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These coffee snobs ban milk and sugar

Three years ago, when travelling for work, I dropped into a café for a dose of morning caffeine. Sleep deprived, I was grateful to be handed the perfect pour over – where you hand-pour the water over ground coffee – a few minutes later.


But when I asked for a bit of sugar, the barista flatly refused, telling me they didn’t offer it. What happened to the ‘how do you take your coffee’ culture I was used to? Irritated, I had no choice but to drink it unsweetened.


Actually, it was pretty good. Turns out I had stumbled upon Oddly Correct Coffee Bar, a cafe in Kansas City, Missouri. A café which I subsequently found out many foodies consider to be one of the top coffee spots in the US.

事实上,那杯咖啡是非常不错的。我碰巧光顾的这家咖啡店是密苏里州堪萨斯城的咖啡馆,名叫Oddly Correct Coffee Bar。后来发现,很多美食家都认为这是美国最好的咖啡馆之一。

Part of its so-called charm is its enforcement of strict coffee culture rules. Oddly Correct is part of a new breed of high-end coffee shops that have adopted zero tolerance policies on sugar, milk and cream to preserve what they feel is coffee quality. Others simply opt out of selling smaller espresso-based drinks ‘to go’ because they feel the taste suffers if not enjoyed right away.

其所谓的魅力一部分在于严格执行的咖啡文化规则。Oddly Correct 属于新一代的高端咖啡店,这些咖啡店对糖、牛奶和奶油采取零容忍的政策,以保护他们相信的咖啡品质。其他高端店甚至选择不再出售用小份浓缩咖啡调配的外卖咖啡,因为他们觉得如果不立即享用,咖啡的味道就会受到影响。

Often called Third Wave coffee shops, these aficionados use high-quality roasted beans that they feel should be consumed unadulterated by additional flavours (even ones their customers might wish to add). Many of these zero-tolerance coffee shops feel that they are simply re-educating consumers by implementing these rules, but the issue is polarising.


“To say ‘we’re so high quality that we have these restrictions’, it has worked for some places; some customers see that and say ‘wow, these people take it really seriously’. But it can also alienate people who are just getting into speciality coffee,” says Sarah Leslie, a member of the Barista Guild Leadership Council, a trade group for speciality coffee baristas in Europe and North America.

莱斯利(Sarah Leslie)说,“宣称‘我们产品的质量如此之高,所以会有这些限制’,在一些地方已经奏效了;一些顾客看到后会说,‘哇,这些人真的很认真’。不过这也可能疏远那些刚刚开始接触精品咖啡的人。”莱斯利是欧洲和北美精品咖啡师贸易组织“咖啡师协会领导委员会”(Barista Guild Leadership Council)的成员。

Acolytes include Aunty Peg’s in Melbourne and Kontact Coffee in Budapest who believe their customers should shun sugar, milk and cream. But the number of zero-tolerance coffee shops remains a tiny fraction of the more than 32,150 coffee shops across the US, including 7,720 independents, according to 2016 figures from Mintel, a market research firm.

这一规则的拥趸,包括墨尔本 Aunty Peg's 咖啡店和布达佩斯的 Kontact Coffee 咖啡店,认为他们的顾客应该不加糖、牛奶和奶油 。但根据市场调研机构英敏特(Mintel)2016年的数据显示,在全美超过32150家咖啡店,包括7720家独立咖啡店中,零容忍咖啡的数量只占非常小的比例。

Of course, so-called zero tolerance policies aren’t unique to coffee and are expanding throughout the food service sector. These days, more restaurants refuse to serve steak well done, cater to different meal requests or even serve the condiments that some customers may request.


“Getting the food served just as intended and maintaining consistency day in and day out is gaining momentum in the industry,” says Darren Tristano, a marketing and trends expert in the food industry who is based in Chicago. For the food businesses it often means providing better quality and faster service to customers, which helps to offset disappointment for “customers used to options”, he adds.

芝加哥食品行业营销和趋势专家崔斯坦诺(Darren Tristano)表示:“按照设定的方式提供食品,并且日复一日地保持一致性,这在食品行业正获得越来越大的势头。”他补充说,对于食品企业来说,这往往意味着要为食客服提供更好、更快的服务,这有助于抵消习惯于“消费者作选择”之顾客的失望不满之情。

‘Accommodating, but not yielding’


At Black Black Coffee in Denver, the slogan is: ‘If your coffee needs doctoring, it must be broken.’ Making the ‘no-additions’ policy evident in the name has helped manage new customers’ expectations, says owner Josh McNeilly.

在丹佛的 Black Black Coffee 咖啡厅,有一句这样的口号,“需要添加补救的咖啡,一定不是好咖啡”。店主麦克内利(Josh McNeilly)说,在店名中标示“黑咖啡”的政策,有助于应对新顾客的期望。

Customers can purchase pour overs and cold brew, but sugar and milk are not offered. Some classic drinks like the macchiato, cortado and cappuccino do come with milk but not sugar, he adds.


The idea is to let customers taste the quality of beans from places such as Colombia and Ethiopia, and detect different notes similar to tasting a glass of wine. For McNeilly, after decades as a barista and coffee buyer, the rule was a no-brainer. “As a barista you’d tell them that this is one of the best farms on Earth and they just go and dump cream and sugar in it without trying it,” he says. “It was heartbreaking.”


At Oddly Correct, where I first encountered this trend, the rules are relaxing slightly. Last month, the shop started stocking milk and cream behind the bar for people who ask (it’s still not sitting out in the open and was secretly poured for a few months before that) to be more inclusive, says Mike Schroeder, roaster and co-owner.

不过在Oddly Correct咖啡店,也就是我第一次知道这种潮流的地方,规则已开始略微松动。上个月,这家店开始在吧台备些牛奶和奶油,供开口索要的顾客用。但也不公开摆在外面,在过去的几个月只是私下提供。烘培师兼咖啡店合伙人施罗德(Mike Schroeder)说,这是为了让店铺更具包容性。

Sugar is still a no-no, but relaxing the policy around adding milk to brewed coffee has already led to an uptick in business, he says. Even though few people actually ask for the cream, knowing it’s available has helped change the shop’s image to be more accepting of different choices around coffee, he adds. “We realised we had to move our fences out a little bit to guide people into that [coffee] experience.”


Oddly Correct has also added some sweeter drinks: a vanilla latte is sweetened with a locally made bourbon syrup, for instance. Baristas have softened the way they discuss the policies. “We’ve learned how to refine our language and our approach in ways that are still welcoming and accommodating, but not yielding to every single request,” he adds.

Oddly Correct咖啡店也开始增加供应一些更甜的饮品,例如用当地产的一种波本糖浆制作的香草拿铁。咖啡师已经软化了他们讨论无添加规定的方式。他补充道:“我们已经学会了如何改善我们的措辞和方法,以一种受欢迎和包容的方式进行,但不会屈服于每一个要求。”

‘Passion to educate’


Zero-tolerance coffee shops in larger markets may see the most benefit. With a clientele that’s focus on meticulous preparation, the request to drink it black can be seen as a sign of quality, adds Leslie, who owns a shop in Wichita, Kansas, where sweetened coffee with milk is still popular. In larger global cities, “it’s a positive thing to them to be seen as a coffee snob”, she adds.

在更大的市场中零容忍咖啡店可能看到了最大的利润。 在堪萨斯城的威奇托(Wichita)拥有一间咖啡厅的莱斯利说,如果有顾客会留意咖啡的精心冲泡,并要求饮用黑咖啡,可以被视为高品质咖啡馆的标志。不过在她的店,加了牛奶和糖的咖啡仍然受欢迎。她补充说,在世界大都市,“如果一家咖啡馆被人看成是过于讲究的精品咖啡馆,实际是一件好事。”

Some coffee drinkers say the shops have helped them learn about coffee – and they eventually change their preferences. “My everyday drinking coffee I now prefer black,” says Charles Carpenter, a 49-year-old graphic designer who visits Black Black in Denver.

一些咖啡客说是这些咖啡馆帮助他们学会品尝咖啡,也最终改变了他们的偏好。丹佛Black Black Coffee咖啡店的常客、49岁的平面设计师卡彭特(Charles Carpenter)说:“我现在喜欢每天饮用黑咖啡。”

店主麦克内利说,如果不是因为严格把控所供饮品,Black Black Coffee 会赚到更多的钱

But he hasn’t totally given up his sweeter indulgences, especially during the colder months. “My dirty little secret is I love eggnog lattes around the holidays,” says Carpenter.


At Black Black, McNeilly concedes that his policy isn’t always good for business and the shop sometimes struggles to turn a monthly profit. “It could easily be twice as profitable if I served cream and sugar and bigger lattes, but it’s my passion to try to educate people on what coffee could possibly taste like,” he says.

在 Black Black 咖啡厅,麦克内利承认他的政策并不总是对商业有利,他的咖啡馆在有的月份做得很辛苦才能盈利。他说:“如果我提供奶油、糖和大杯拿铁,利润很容易翻倍,但我热衷于教育人们了解咖啡可能会有的风味。”

Most customers are loyal regulars and come back several times throughout the week. The shop’s pour overs are mentioned in must-try lists locally and it now also serves food, making it more of a destination for customers from further away. A cascara latte has also been added for those with a sweet tooth, combining cascara fruit that surrounds the coffee bean on the plant with a dash of simple syrup and steamed milk.


To mitigate negative comments, McNeilly trains his team in how to explain the shop’s philosophy to first-time customers. Baristas focus on helping customers understand why milk and sugar aren’t served rather than simply telling them it’s not available, he adds.


But one thing he hasn’t done? Given in to surprised customers who demand sugar and cream. “It would be the easy route to say ‘OK fine, I’ll give you cream and sugar, just don’t make a big deal out of it’... but we’ve never actually done it,” he says.

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