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.
事實上，那杯咖啡是非常不錯的。我碰巧光顧的這家咖啡店是密蘇里州堪薩斯城的咖啡館，名叫Oddly Correct Coffee Bar。后來發現，很多美食家都認為這是美國最好的咖啡館之一。
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.
其所謂的魅力一部分在于嚴格執行的咖啡文化規則。Oddly Correct 屬于新一代的高端咖啡店，這些咖啡店對糖、牛奶和奶油采取零容忍的政策，以保護他們相信的咖啡品質。其他高端店甚至選擇不再出售用小份濃縮咖啡調配的外賣咖啡，因為他們覺得如果不立即享用，咖啡的味道就會受到影響。
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.
萊斯利（Sarah Leslie）說，“宣稱‘我們產品的質量如此之高，所以會有這些限制’，在一些地方已經奏效了；一些顧客看到后會說，‘哇，這些人真的很認真’。不過這也可能疏遠那些剛剛開始接觸精品咖啡的人。”萊斯利是歐洲和北美精品咖啡師貿易組織“咖啡師協會領導委員會”（Barista Guild Leadership Council）的成員。
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.
這一規則的擁躉，包括墨爾本 Aunty Peg's 咖啡店和布達佩斯的 Kontact Coffee 咖啡店，認為他們的顧客應該不加糖、牛奶和奶油 。但根據市場調研機構英敏特（Mintel）2016年的數據顯示，在全美超過32150家咖啡店，包括7720家獨立咖啡店中，零容忍咖啡的數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.
‘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 咖啡廳，有一句這樣的口號，“需要添加補救的咖啡，一定不是好咖啡”。店主麥克內利（Josh McNeilly）說，在店名中標示“黑咖啡”的政策，有助于應對新顧客的期望。
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.
不過在Oddly Correct咖啡店，也就是我第一次知道這種潮流的地方，規則已開始略微松動。上個月，這家店開始在吧臺備些牛奶和奶油，供開口索要的顧客用。但也不公開擺在外面，在過去的幾個月只是私下提供。烘培師兼咖啡店合伙人施羅德（Mike Schroeder）說，這是為了讓店鋪更具包容性。
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.
‘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.
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.
一些咖啡客說是這些咖啡館幫助他們學會品嘗咖啡，也最終改變了他們的偏好。丹佛Black Black Coffee咖啡店的?？?、49歲的平面設計師卡彭特（Charles Carpenter）說：“我現在喜歡每天飲用黑咖啡。”
店主麥克內利說，如果不是因為嚴格把控所供飲品，Black Black Coffee 會賺到更多的錢
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 咖啡廳，麥克內利承認他的政策并不總是對商業有利，他的咖啡館在有的月份做得很辛苦才能盈利。他說：“如果我提供奶油、糖和大杯拿鐵，利潤很容易翻倍，但我熱衷于教育人們了解咖啡可能會有的風味。”
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.