A cafe I used to frequent recently changed hands. I had returned there after a string of affairs with a few other local cafe’s and realised the owner was Indian, something I hadn’t seen too much in coffee shops. I’m an open person, so why did my brain make an issue of it?
The world has shaped my idea of coffee to be a substance synonymous with art and progressive ideas. It’s no surprise that the Renaissance was sparked during a time when coffee houses opened up in Europe and all the thinkers huddled together over warm cups of joe, their brains flowing with new ideas from the caffeine.
When I think of coffee I think of the old European world. I have images of Belgian chocolatiers roasting cocoa beans in a cellar kitchen. I imagine an old man and his dog sitting at a cast iron table in the shade of the Eiffel tower on a warm Tuesday afternoon. While these scenes aren’t the reality of coffee I still chase cafe’s that brand themselves this way, and plenty of them do.
A vital part of good coffee for me is the Barista. Since I equate coffee with European heritage and art movements my brain gives the cafe a big tick when I see someone of European descent behind the Espresso machine. It should be no surprise to see a morning queue at hipster cafes, coffee self-expression and culture are all synonymous.
Imagine a young Indian female who has just arrived in Paris for a student exchange program. She chose Paris because she’s a Francophile and is partial to French cliche’s, cafe’s being no exception. On her first day she makes her way to the nearest cafe with a copy of Remembrance of things past as reading material. However she is ambivalent about the Barista who appears to have Indian heritage too, she was looking forward to being served by dashing French waiters.
Perhaps this is a little edgy, but I’m reminding myself that it shouldn’t be, race is a casualty in regards to how we position experiences in our mind. Every product, service and experience has a preconception of how much it should cost, how long we’ll be involved, and in these turbulent times, the varying involvement between ethnic backgrounds.
If you had a hankering for some Chinese food would you buy from a place that had white people in the kitchen? A lot of people would take their business elsewhere. The same applies to Indian food.
I still go to the cafe as the quality of the coffee has not changed. Now I am conscious of how I relate race to my purchasing process I won’t be employing my preconception of products so much.