To be or not to be … a coffee purist

I remember clearly the first specialty espresso coffee I ever had. It was at St ALi in South Melbourne, a place that’s not far off being world famous in coffee shop circles. My cousin, who was in the green coffee importing business and a coffee festival judge at the time, had taken me there.

He asked the waitress about the coffee of the day and was told all sorts of details, like what country, region and producer it came from, the arabica variety and its tasting characteristics. It all seemed a tad excessive for a simple espresso. I didn’t really pay too much attention and I don’t recall any of it now. What I do recall is the first sip. I was amazed by how much flavour it had, how complex those flavours were and the lack of bitterness.

Suddenly, the world of great coffee had opened up with all its possibilities. An endless variety of aromas, flavours and textures, each coffee with its unique profile depending on where it’s from and how it’s dried, roasted and brewed. How, I wondered, could anyone be satisfied with all that ordinary – or plain awful – bitter, tasteless burnt stuff out there, after experiencing great specialty coffee?

Naturally, at The Stray Bean, we want you to feel the same way. So we could get disappointed if we serve you your first specialty coffee and it doesn’t make you go “Wow!”; we could roll our eyes if you ask for sugar, which will mask some of those natural aromas; and we could get downright offended if you tell us that you prefer the coffee from your local bar, which surely MUST be no good! Then we could start telling you how wrong you are.

We could, but we don’t. If that were our reaction, it would be our problem, not yours.

We don’t expect everyone to have the same passions. And we know that trying to teach a lesson about anything to anyone who hasn’t asked for it will most likely make them less interested instead of more.

If you come here for a great coffee and you ask us about it, we’ll be delighted to talk. But there are plenty of other reasons to come too, and we’ll be just as delighted. And if you start telling us about your passion instead of the other way around, maybe we’ll be the ones doing the learning.

Oh, all right then. There is just one thing we might ask. Next time you drop by, if you are in the habit of putting sugar in your coffee, it is available, but before you toss it in, do try the coffee without it first. Just a sip. Maybe you’ll be as surprised as I was all those years ago at St ALi.

I couldn’t help giving you that one piece of unsolicited advice – there is a coffee purist in me after all. The good thing is that, now it’s out of the way, you’re free to do what you like!