A fine line exists between the point where you’ve truly arrived and the point where you’d like everyone else to believe that you’ve truly arrived. It’s analogous to comparing “old money” and “new money.” While old money supposedly maintains a low profile and doesn’t feel the need to prove their status, new money pulls up in a gaudy red sports car, engine revving, stereo blasting, and primping in the rear-view mirror in the hope that the paparazzi will appear.
We get this mental image the more we read about New York City’s nascent coffee culture. From tomorrow’s New York Times: New York Is Finally Taking Its Coffee Seriously – NYTimes.com.
Haven’t we read this all before? We posted on this very topic last June: Fables of the Reconstruction: New Yorkers say their coffee has finally arrived. But the more articles we see coming out of New York professing the city’s readiness for its coffee débutante ball, the more we sense the vibe of a city desperately trying to shake off its coffee inferiority complex.
New York and the Art of Not Knowing What You Don’t Know
The New York Times article cited above offers “The Top 30 Coffee Places in Manhattan and Brooklyn.” Eight years ago, you could count the top coffee places in Manhattan and Brooklyn on one hand, and most of those wouldn’t be worth the trip. Fortunately, things have changed. Though much of it has changed with the influx of coffee cultures from foreign cities — i.e., people and businesses seeking fame and fortune by relocating to what was once a Dubai-like coffee desert.
New Yorkers can be forgiven for their over-earnestness on the matter, as not being the cultural center of the universe for something must leave an identity crisis and deep psychological scars not experienced since the center of the art world shifted from Paris to New York during World War II. But it was just last summer that New York media flipped out over the discovery of laptop zombies, who squat on Wi-Fi connections in coffee shops, as if they were a brand new phenomenon. Meanwhile, a number of SF coffee shops were designed years ago with defenses against laptop zombies already in mind. And while NYC seems elated just to have decent espresso options in town, SF has since moved down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Coffee Needs to entertain cultural oddities such as fetishized coffee shops and espresso hovels that mock their own customers.
As with our recent criticisms of Yountville trying to be a second-rate Provence, New York City has yet to figure out that simple forgery does not make a coffee culture. When New York roasters and cafés start making their way out West — i.e., when New York starts exporting its coffee culture instead of exclusively importing it — only then will they have arrived. Until that happens, any claims about New York being a serious coffee town ring about as authentically hollow as the New York New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
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