Ask Vinni

Longer, well researched posts primarily focused on philosophy, psychology and self improvement. Topics I've mulled over for weeks. Irregularly updated.

 

Essays and other writings

Shorter, weekly articles on principles and thoughts that have been in my mind for a couple of days. Contradictory and rough, evolving as I do.

Time

Before I left home, my dad gave me a watch.

He said I should give things time. I kept rushing, wanted time to go by faster and faster by the minute. I wanted to jump years ahead, get to the “fun part of life.”

I didn’t understand it then, and sometimes still refuse to understand it now, but time is gonna pass no matter what, and it’s gonna run at the pace it’s always done. Just like my old watch, which ran out of batteries by now, used to tick at the same pace as every other watch.

The word “pace” is important here. The fact that we can’t influence it, even more.

It means that the minutes will turn into hours, months and eventually, in their due time, to years. It won’t go faster, we don’t get a skip button.

But we also don’t get to slow it down.

That leaves us with two options:

Either we use the time, or we waste it.

It’s not coffee

I know a lot of people start off hating the thing, or drinking it with copious amounts of milk and sugar to mask the taste but still get the caffeine. I guess I was fortunate in that regard, since I never particularly disliked drinking coffee black and never really did consume too much sugar and milk. For the longest time, I neither disliked it nor liked it, but I was always attracted by the ritual surrounding the beverage.

Nowadays, though, if you ask me if I “like” coffee, I’d probably answer that I don’t. At least not what is commonly regarded as coffee. You give me something that isn’t a somewhat fresh crop, fresh (and light) roast, fresh ground, fresh everything, and I’ll probably not manage to drink it. Maybe that means I became a snob. I’ll leave that up to you, I guess. But in the process of becoming a snob, I realized that coffee is much more than just coffee.

Stay Dialled

Every specialty cafe worthy of its name will, before opening the doors to the public each morning, pull some espresso shots, look at the flow, change the grind setting slightly, and taste its product throughout.

This process1 is known as “dialling in.” Every time a new coffee comes into the hopper, variables need to be changed before sliding the cappuccino across the counter. The difference between having the espresso base extracted for 32 and 27 seconds2 is the difference between having the guests drink something bitter and dry, or something sweet, balanced and luxurious.

And then, life happens. You open the doors, people come in slowly at first. You blink and find yourself with five orders standing in front of you. Each of them with their special wishes to accommodate. Each of them expecting just as good of an experience as the guests receive when getting into an empty cafe with an energetic barista who just opened the doors. You have 20 drinks to make, and they better be good.

Service and Accessibility

I should just face it, this will sooner or later become a website about coffee, or heavily influenced by it. The start of this article will be very coffee-focused, but I’ll abstract the topic at the end and make it applicable to everyday interactions. The job has taught me invaluable lessons about communication and that’s part of what I’m trying to expand on.

For my readers who are unfamiliar with the coffee scene, the industry is currently in a very interesting spot. On the one hand, there’s a big push toward specialty-grade products, sustainable farming practices and a fairer treatment of farmers. On the other hand, we face it day in and day out that coffee is still for many people a drug. It’s a necessity, they can’t think before having the first cup.

This puts us in an awkward spot. There are tons of cafes popping up everywhere, the vast majority isn’t doing anything special and have no intention of considering themselves part of the specialty movement.

The specialty movement, meanwhile, is filled with snobbery. It’s filled with baristas and owners turning their noses up at customers who insist on drinking coffee with sugar and milk. There are horror stories of cafés refusing to service guests who order such things.

Here’s the thing: the specialty industry is working with a very delicate product. We know how much work has gone from seed to cup, knowing at the very least the roaster by name. We see our colleagues and bosses filled with passion for the craft. We see a constant push to reach more and provide a better product.

And often we forget the (arguably) most important element of this chain: our customer.

About “About”

Written by a sleepy Vinni at 01:30AM, likely to be edited and formatted tomorrow. Wanted to publish it anyway.

Since I published my last article I’ve received some criticism, several emails and messages that seemed to miss the point of what I was trying to say in the post. This is my attempt to make it a little more understandable.

I’ll start off by saying that I’m still just as confident as I’ve always been; be it in myself or in what I’m writing; that hasn’t changed a bit. What has changed, however, is that the last few months have made me a lot more humble (yes, I thank coffee for that, again).

Here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with being proud of who you are and what you’ve achieved (and trust me, I am proud). The problem for me starts when we stop seeing room for improvement. There is a negative side to pride, as there is to everything when taken to an extreme. So although we can and should be proud of what we’ve accomplished and of who we are, we should do so while looking ahead, not behind us. We can be proud of what we’ve done only as long as it’s clear how much we still have to do.

My belief is that whenever we do something, we should constantly be looking for a way to do it better next time. Each word we write, conversation we have, mile we run, (and surprise, surprise, I’m gonna go there now) cup of coffee we brew.

“You can always go farther upwards” is a motto I’ve taken into my life and habits. It took me out of my high horse, it made people question if everything was alright with me, but it also made me grow more in two months than I had in a whole year before that. That’s a tradeoff I’m willing to take.

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