Recently, I was saddened to learn of the death of Roger Ebert, who really needs no further introduction except perhaps for international web surfers. It occurred to me to wonder what it would be like if the US-based specialty coffee industry--particularly smaller roasters and cafes--framed its arguments as the plot of a movie. What would Ebert's review have been? What would mine be?
As you have probably noticed, I have mostly been resistant to the effects of the Kool-Aid that dictates that local coffee providers are, without reservation, better. I'm basically at the point where I don't care if I ever go to another Alterra, at least for a good long time. My spontaneous reaction to announcements of brew bar cafes and similar concepts is a yawn. It's clear that specialty coffee is a mature trend. Frozen yogurt shops have taken over the mantle of storefronts that pop up like zits on a teenager's face (or, you know, mine).
Frankly, the appeal of reclaimed wood tables and such is a little lost on me. I guess I've had a pretty decent run of non-overprivilege, to the point where I don't feel the need to compensate or atone for anything on a financial level. I'm not drawing some fat-ass pension or coasting on tenured status. I work pretty damn hard for my money. I don't mind if the furnishings in places I go are comfortable or even lavish; in fact, I prefer them that way.
Like others, I find that the level of hype and rhetoric in the specialty coffee world has lost its tie to reality. That perception is grounded in the knowledge that Milwaukee is hardly an affluent market in the way that Chicagoland or Arizona's Valley of the Sun is. There isn't the well-to-do consumer base in the Milwaukee area to underwrite anything exciting or stellar. That's a constraint, but not a fatal one. I was perfectly fine with enjoying Alterra's products on an A-/B+ level as long as the service was reasonable. I suppose I've now been pushed beyond my limit of tolerance in that respect.