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February 26, 2019
The Coffee Issue

Coffee is in our hands, and on our minds, constantly. You cannot escape it, either because of the growing ubiquity of third-wave cafés and cold brew (which is having quite a run), or the pounding headache that signals you’ve missed a morning cup. It’s stitched into American culture in a fundamental way, like the all-night diner (at which you drink coffee), or the long road trip (fueled by, you guessed it, coffee).

But how to write about it—here in TASTE’s largest special feature to date—in a way that unifies our wildly differing tastes and interests? We are both Coffee Fans (capital C, capital F), and Jordan Michelman, who coedited this week of content, is the cofounder of Sprudge, the most popular coffee publication in the world by readership and a leading culture hub for the beverage’s last decade of roaring growth. Jordan covers coffee.

We both hate the idea that coffee could ever be alienating. That the cliché of the crabby barista clap-back, or the know-it-all roaster talking about his passport stamps, could overshadow the simple pleasure of a pulled espresso, calmly sipped at the counter of a breezy café. The idea that coffee culture is inherently exclusionary—that it looks like someone else, or isn’t welcoming of all backgrounds and cultures—is an ugly by-product of the drink’s entrenched cultural status.

These notions sour the very deliciousness of the drink and take something away from the excitement of receiving a bag of beans in the mail from a rad coffee subscription service. For all its growth, all its excitement, coffee still has miles to go to overcome its colonial legacy and build a modern culture that is truly inclusive. Happily, this is changing fast, and we’ve done our very best to capture the moment here at TASTE.

In this issue we cover coffee from many vantage points. Jordan leads with a distillation of the major topics (10 in total) that are most important in the coffee world today. Elizabeth Dunn investigates the booming ready-to-drink market and how it’s changing the way coffee companies think about their businesses. Senior editor Anna Hezel looks closely at the world of instant coffee and how it’s actually finally (sorta) getting good. We’ve got stories from Los Angeles, Portland, New York City, Philadelphia (Gritty is involved), and Ethiopia—where Matt spends 45 hours in a Land Cruiser on dusty roads in the country’s south, visiting farms and washing stations with the legendary green-coffee buyer Geoff Watts.

This issue is vast, at times contradictory, universal and yet driven by singular viewpoints informed by decades in the coffee game. We talk to experts and amateurs and trendsetters and culture chasers, hoping to paint a picture of a beverage with a unique cultural footprint all its own, spanning vast oceans and influenced by ideas across a broad cross section of viewpoints and origins.

Coffee belongs to everyone and no one, and that’s what makes it so special, so vital for us to be investigating it here in 2019. Coffee has never been more culinary, more delicious, or more interesting. The moment for a closer look is right now. We hope you enjoy reading.  —Jordan Michelman and Matt Rodbard

Photos by Eyal Yassky-Weiss, Anthony Jordan III, Neal Santos

From the Mouth of the Gods


From the Mouth of the Gods

Ethiopian coffee is one of the world’s great culinary treasures. It’s also extremely undervalued. Geoff Watts, cofounder of Intelligentsia Coffee, is on a mission to get you—and the $100 billion industry—to pay more. Much more.