Black Coffee Is Bitter, Like the People Who Drink It

Black Coffee Superiority Complex is a plague upon American culture; a bit of sweetener helps.

By Anna Fitzgerald

Has this ever happened to you? You’re on the go, and you pick up a latte from Starbucks, or you make coffee at your house and add sweetener and milk (almond milk, oat milk, cow milk, half and half, it doesn’t matter). Maybe you even add some flavored creamer before you run out the door. Then you get to school or work and someone, probably a balding man carrying a dented twenty-year-old stainless steel thermos, makes a comment that that you do not like coffee, and that you actually like cream and sugar. These people are like bloodhounds, smelling non-black coffee from a mile away. And as soon as they do, they feel the need to comment on it.

Usually people react to this by laughing politely and shrugging it off. What else can you do? Apologize for having the audacity to add ingredients to your coffee that make it taste good? It’s like they think they’re better than the rest of us because they drink boiling hot bean water every morning, and they have to let us know it.

Now, unlike your old man coworkers, I know that the way other people drink their coffee does not affect me in any way. Like most people, I don’t feel the need to put others down because of the way they like their coffee. To argue that the way I drink my coffee is the only correct way is not a hill I want to die on.

The beauty of coffee is that it can be made in so many different ways, and everyone likes theirs a little bit differently. If it was only supposed to be brewed and then drunk with nothing added, we wouldn’t have so many coffee shops, and baristas wouldn’t exist. When you go to a coffee shop, the base ingredients they use are coffee or espresso, milk, sugar, flavored syrups, and ice. But variations of these can be combined in different ratios and different ways to make everything you see on the expansive menu, and then some.

In addition, if you go to a store like Target, near the grocery aisle there is a whole display of coffee-making tools that you can purchase so you can make versions of these coffee shop drinks at home. That way, you can be your own barista and have complete control over exactly what goes in your coffee every time. Again, if coffee wasn’t supposed to be made in these ways, these tools wouldn’t exist.

There is still hope for Folgers superiority folks, though. My dad has always been a black coffee drinker who provided unnecessary commentary about how others drink their coffee. However one day a few summers ago, he tried a McDonald’s frappe because he had a gift card, and ended up liking it. From then on, he would get a mocha frappe from time to time in the summer. He would never remember the name though, instead asking the employee who had the unfortunate task of taking his order for an “ice cream coffee.” 

While he still prefers the cheapness and convenience of brewing coffee at home, pouring it in his Yeti, and heading to work, he now has an appreciation for special coffee drinks and those who make them. I would consider his rehabilitation from Black Coffee Superiority Complex to Normal Person a success.            

So next time a coffee purist criticizes you for not drinking straight up Folgers with nothing in it like them, just know that their superiority complex might be from a place of fear and intimidation. People who make fancy coffees hold a certain power in our society. Someone who works at Starbucks could put literally anything in their brown sugar oat milk shaken espresso and I would still drink it because it’s the caffeine boost I need for my day. There are very few people who could wield that much power responsibly.

Photo: Black coffee in a white coffee mug by Jernej Furman on Flickr