Explaining the Coffee-Hipster Connection

Author of a new book on the business of beans goes behind the scenes.

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For an upcoming story, I interviewed journalist Michaele Weissman, author of God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee, about the business of coffee. It's the first in an occasional series on what I'm calling the Business of Pleasure. So far, the wine, oyster, and sushi industries are also on that list. If you have any other suggestions for sectors that provide us with enjoyment, please send them my way by E-mailing alphaconsumer@usnews.com.

One question Weissman answered for me addressed the hipster-coffee connection. She explained why so many coffee shops are run by young people who have embraced alternative lifestyles:

Coffee provides people with a lot of vision and intelligence and enthusiasm. It gives people who are maybe oddballs a place to put their passion. That's definitely an aspect of the coffee culture. It also provides jobs for kids who didn't do great in high school.

Do you agree?

Weissman had an interesting take on the brouhaha that happened over at Murky Coffee in Arlington, Va., after a customer tried to order an espresso over ice and the barista refused to prepare it. (The customer, in his response, scribbled an expletive on his cash tip and then wrote a blog entry on the incident that attracted much attention.) Weissman interviewed Nick Cho, owner of the coffee shop, for her book. She says part of the reason the argument escalated is because "the most passionate coffee people are young, geeky guys, and young, geeky guys sometimes don't have the world's best social skills."

• If you want to avoid the need to use any social skills and make great coffee at home instead, check out these tips from Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa.

• If you're looking for more reasons to brew your own beans, consider these statistics from Good Earth Coffee, a new organic brand launching later this month: The 14.4 billion disposable coffee cups discarded each year use up about 54 million pounds of paper, the equivalent of 5.5 million trees.