What We Have Here Is a Coffee Culture Clash

March 27, 2011

Writer Emily Orrson is a student who recently wrote about her experience with a Philadelphia upscale - third wave – coffee shop which is based on the real thing in Italy. Carrying such treats as gelato and real coffee without flavorings, the shop, Capogiro, seeks to emulate the European coffee culture. Clearly it appears from Emily’s report that American college students have a few things to learn about Europe, especially as it pertains to coffee. While Starbucks is quintessentially American, being born and bred here, it is no longer the model for coffee shops. It’s second wave, not third wave. Coffee shops are becoming more sophisticated and more artisan. So what Emily described is more of a culture clash. It goes like this: Students want fast foods, coffees-to-go, drive-thrus, flavorings, bagels… you get the picture – American fast pace. Capogiro, in trying to me more upscale, more Italian-trendy, and more down home - shall we dare say “warm”? - frowns on to-go because paper ruins the flavor of their coffee. They even serve their cappuccino at lower than normal temps where the flavor is best, contrary to the American tradition of hot enough to cause third-degree burns. Opposed to the pay-&-go mentality, this coffee bar wants to be friendly, spend some time schmoozing while the barista prepares your order - old world. What are American students to do? They express ambivalence, raving about the coffee quality and good taste, loving the fresh-daily gelato, but on the other hand, they demanded bagels. If you know anything about the geography of foods, you’d know that bagels are Eastern European, not southern European, as in Mediterranean, where croissants reign. Still, the coffee bar wanted to please the customer so they did add bagels to the menu. This is a culture war being waged within the American coffee culture. It comes down to the question of how far does a business bend to please its customers? Capogiro wants to bring a little bit of Italy to Pennsylvania, but the students there seem to want more American traditions. When they could always go to Starbucks for an American atmosphere, why try to change a really cool place that wants to be part of their lives and share another culture with them, rather than be cold and all business? Maybe the addition of the bagels will be enough of a compromise for Capogiro to maintain its ambiance without succumbing to customer demand to become just another coffee place. We hope so. ROASTe has many fine Italian coffees so you can have your own taste of Italy right in your own home. Just three of them are below.



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