June 1, 2017

Retro coffee – was it really that bad?

For many a coffee drinker only recently discovering the wonders of the liquid gold, the image of a cappuccino stacked with a mountainous peak of frothed milk is all but a tale mentioned in conversation amongst seasoned baristas and aficionados.

However, the select few that have been around long enough to experience such wonders have also witnessed the growth and evolution of what is the specialty coffee industry.

Terms such as the “Mugaccino” and “Layered Latte” have now been replaced with “Single Origin” and “Ristretto” on café menus, and through consumer education, the token “coffee snob” is a token no more. Mention old school to these “coffee snobs”, and watch their noses turn up faster than bargain hunters on a Boxing Day sale. But, was it really that bad as we remember? The short answer is, yes. However, the long answer is, not really – from a point of view.

From a quality perspective, we can analyse, quantify and allocate grades to coffee to which, by today’s standards, coffee of yesterday was downright horrible. It is also easy to dismiss retro coffee while sipping on a 90+ Panama Geisha Espresso extracted on a $30k machine prepared by a passionate and knowledgeable barista. However, palates change over time, memories are unreliable at best, heavily influenced by our emotions – and most of us didn’t know any better.

In this case, “Ignorance is Delicious”. We only think that retro coffee was bad, because now we have had better. But try to remember back to those early days, before coffee became cool (pun intended). We’re still a kid getting taken to a café by our mums and stealing the froth off her cappuccino … Or maybe studying at uni, trying to stay awake for study? If it really was that bad, then why did we drink it?

Coffee is more than a drug; it’s an experience. It’s not the coffee we remember, but the situations, people and emotions that we associate with it that we remember – good or bad. Just think of the coffee memories you are creating right now that you will reminisce about five, 10 or 20 years from now. Like fashion, will the coffee industry see a resurgence with the infamous Layered Latte? Will retro coffee be the next “on trend”?

Who knows … Maybe future coffee drinkers will be writing an article on how bad coffee used to be in 2017.

Story by Luke Shilling

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