While no one was looking, under the cover of darkness, the magnificent Italian hand built La Marzocco machines were replaced one by one with fully automatic computerized press-a-button versions. (This took place in thousands of Starbucks across the land.) This is the day when the romance and theater of Starbucks died.
This disturbing trend is taking place on many levels of society.
Many argue that removing the human (error) factor makes for a more consist product and increased customer satisfaction. But really, truth be told, it is because of training costs, speed of service and efficiency. Not bad things in themselves from a overly worked Barristas point of view. (The solution for a busy store is to have two to four machines and double the staff, like they do in Buenos Aries. Really, they do.)
However they are ignoring the romantic factor. Where is the romance and theater of pushing a button? Where is the skill and passion of the Barrista?
For a quick lesson in romance, look to the humble Volturno. One of the things that the Italians brought with them to Argentina was this little stove stop espresso maker. (Made internationally famous by Bialleti.) While not true espresso and I am not comparing it to espresso, it deserves a place in every coffee lovers arsenal.
We brought ours back from Buenos Aires, a national brand called Volturno. Although it mostly gets it use when we travel, there are still many a days when we when we opt for the intense room filling aroma and the seductive whisper it makes to tell you when its ready. Where Bialetti has compromised to appease the North-American hordes by making a stainless version, the humble Volturno still uses the time honored and tested traditional aluminum which gets better with age.
Simply follow a few simple rules handed down from the old Italian bubbas. First, you need to condition the pot before use by brewing a pot with just water, then a second time with coffee that you leave sit overnight. The second rule is to never wash the inside with soap, just rinse with hot water and air dry. This way you do not want to disturb the coating left by the oils in the coffee. The third rule is to pile the slightly coarser than espresso grind coffee in a mound with the peak passing the top of the filter basket. This way the coffee will be compressed to just the right amount for optimum extraction.
While these basic rules seem to defy normal coffee logic, in the Volturno they unexplainable work. Enter the romance factor. While producing good coffee is based on scientific principals, fully automatic press a button espresso machines can never compute nor replicate the romance (human) factor.
Those old Italian bubbas know best. Please leave button pushing to accountants and Starbuck Barristas. Stay original… it’s only human.
Mark Sandman wrote: “I am like a mirror, I am nothing till you look at me.” Words for deep thought at 2 a.m. when you can’t sleep.
Lets apply this to art. Does art have value if it is never appreciated? I suppose that is why we have museums of art. Art is also one the few things that can achieve the priceless status. However if a priceless painting is locked away behind 6 inches of steel and never to be seen, can we say still say it has value? Sure it has monetary value but art is not about money. If no one can ever see it or appreciate it, then what value does it have? Yes, it seems that Mark makes a valid point.
Most things inherently human are interactive in nature. They must be seen or heard in order for their value to become more apparent. (That is also why in the end, artists reluctantly part with their precious art. That and of course not wanting to be a literal starving artist.) The artist is only part of the equation. The audience is another. Both are needed for art to have value.
Original art is also like a mirror in one other aspect. Each time you peer into a mirror, you see something new and unique. You will never see the same image twice. That is why original art is so special. You own something unique. (Which is becoming increasingly rare in this world of artificial clones and cheap knock-offs.) More than 6.5 billion people cannot have what you have. Each piece is unique. Even more so with original oil paintings, as with time they also interact with the environment (light, humidity, temperature, dirt etc.) creating subtle and hopefully positive changes. There are almost countless variables in this graceful aging process.
That is why art really is priceless and one of the greatest values in our modern society. So the next time you peer into the mirror, take a moment to think about individuality, interactivity, originality and art. Stay original… its priceless.