A Note on Caffeine

Nietzsche warnte: “Keinen Kaffee trinken. Kaffee verdunkelt.” Doch zu keiner Zeit wurde mehr Kaffee als getrunken als zu unserer. Welch dunkle Zeit trotz allen scheinenden Lichts. ‘A Note on Caffeine’ ist eine Skizze zum modernen Artisan-Kaffeewahn am Beispiele Londons.

Is a theory of coffee not precisely what is in order in London? London trusts in coffee; it fusses decadently over it, like it does over its other inconsequential choices. But coffee is what it should distrust. For it seems to me, new to the city as I am, that coffee or the culture surrounding it is, though in the most masked of ways, part of how white identity asserts itself here. We all understand that the emphasis on health manifested by movements promoting locally or organically farmed food is easily seen to embody a less than healthy emphasis on cleanliness.*

In the same way, the recent hypertrophy of coffee culture in London, though nominally all in the interests of good taste, manifests an emphasis on intelligence—coffee being a drug for a higher creature of the city, a creature whose vocation places him among its vital individuals, those whose work is creative. This is why the Australians and New Zealanders are our resident specialists in the provision of pricy coffee; this is why the ‘baristas’ whose ‘latte art’ covers our coffees with milky kitsch and who exhibit a no doubt robustly scientific expertise in roasting, brewing and pouring come, all of them, from the remotest reaches of the commonwealth: their position in their home countries is colonial.

The Antipodeans are colonists who have found it necessary to assert an identity as opposed to that of the people who properly occupy the lands to which they are recent, genocidal arrivals. Thus coffee culture is another of the distractions attendant on privilege. When so much attention is paid to something so insigificant, you can be sure that attention is significantly not being paid to something else. In this case, it is perhaps finally only the emptiness on the other side of time, an emptiness that is anything but sleep.

* Another aspect of this is in play in its being characteristic of hipster style more generally to want to resurrect a state of preindustrial disadvantage as though in empty homage to what was lost with it when it lapsed; the homage is so empty because in this we are always at the same time producing a symbol of our ability to do without the disadvantage, or of our freedom to choose between it and the easy thing. What we get is just another reminder of the leisurely ability of the rich to distance themselves from their money.

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