The Rise Of Coffee Warfare In America: A Photo Essay

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The debate surrounding the “right” way to prepare coffee has divided the barista community. Once united over a mutual, diehard passion for the coffee bean, baristas around the country are now ditching their bespoke “roasteries” and “straineries” for coffee-crazed militant groups. Some attribute this to the rise of nationalism in the coffee preparation trade. The Pulp Press reached out to Bean and Gone militant, Sebastian Harvey-Mott, for comment.

For Sebastian Harvey-Mott (Seb to his friends), it all started the summer he graduated from high school and got his first-ever summer job as a customer service rep at Starbucks Coffee, where, over the course of his two-month contract, Seb memorized the essentials of artful coffee making. Seb had been storing a novel in the pipelines since his second year of college where he studied Mexican Folklore at DeVry University. Seb felt confident that, thanks to his coffee expertise, academic prowess, and one-month volunteer experience building houses in Mexico he had the intellectual worldliness to pad out the next revolutionary piece of literature.

But Seb was forced to deviate from his plan due to his poor spending habits. No publisher or Kinko’s franchise wanted to print Seb’s book, and he was barely making more than minimum wage at now full-time barista job at Starbucks. “I could barely afford my apartment, friendships, and coffee dates – even with a monthly allowance from my parents.”

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Seb’s expenditures forced him to work tiring hours, but it was all worth it when a headhunter found his LinkedIn profile and recruited him for a sales rep position at Bean and Gone, an independent café-boutique just up the road from home. “They said they could tell I was the barista just by the way I composed myself,” Seb recalls.

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Seb accepted the job before he even heard the whole offer, and he got a pay rise just as quickly. Furthermore, knowing he was working for an independent company rather than a faceless corporation made him feel closer to a higher purpose.

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Working at Bean and Gone was a pleasure. The shop was full of penguin classics for casual browsing when not manning the machines. Seb could enjoy his 15-minute break knowing that, while he sat with his Guatemalan drip filtered coffee, he could be seen flicking through any number of pieces of renowned literature.

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Seb felt like his colleagues “got” him; they were all lovers of the drip filter, the manifestly superior coffee method. Seb’s coworkers invited him to attend meetups, held by the local branch of the nationwide Beaners Collective, in a local warehouse in an up-and-coming part of town.

“There was like a sense of oneness in this group of talented artists of cuisine,” Seb recalls. But the collective effervescence turned cold when nobody could agree on the “right” coffee preparation method.

Seb explains, “If you drink anything but the drip, you might as well drink earl grey.”

The preparation discussion turned into a dramatic argument that is now considered one of the most controversial and divisive subjects in barista discourse. The debate pulled The Beaners apart as smaller factions emerged per preferred preparation method.

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Sebastian remained aligned with Bean and Gone and was lucky enough to land another job in the clubhouse of the “Drip Filter Tilters, the baddest crew in Portland,” before things got too crazy. The rivalries all started pretty innocently; the odd bit of abuse thrown on the street, boycotting of rivals shops and the odd bit of shop front graffiti but it didn’t take long to get ramped up.

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Gang colors and tattoos were an inevitable turn in the rapidly inflaming rivalries between factions. They allowed for easy identification and made it easier to pick out rivals on the streets and know what coffee shops were housing them. Some say the tattoos are what sparked the violence.

In the last six months, coffee connoisseurs have seen several incidents involving the throwing of hot coffee, shipment hijacking, and ritual de-bearding (a humiliation tactic). However, the tension and conflict have only intensified and become more violent. This year alone has seen a total of 53 fatalities result from brutal coffee-related incidents. In December of last year, two young Decaf Instant enthusiasts (A.K.A Before Bedtime Boys or TripleB’s) were force-fed double Columbian espresso until they died of cardiac overload. This January, two people were killed in a midnight raid when the NYPD replaced the Brooklyn faction’s entire bean supply with decaf. The resulting caffeine deficiency left two of the members in a state of comatose before dying days later. The deaths were reported as natural (but under suspicious circumstances).

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“I have a lot of blood on my hands.” – Sebastian Harvey-Mott

With the wars raging on and no signs of a peace treaty, these angry caffeine heads will soon be rivaling the Crips and Bloods for pointless killings.

Nevertheless, Seb has high hopes for the future of the bean. Still sporting the gang emblem on his barista apron and with a balaclava rolled fashionably high over his years from last night’s hijinks he leaves us with this little insight: “I know we will end up losing small battles here and there, I may even end up losing a friend or two but fighting for what I believe in is more important to me than all of that. My father got to fight for his country, something he loved, as did his father before him. This is my time to shine, my gauntlet to face. I am proving myself and I know deep down in my heart that soon the nonbelievers will come around or be ground up like the bean we all love so much.”

Three weeks after this interview, Seb was identified by his dental records after the well known ‘dry roasting’ incident in which three gangs all conned into believing there was a black market Colombian coffee sale. All three were locked in a huge cargo container and rather ironically roasted at around 500 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes.

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