Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mainstream cool

Starting last month, properly prepared espresso and single-origin coffee has officially entered mainstream cool. Both the The New York Times and GQ featured a collection of shops and roasters engaged in a single-minded pursuit of fabulous espresso.

There is an arc that a trend tends to follow. At first, for a while, it is the domain of the lunatic fringe. Eventually, some of their ostensibly normal friends take notice. Then, one day, alll of a sudden everyone is doing it. After another year or so, the New York Times comes out with a piece on the trend, which finally makes it mainstream cool.

When I was in High School, grunge and gangsta rap became mainstream cool. Squeaky clean Wonderbread white teenagers said "fuck the police" a lot, all the while wearing flannel shirts. Lately, urban hipster accoutrements are becoming mainstream cool. Young investment bankers are riding fixed-gear bicycles and, increasingly, asking for Direct Trade single-origin coffee and traditional lattes by name. Fair Trade is out, Direct Trade is in.

Mainstream cool is where you want to be, because that is when you have cachet, yet you are popular with everyone. The downside is that you are inches away from maintsteram uncool, i.e., death. Some phenomena have enough substance to stick around. Others become like Uggs - you may be convinced it has vanished, but then, like a persistent buttrash you spy an entire new boutique opening in the Viagra Triangle. Still, most quickly go the way of the poncho.

Both the New York Times and GQ pieces mentioned the same coterie of shops and roasters - Intelligentsia, Metropolis, Counter Culture, Ninth Street Espresso and Cafe Grumpy in New York. They are all lovely, by the way. Counter Culture is a particularly awesome roaster out of North Carolina that offers 3 different espresso blends, but, according to their sales rep, they do not ship 'this far North'. They do ship to New York, though. The whole exchange reminded me once again about the strange place that Chicago occupies in the national conscience. They think it's cold here. And that's it. That's our image nationwide.

Either way, we still have Intelligentsia, and their Black Cat now has national acclaim. So, although every one of you no doubt thinks of themselves as cool, you are all just a bunch of lemmings, and that is why this weekend, you shall ask for it by name, Sopranos-style, with thumb and index finger together - espress'.


Anonymous said...

Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.'

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