Camera Killed the Coffee Star

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Camera Killed the Coffee Star

It's cold to drink, but I'll get at least 15 likes...
I don’t make coffee at home. I don’t need my morning jolt to wake me up, nor would I ever be very far from any since I live in Paris. I discovered a café down the street that offers a coffee and croissant for 2 euros. I don’t care if it’s not organically-grown fair trade brew from a rehabilitated criminal living in some distant corner of the world. It’s coffee. If I want it, I’ll drink it.

Often, however, I’ll go to one of the newish “boutique” coffee joints that are taking locally roasted beans (it’s as “local” as coffee can get in France) and making some really great stuff. It doesn’t end up costing more than most cafés, and it tastes really, really good. These places often have that “local” feel to them, where you can chat with the baristas who eventually know your order right away. It’s great, really. Hats off.

About 4 years ago, I actually used to work for one such place, just as coffee was becoming “king” in Paris, according to The NewYork Times. I loved being able to interact with customers, to have a real rapport. I appreciate what these places are doing, but I’m not sure how long this local can keep going to them, even if they do know my order before I sit down.

First off, just try to find a seat. It’s not always easy in these cozy palaces. As I sat by the window, awaiting my cup, a French girl walked in with a look of disgust – even more disgust than on a good day. She couldn’t find a seat at the coffee shop, and promptly turned around. It can be frustrating, since it’s never really a fight at a traditional café, but hey, at least the boutique coffee shops do take-away without a fuss.

Because if I didn't Instagram it, it didn't happen...
Let's remember this forever...
If you manage a seat, did you do your hair and makeup? As I sat in my little corner, I totally lost the thread of our conversation because on my right, my left, and directly ahead were cameras snapping away. And not just the simple shot of the cup and logo – no, the full photo shoot with lens changes, close-ups of the food on display, and asking the baristas to pose while they try to do their work.

Video crews, journalists, bloggers, hipsters with 35mm cameras – my coffee shop has become a Hollywood backlot. Is it a daily occurrence? Not necessarily, especially during off, or at least lesser-peak hours. Still, rare is the day when I don’t try to avoid appearing on at least one person’s Instagram feed while just trying to enjoy some caffeine. (Note: Aware that I, too, took photos for the purpose of this post.)

People take their coffee seriously – no judgment here! Finally there is a place where you can be passionate about it, if it's one of your interests. But when I want to order or pay, it’s difficult to get a word in between the barista and any one of dozens of scruffy hipster-types asking about today’s single-origin brew. Or worse, that person who doesn’t know the difference between a noisette and a cappuccino. I don’t begrudge anyone for wanting to hang out at the bar and talk shop with other coffee fanatics, but I don’t always have time for it either.

If you're into coffee, definitely go to any of these coffee shops, support local business, and enjoy a fantastic warm beverage, by all means. But the effort required to become a regular, well, it makes me miss going to the entirely average corner café. At least here I don’t have to worry about interrupting the waiters mingling with clients or appearing in the background of strangers' photos all the time. I can get my caffeine and just, well, relax. I might have to start revisiting the café more often instead of the boutique coffee shops. Maybe the cup of joe won’t be nearly as good, but at least I won’t be annoyed or accidentally photobombing anyone while drinking it…

1 comment:

  1. I actually prefer the coffee at my little café... It tastes like Paris with the steamed uht milk and a mild roast. And I love that the coversation is more about whats going on in the world, in people's lives, and not at all about whats in the cup.