Hipster Coffee: My Issue With Third Wave Coffee

Okay, so the past couple of weeks have been a bit trying, so this post is going to border on bitchy and contain quite a bit of complaining, so if you don’t want me to put a damper on your 4th of July (or weekend for all you international folks), please redirect yourself here.

So why am I in such a mood? Well, during the past two weeks, ants have infested my car (I’m probably going to die from all the bug killer I’ve used) and the father of a close friend of mine died (I knew the father, and he was a quality guy). When it came to figuring out plans for the 4th of July holiday, I pretty much said, “Well, fuck it,” and instead of partying in a pool or at a BBQ, I’m instead taking care of the ton of laundry that I’ve neglected this week.

I was out of coffee though, so I had to go somewhere this morning to get my daily caffeine fix, and I set my sights on Once Over Coffee. I had been meaning to try it out for a while, and they sell whole beans from Wild Gift Coffee.

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One of the reasons why I hadn’t tried out Once Over earlier is because of the parking. The shop does have a small parking lot out front, but it is so small that maneuvering into a spot is tricky, and there are hardly enough spots for all of Once Over’s patrons. If you happen to pull in and no spots are available, good luck trying to get back out.

This morning though, I was fortunate enough to grab a spot on the side that borders the parking lot of a neighboring eye doctor. The lot was empty as the doctor is closed on weekends, and I couldn’t help but wonder why Once Over had never negotiated a deal with its neighbor to use the parking lot on the weekends. Maybe they did try, and the neighbor was less than accommodating, but I kind of doubted that they really pushed for it when I read a note on the front door that said, “If you don’t want your car towed, don’t park in our neighbors’ parking lots ever.”

Tired of getting complaints about it, Once Over?

Despite the parking issues, the shop does sell great coffee, and if you carry cash, you get a 10% discount on everything. There is plenty of seating and a small deck out back that overlooks Bouldin Creek. If you bring a dog, there is a small “dog park” out front as well.

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with hipster culture and third wave coffee?

When I was in Portland, I visited many coffee establishments that made fantastic coffee, and when I say fantastic, I mean fantastic. These places served some of the best coffee that I have ever tasted. That being said, there was a problem with these shops that I didn’t recognize until my final stop, Grendel’s Coffee Shop.

They were unwelcoming.

This unwelcoming trait is not blatant, but it was there, hidden behind the modern decor or complex menu of bean variety and various brew methods. In these environments, it is expected of the customer to know what the difference is between Colombian and Rwandan beans, the difference between a French press and Chemex. Espresso is brewed with such revelry that ordering a latte immediately brands that person as someone who doesn’t understand the intricacies of coffee taste profiles.

Of course, there is delicious coffee, but it is ultimately branded for a very distinct type of person.

Let’s put it in the context of liquor.

Whiskey neat, y'all.
Whiskey neat, y’all.

I am a whiskey lover, but I mainly stick to Jack Daniel’s neat. That is my preference, and I am not prone to trying out other types of whiskey out there, unless Jack Daniel’s is not available. Now, another person may like Jack Daniel’s but can only stomach it in a Coke, or that person may hate whiskey altogether but enjoys vodka martinis. That is his or her preference. He or she could walk into any bar, order any kind of drink, whatever level of knowledge they have about liquor, and walk away with nothing more than a smile from the bartender. Any preference towards one bar or another will likely develop due to the quality of the drinks or the atmosphere of the establishment.

That is not so with coffee shops.

No, with coffee shops, the places with the best quality coffee usually contain the most derision towards those with limited coffee knowledge. Whereas I could ask for a Jack and Coke at a respectable bar with not even the slightest glance, ordering a large nonfat latte at a respectable coffee shop usually incurs judgement.

So what does this have to do with Once Over?

Let’s go back to the parking issue.

It seemed kind of strange to me that Once Over did not try and work out some kind of deal with the neighbor to utilize the available parking on weekends. Yeah, those who wanted to visit the shop could park on a side street instead, but more and more, the surrounding areas are enacting parking restrictions in the residential areas to just those with parking permits. In other words, customers who don’t live in the immediate area wouldn’t be able to park along the side streets without the risk of being towed.

So with a limited parking lot and no available parking elsewhere, isn’t Once Over limiting how many customers can visit them to just the capacity of its parking lot?

Not necessarily.

Because of the hipsters.

I know, I know. I just made a huge leap, but keep with me here.

Hipster culture has most recently been closely connected with biking and third wave coffee, so interestingly enough, those who are the most knowledgeable of the new coffee lingo and standards are also the ones who don’t travel by car.

So when I saw that sign on the door about my car getting towed, it rubbed me the wrong way. I love coffee. I hope to make a living in coffee, but I do not ascribe to the hipster culture. I do not like alternative music. I like my country, pop country, pop, rock, techno, swing, or whatever best emulates my mood at that point in time. My beliefs are a somewhat confusing mix of conservative and liberal standards. I am a Christian but also a feminist. I won’t stand for the discrimination of anyone, and I believe in second chances for those who have been convicted of the most heinous crimes. I hate biking and exercising, but I do planks and crunches and stretch almost everyday in the privacy of my own home. I love reading and writing, but I studied finance and have a career as an accountant.

No one person is the same, so when I see a coffee shop that puts off an air of superiority and so obviously favors a particular set of the population, I am completely turned off by what they offer. I hate it, and I find that I, often unconsciously, do not frequent shops that display such attributes.

Before I traveled to Portland, I was told that I would love it and want to move there, but because of this general theme in so many of their quality coffee shops, I did not fall in love it in, and I ultimately had no desire to move away from Austin.

Serving coffee of the utmost quality is incredibly important for the entirety of the coffee industry. Serving quality coffee goes beyond the walls of the coffee shop and can influence the lives of the roasters, importers, exporters, and farmers that helped get the bean from plant to cup, but it is not going to make the difference that it needs to make if coffee is constantly presented as a drink for only a particularly set of the population. It is for everyone and needs to be presented as a drink for everyone.

I know this is quite a challenge for some places, and I think it is an even greater challenge for a city like Austin, where even the smallest innovative or quirky change is greatly applauded and praised and then overwhelmed by those doing the applauding and praising. Such extreme excitement eventually pushes the common man into exclusion.

But it must be done. The bridge between the hipsters and the rest of the population must be built.

And I hope, when I finally get the courage to jump fully into the industry, that I will do just that.

Happy 4th of July,

The one and the only Pookachino

In memory of Lester Kothmann. To say that you will be missed is an understatement. I am so thankful that God brought you and your family into my life, and I hope that the lessons you taught me just in how you lived your life will continue to positively influence my actions and goals from this day forward.

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