Picture yourself as a mature coffee connoisseur.
After years of trying all kinds of blends, with occasional glimpses of hope amongst an entirely disproportionate pile of disappointments, you’re finally enjoying a brand that you later find has actually been around since before you were even born.
Research tells you the product is carefully crafted by a tightly woven crew of perfectionist aficionados from specially cultivated, organic and entirely toxin-free beans. It’s quality-controlled by an army of tireless cyborgs after being hand-picked by deaf-mute polydactyl virgin monks every fifth full moon on some remote island — far, far away from the destructive influence of “western civilization”.
Indeed, this isn’t some supermarket shit.
This is that almost unattainably perfect, 77/23 arabica/robusta blend you’ve apparently been looking for all your life without even knowing it’s exactly what you wanted. You’ve discovered it a while back, and after just one sip, you knew it was all over. These days, you somehow can’t seem to be able to kick-start your day without its unique flavour.
Yes, it’s quite expensive – but it’s become part of your system and you know that pristine quality is well worth the money.
Enter corporate behemoth Nestlé.
Now, Nestlé has no regard for your legendary coffee roasters. None at all. These guys have automatic instant powder coffee dispensers in their offices, and they’re happy with them. Their marketing department refers to that brownish sludge as “refreshingly exotic”, while anyone with functioning taste buds should be able to tell by the smell alone how utterly one-dimensional and immeasurably far away from coffee the experience actually is.
Fueled by a mixture of that nauseating excuse for a beverage, pressure from shareholders and a sudden influx of investment money, it’s that Nestlé who owns your favourite coffee brand now. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Your coffee gods of old have been squeezed empty of their knowledge and discarded, their wisdom replaced by — no pun intended — beancounters who, being entirely incapable of understanding the significance and history of the brand they’ve just forcibly extracted like a burnt espresso, decide to keep using the established image to maintain retail pricing, simultaneously reducing production cost by any means possible.
Eventually, almost every supermarket starts stocking this new old. The packaging is familiar, almost identical, unless you actually look at the fine print on the back where — just above the bar code — it says “a Nestlé brand” in tiny 6pt print.
Struggling between defiance and disbelief, you finally buy a bag and rush home to open it.
You’d know your coffee anywhere. Your brain is long since imprinted with the way the two types of beans, perfectly attuned to one another to form that exquisite blend, each subtly refract the light as you hold them in your palm. Their weight and texture, the sound they make as you run your fingers through them.
What you now hold in your hands pales in comparison. Those new beans, no doubt sourced cheaply, look desaturated and bland. All personality and character you’ve grown to appreciate seems gone, yet you somehow still bring yourself to actually put them in your grinder, which has seen nothing but perfection since you first brought it into your home.
The cathartic release, that borderline orgasmic moment when your brain begins to process what the actual fuck you’ve just ingested: a shiver running down your spine, followed by the hair on your arm standing up ever so slightly – as if you suddenly heard that one awesome tune from long ago.
It never comes.
Photos shot & coffee drunk at Espresso Tecnica (Hamburg, Germany)