Going after Josh Ozersky’s trashing of Blue Bottle Coffee is like thwacking a low-hanging piñata filled with shit: Easy to hit, but the payoff isn’t terribly rewarding.
Ozersky’s September 19 piece for Time calls the video trailer for a new book by Blue Bottle’s James and Caitlin Freeman (with Tara Duggan) evidence of coffee culture’s “self-congratulatory, sanctimonious nature,” and it bothers him. Deeply. But it’s hard to imagine the video offending anybody: It shows James cupping at Blue Bottle’s headquarters in Oakland, California (pictured), and sitting quietly with Caitlin at home in San Francisco, or sharing a bench in an alley near one of their coffee kiosks.
This is too much for Ozersky: “You will take a kind of masochistic glee in how annoyed it will make you,” he writes of the video, but really: It’s pretty much just boring. James is as mild-mannered (and with the same taste in sweaters) as Mister Rogers; Caitlin is pretty and smiling. The light is pale and fragile; the coffee looks delicious. To Ozersky, it seems to show how divided America’s political culture is, between the “urban-mandarin world” of “urban progressives” flaunting their urban geekery (I added that last “urban”), and everybody else in the U.S.
But is getting into your French press or mastering the Hario TCA-3 siphon really a sign that the political left has become unmoored from the center of American life? That’s an argument implicit in Ozersky’s piece, which—among other things—assumes a lot about the Freemans’ politics.
Like guys into model trains, scrotum-stretching, or $800 trophy bongs, coffee obsessives are harmless hobbyists. And if one of those obsessives should open a chain of shops, well, as far as I know, no one’s forcing anybody to buy a $10 Kyoto-style iced coffee. What is it about New York men like Ozersky (or the Village Voice’s Robert Sietsema) who go all Glenn Beck at the sight of a single-origin coffee bar, chalkboarding diagrams about the death of civility in America?
Ozersky has picked an easy target with Blue Bottle, the way bullies do. The real point of his piece seems to involve some long-festering grudge about getting attitude in Ninth Street Espresso after asking for Sweet'N Low. Hey, Josh: whatever you’re into, man. Come to San Francisco and I’ll show you how to get insanely freaky with a nel drip.