It’s time to have a national conversation about one of the most sensitive, controversial issues in American culture, the stain on our national honor: Coffee. American coffee is now and always has been revolting, and it behooves us to look deep into our souls to understand why we overpay for muck at Starbucks. There’s a sucker born every minute, and he’s almost certain to be American. We are boosters, enthusiasts, tent-evangelicals, fly-by-nighters, snake-oil salesmen and honky-tonkers as a people, and get swindled every time. Now, to tell a man that his coffee is disgusting is just a tad less offensive than explaining that his wife really is a shaved chimpanzee. Next to one’s spouse, nothing gets under our skin and into our soul like coffee. It’s the one thing we ingest daily for which there is no substitute, and without which the day hardly seems worth enduring. To get snookered over coffee is a sad thing to admit, but we have to start our great national dialogue somewhere. Back in 2003 I argued in dead seriousness that lousy coffee was a characteristic flaw of American culture:
Writing of English culture, the poet and critic T S Eliot famously described it as follows: “The reader must remind himself as the author has constantly to do, of how much is here embraced by the term culture. It includes all the characteristic activities and interests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the twelfth of August [the start of the grouse shooting season], a cup final, the dog races, the pin table, the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, 19th century Gothic churches and the music of Elgar.”
After the fashion of Eliot, I have complied my own list of characteristic features of American culture [including] Burnt coffee at exorbitant prices. The most popular cafe chain, whose name decent people do not pronounce, burns its coffee beans to produce what Americans mistakenly believe is an authentic European taste. Proper coffee, by which of course I mean Italian coffee, is bittersweet, not burned. Americans evidently hate the wretched stuff because they drown its flavor in a flood of milk, in the so-called “latte”, something I never have observed an Italian request during many years of travel in that country. By contrast, Italians drink cappuccino, mixing a small amount of milk into the coffee and leaving a cap of foam. If Americans do not like it, why do they buy it at exorbitant prices? They do so precisely because the high price makes it a luxury, but an affordable one for secretaries and shopgirls.
I am now free to admit that the coffee chain to which I referred was Starbucks, which burns low-grade coffee beans in order to persuade its customers that they are drinking something sophisticated and European. Because the flavor is unpleasant, Americans saturate it with milk.
It’s time to address this national disgrace. The next time you meet a Starbucks barista, start a serious conversation: does he or she have no shame in foisting this fraud upon the American public? How can we as a people maintain our self-esteem if we pay top dollar for the excrescence of incinerated low-grade coffee beans? Take the time to have this important conversation and to save our national soul.
Related at PJ Lifestyle: “The 3 Most Hilarious Comments Responding to Spengler’s Anti-Starbucks Rant“