Notes on code, technology, caffeine and everything in between.

Speciality Sweetspot

Dec 12, 2022
tl;dr: First world problems getting a decent flat white.

I visited Hamburg last weekend. Primarily to watch the musical Hamilton, which was awesome.

But I’ve also been visiting some spots where you can enjoy a great cup of speciality coffee, handbrewed or flat white, no matter, always a decent sip. Five or even more years ago, that was a secret tip to visit those spots. And there weren’t many. Probably I’ve spent more time sipping flat white or handbrew at tørnqvist (the bulli or the pop up store), nerding around with Linus about coffee, or the original elbgold roastery, also enjoying some amazing cheesecake with my flat white. And so many other amazing coffee places in Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig.

Amazing elbgold cheesecake & flattie

But back to Hamburg. Today, tørnqvist is no more. Elbgold is still famous, but in fact so famous that you might sometimes wait 10+ minutes in a long cue just to get a flat white to go, no chance of getting a table at all.

What happened?

I was wondering what happend. I think something inescapable that happened to other things before, too: when something is really amazing, kind of exclusive (or at least expensive) and becomes ‘hip’, people will also get a taste for it or at least believe that it’s good, because everybody else of their peer group likes it. So you go there on the weekend to treat yourself maybe. Of course that’s amazing! All the people passionate for speciality coffee who have founded or work in speciality coffee finally get the success they deserve! And when more people pay attention to direct or fair trade, slow roasted, excellently brewed speciality coffee, what should be bad about it?

The tradeoff

The obvious tradeoff is, that the early adopters and people who really appreciate the actual art of coffee farming, processing, sourcing, roasting, grinding and brewing, tend to loose their interest or motivation in having a good sip and some coffee nerd to coffee nerd conversation from by swinging by their favourite coffee place. On the other side, the true coffee nerds will leave the hipsterized coffee place or even the coffee business, as many ‘mainstream’ customers mean more repetitive work for the masses who don’t really appreciate it instead of crafting uniquely tasty coffee experiences. More Starbucks, less speciality.

Of course, there are - and will always be - the little islands of silence and paciently brewed coffee, but they’re increasingly hard to find. Especially if you, like me, decided to not follow every trend any more and drop out of of instagram, the central tool for coffee nerds to connect.

But that’s the thing with buinding a business. Grow and eat or die. There’s no way to stay little and secret if you want to survive as a business. Especially with a pandemic situation you gotta survive somehow. I get that.

And now

I’ll continue to enjoy my 100% first world problems and just brew my excellent cups of handbrew at home. Maybe I can - at some point - also call a portafilter machine my own and create my own great flat whites. But I haven’t yet found a way to replace the coffee nerd conversations.