Over at the Serial Monography site, Jeff Benson (yes, the name is no coincidence) looks for an authentic experience: he wants a Flat White coffee like he had when he discovered it in Bali. He tries one at his local Starbucks…
…by the time I had finished drinking it at home, my enthusiasm had dissolved…Because although Starbucks made the same drink I remembered, they had utterly failed to replicate the experience I had when I first drank a flat white. This is, I admit, an unfair standard to hold a coffee chain to. They’re in the business of selling caffeine and sugar to overworked Americans, not reproducing a Balinese coffeehouse.
As I see it he is touching on at least two maybe three ideas here:
- Authenticity. It is one of those ideas that has probably been around since people have been telling stories. No matter what the time or place, [insert place name here] always was more about twenty years before. It’s like Yogi Berra used to say, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”
- Experience of the moment. It is not just the the act but who was around and where. A can of Safeway Select beer may have been the best beer you ever had in your life, if the place, people and the time was special. If you haven’t eaten for a week, a bowl of oatmeal will be an unforgettable feast.
- Globalization. Globalization is often the bugbear of modern life. Trade brings with it the Walmartization/McDonald’sization of a place. Big Macs in Paris. Nike shoes in Zimbabwe.This goes back to Authenticity. Ever since humans learned to trade one thing for another thing (the first trade was probably between the sexes, men hunt and women gather, generally), we have been modifying our environment to make it better for our lives.Without globalization he would not have been able to get a Flat White (an Australian invention) in Bali.
Or maybe it’s none of those things, as Freud might have said, “Sometimes a cup of coffee is just a cup of coffee.”