Sometime last week I read a fun little satirical blog post written by a self-confessed wine snob and addressed to the growing population of self-confessed coffee snobs. The tongue-in-cheek post lamented the fact that the world of coffee was in the process of stealing the unique culture and vocabulary of the wine enthusiasts, with talk of nuanced flavors and varietals, coffee cupping parties and the rest. Why, coffee snobs have even, he lamented, adopted the air of superiority that marks the most astute and learned wine tasters. I found it pretty amusing. I found it even more amusing to read the comments, where it was obvious that a few people had taken the post seriously. However.
The whole thing got me thinking about the similiarities between coffee and wine, and more pointedly, between the appreciation of coffee and wine. And I came to the conclusion that it's a whole lot more fun being a coffee connoisseur than it is being an oenophile.Think about it for a minute -- coffee appreciation is soooo much more interactive. And it allows you to show off your own level of skill with coffee in a way that you just don't get to do with a bottle of wine.
I mean, you can make the argument that proper decanting is essential to retaining the full nuanced flavor of a wine but seriously? How much can you do to the wine post-opening to affect and change the flavor of the wine? When you get your hands on a great bottle of wine, you essentially have a finished product. I know that there are people out there who make their own wines without growing the grapes, but it's a completely different process, and barriers to accessing wine-making as a hobby are a whole lot higher than the barriers to making a great cup of coffee.
Serving good coffee, on the other hand, is a participatory thing. You get to make decisions about what you do with your beans -- how fine do you grind them? How do you brew them? What proportion of water do you use? What difference does it make to the flavor if you brew it in a press pot as opposed to as espresso as opposed to a pour-over as opposed to an auto-drip coffee maker? And who would ever imagine adulterating a fine wine by adding a spot of milk or serving it half and half with milk or topping it with the perfectly frothed velvety foam and a sprinkle of cinnamon?
For those who want even more control -- or just want to have more fun with coffee -- roasting your own is as simple as buying green beans and finding a flat-bottomed, heavy pan and source of heat. Voila! You're an artisanal roaster. You may not be able to roast GOOD coffee yet, but you can experiment. And you get to experiment with degrees of roasting, figure out how a bean tastes at each stage of doneness, blend different beans with each other to balance flavors and come up with your very own distinctive coffee that no one else is making. Seriously, how can wine compete with all that fun?
Now, don't get me wrong. I like wine like I like coffee. I appreciate a fine wine -- and don't mind a decent one. I even enjoy a bit of home-crafting with wine -- dandelion, elderberry and blackberry are very forgiving; apple wine is quick and tasty, but it's just not the same as brewing coffee and knowing that it is, in part, my skill and knowledge that make it taste so good.