Becoming a Coffee Snob

From bitter sludge-water to caffeinated bliss. I've rediscovered coffee in a new era, and I'm never going back.


Coffee cup with roasted coffee beans.

I have a confession: I’m in love with coffee - this mystical fruit with so much complexity and character. The bean that turns water into magical super juice.

Yet, there was a time that I didn’t truly love coffee. I drank it solely for its power of caffeination and ability to suppress hunger (black coffee without additives, because I'm hardcore like that), but I can’t say it was enjoyable. It was a means to an end that I had to choke down.

Growing up, my coffee world was limited: bland store-bought blends for drip machines, sugar-bomb Starbucks lattes that were more milkshake than coffee, and watered-down Keurig pods. How could I fall in love when all I knew was this bitter, watery slop juice that had to be doused in sugar to be remotely tolerable?

Disclaimer: If you're a fan of generic chain coffee or store-bought drip coffee, you might want to reconsider reading further. These beverages are perfectly fine (if that's your thing), but exploring specialty coffee might just ruin your taste buds forever.

The Turn Around

This changed as I began to travel out of Midwestern USA to see countries around the world. It was during my time in Asia and the Middle East that I rediscovered coffee, but in a whole new light. By escaping the Starbucks imitation cafes and going to local coffee shops, I discovered coffee with fruity, complex flavors that I never thought were possible.

shallow focus photography of coffee beans in sack
Who knew you had so many layers. Are you an onion?

In the USA, it was normal for chain brands to offer ‘seasonal’ blends of coffee that mixed in spices and seasoning into the coffee to make it slightly less bland, but it wasn’t the same thing. The coffee I had overseas had fruity and sweet flavors or other complex flavors that tasted natural, like it came from the beans itself, not a bottle of syrup. Quite honestly, it was a life-changing experience and sparked a snobbish disdain for my former coffee choices.

There was an immediate downside to this, however. The coffee that I knew before had been a tolerable drink. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. After experiencing what coffee could really be, that tolerance for bland coffee became disgust. I wanted more from my coffee experiences, and I wasn't going to settle.

I ain't eva gonna settle!

It turns out I wasn’t alone in my disappointment with commercialized coffee. As I was exploring unique coffee experiences overseas, a movement known as the Third Wave Coffee movement was gaining momentum in the United States. Coffee enthusiasts were driven by a desire to showcase the potential and complexity of coffee beyond the ordinary cup.

This new wave saw smaller cafes opening with focuses on local roasters and direct relationships with coffee farms. This promoted the rise of ‘specialty coffee’ where the growing conditions and roasting processes focused on bringing out the most within the bean. Brewing methods which served to place the natural flavors of the bean on center stage were on the rise such as pour-over coffee, french press, and cold brew coffee.

person pouring coffee from a french press on white ceramic teacup
The magical French press

Behind the scenes, there was another movement on the rise that I had gotten swept up into: The Fourth Wave coffee movement.

Bring in the Fourth Wave

If the coffee waves are categorized by mass production coffee, to pricier chain coffee, to smaller coffee shops and specialty coffee, then the next step in this progression would naturally be the home brewing scene: the Fourth Wave Coffee Movement. While home brewing and fancy gadgets aren't new, the social emphasis on making it hip and accessible was.

Spurred by the pandemic of 2020 and the closure of many cafes and restaurants, the fourth wave of coffee took off. People began investing more in equipment to make their favorite coffee-shop treats at home. Naturally, this meant a boom in online content aimed at turning ordinary folks into coffee connoisseurs.

Having personally experienced better coffee thanks to the Third Wave, I was already dabbling in home brewing. This surge in "learn to brew" content was like gasoline on a fire. Could I recreate those complex flavors I’d tasted abroad? I started a deep dive into all things coffee: the science of extraction, bean varieties, roast profiles – the whole nine yards.

man drinking coffee
It's too late. Coffee has consumed me. You can still save yourself.

A French press became my first step towards better coffee. A few online tutorials later, I brewed my first few cups with some generic supermarket beans. After a bit of trial and error, it was already miles better than my old swill.

That was when my wallet started to get nervous. I began investing in higher-quality beans from local roasters and an embarrassment of coffee gear. Eventually, I swapped the French Press for an Aeropress – way more portable for travel and a breeze to clean. Don't get me wrong, the French Press still has its place, but the Aeropress became my go-to.

The next few years, as the world opened back up again, I hit the road. Armed with my Aeropress, I explored cities and countries, comparing local roasts and cafés, refining my palate. Traveling for food was already my jam, but this added a whole new dimension to my adventures.

woman holding cup while looking outside
Gotta travel to get those good travelling coffee pictures.

Coffee has done a complete 180 for me - going from boring, bitter slop juice to a full-blown passion. From finding new ways to prepare coffee to experiencing how wildly different the flavors can be, I’ve found a world of enjoyment I never knew existed.

I absolutely intend to share those experiences with you in the days to come. My mission? To spread the gospel of good coffee. After all, the more people that join the club, the more awesome coffee we'll have for years to come!


More From #Flavorverse

Woman grabbing a meat skewer at a streetfood stall

Global Food Remix: Why Food Changes Abroad

That local takeout restaurant near you will taste worlds different than the cuisine in its home country. Food, like people, has to adapt to its environment.

Falling in Love with Filipino Food

From sizzling sisig to sweet halo-halo, Filipino cuisine offers a unique blend of cultures and an exciting culinary adventure.

air fryer with seasoned potatoes

Have No Fear, the Air Fryer is Here!

Goodbye mushy leftovers and soggy takeout. The greatest kitchen appliance of the century is here to save our taste buds (and maybe lives).

Recent Articles

Artistic illustration of a person crossing a bridge between two places with technological glitches.
Tech Hole

Bridging the Digital Divide: Tech Equality

There is a wide gap between digitally rich and developing countries. How can we prevent devastation to these countries as technology advances?

Woman grabbing a meat skewer at a streetfood stall

Global Food Remix: Why Food Changes Abroad

That local takeout restaurant near you will taste worlds different than the cuisine in its home country. Food, like people, has to adapt to its environment.

person with boots up on the dashboard holding a notebook
Travel Fever

Travel Planning for the Laid-Back Adventurer

The heart of adventure is the journey itself. Many of us don't enjoy planning, but a tiny bit can save future headache!

couple watching a movie together with a bucket of popcorn
Human Orbit

Adaptations Aren't Always as Bad as You Think

You get an adaptation, and you get an adaptation! Everyone's getting an adaptation! Some may be objectively bad, not all are as bad as you think.

Artistic illustration of a person with their head on fire
Brain Zone

What Does it Mean to be Neurospicy?

In the mental health world we might have just found a new description for our spicy brain. Neurospicy might not tick everyone's boxes, but I dig it.

© 2024 JWOL Media LLC. All rights reserved