them to run me through their brewing process. I will drink the caffeinated liquid without any judgement on where my coffee came from.

I feel the same if I’m at a friend’s place and they offer me coffee from a Keurig or Nespresso. I will gladly take whatever is offered, much appreciated! I might drink it black or put something in it depending on how I feel but either way, I’m happy to have something to drink.

I have zero expectations about the coffee and usually I’m just grateful to have something caffeinated to drink if the alternative means I don’t get anything.

The problem is when I pay a premium for coffee that is touted as an amazing experience but instead makes me feel like a chump for spending the amount of money I just did.

A friend and I went to check out this coffee place in Berkeley, that shall remain nameless, that did just that – sell you on a premium coffee experience without actually delivering. The coffee menu was limited. Forget lattes or mochas, it was only coffee. The menu listed the places from where the coffee beans they had were from, complete with a description of the regions and how many Bothans died to get this coffee to us.

When I finally got my cup of coffee, I went to get a lid for my cup over by the milk/sugar station. Right above the area was a sign saying, yeah, they understand that you might want to put in sugar or milk but their coffee is meant to transcend that so you may not want to. Good grief. If someone wants to put anything additional in their coffee, let them.

The funny thing about preferring to drink black coffee is that people feel a little guilty about putting something in their coffee when they are around me. It’s not for me to tell someone how they should enjoy their coffee, whether it’s by putting in mounds of sugar or flavored creamer. Coffee shops should be like that too – don’t worry so much about what your patrons are putting in the coffee that they paid for. Instead, focus on making awesome coffee.

Which is what I wish this place did.

Because, folks? The coffee from this particular place in Berkeley was probably some of the worst coffee if I’ve ever had. It would’ve been fine if it was diner coffee but I had paid $4.50 for it. I felt terrible for not liking the coffee because the cafe has the best of intentions, with inspirational messages all over the cafe and uplifting quotes from the person who started the movement that the cafe embraces. In general, it was a nice cafe but something went wrong somewhere.

Coffee Inspiration

I got an inkling that something was off when I noticed later they were scooping coffee from containers, meaning that they were not grinding the coffee fresh. Okay, I know I sound like a complete snob right now but once again, this was an expensive place! And they specifically told me not to add anything to my coffee!! I wasn’t going to anyways but these people were bold and told me I not that I didn’t have to, but that I shouldn’t add anything to their resplendent coffee.

In the end, it pains me to say that I had to toss the coffee when I was only halfway through. My friend and I were at our destination and could not take in any outside food and I couldn’t picture myself standing outside trying to my best to finish off a drink I didn’t like at all in a reasonable timeframe.

Afterwards, we walked over to Caffe Strada in Berkeley and had one of their famous “crack mochas” because sometimes, you do need some sugary goodness with your caffeine. There were no inspirational sayings around the cafe and the ambience wasn’t as nice as the other place, but it turned out to be cheaper that my previous coffee and tasted a whole lot better.

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