Question: “What mustn’t you do so as not to offend a coffee connoisseur? Stay away from instant coffee? Keep the Bailey’s out? With thanks.” - Bill Garfield Suzuki
Answer: Bill, I can tell you that’s a great question because unfortunately, I find friends and family all too concerned about the coffee they serve me in their homes. The exception is my parents, who have been making coffee longer than I’ve been alive, so aren’t all that concerned with what I think!
I have a friend with a formal culinary background who tells me everybody is afraid to cook for him. I have another friend who informally is just as much a cook, and I can’t host him at my house without him taking control of the cooking. And so it is with coffee snobs, it really depends on the person. Anyone who would take offense to any part of being hosted is too much of a snob, let them be offended. Here are some pointers I suggest:
1. Make everything optional
Serve the coffee black, and bring out the cream, sugar, and Bailey’s so that they are available whether the snob wants them or not. Depending on the level of snobness, they may not want to even be asked whether they will take anything in their coffee. So, don’t ask. Put it all on the table and let them whiten or sweeten to taste.
2. Find out what they know that you don’t
When my friend commandeers the cooking while I’m hosting him, I watch him like a hawk. He knows what he’s doing and so I’m intensely curious so that I can pick up a thing or two. In fact, if you’re hosting a coffee snob, make it a point to learn one new thing about making coffee that you didn’t already know. Or, take it a step further and ask a barrage of questions like the snob will never be in your home again.
3. Tell them what they’re getting
Maybe you are genuinely interested in being a great host for the snob. My advice when serving the coffee is to tell the snob exactly what they’re getting – almost a presentation of the coffee. “This is Nescafe Instant, it’s not terrible.” or “This is Starbucks House Blend I buy at the grocery store.” or “I got this as a gift, it says it’s Kenya AA, but that’s all I know about it.” If the snob thinks you’re interested to know more, he or she probably has something interesting to share about that coffee. If the snob is the Cliff Claven of coffee, you may have bitten off more than you can chew, but remember, you said you were genuinely interested in hosting this person.
4. Tell them to bring the coffee
Let them know what equipment you have to make coffee, and tell them that you’d be honored if they would make coffee for everybody after dinner. No coffee snob will be offended by this.
The one I get most often is my host will pull their coffee out of the freezer, looking at me sideways because they’re pretty sure that’s not where they’re supposed to put their coffee. So if you yourself are a coffee snob and you’ve read this far into my post, keep quiet at a time like that. Let them ask you if that’s a good place to keep their coffee and only in response, tell them why it isn’t.
I don’t like snobs, so I try not to be one. I’m one of the people that’s afraid to cook for my friend the chef. And it’s not because he’s a snob at all, I’m the one who is self-conscious about it. But, he always has small helpful tips that make a big difference for as much cooking as I do. Turn the experience into a learning one, the snob knows things you don’t.