artisan-coffee-suppliersI’m writing this, whilst sitting in a bar/coffee shop, indulging in a slice of cake and working my way through a cup of coffee. It’s not just any coffee however, it is – apparently – ‘artisan’ coffee, a description that I seem to come across more and more frequently these days, although I’m not altogether entirely sure just what the term is supposed to imply.

The coffee is fine – I’ve had far worse, and I’ve also enjoyed better, however whether it merits the description ‘artisanal’ is something I have to question. I’ve no doubt that there is a degree of skill required to grow, process, roast and blend good quality coffee; neither would I dispute there is a degree of expertise to brewing a decent cup, but could it really be described as an art form, and do those who are involved in the process really deserve to be called artists? If feels wrong to me, since the proliferation of such artisan purveyors in the average high street is such that there must be an almost unlimited supply of creative, uniquely talented baristas all desperately seeking employment around every street corner!

The establishment I’m in also boasts ‘craft’ beer, although judging from the branded beer taps and well known international conglomerates from which those beverages originate, I have to question their provenance in terms of craftsmanship.

It is, of course, very much a marketing tool, and although there are certainly proper artisan creators of coffees of distinction, along with micro-breweries producing beers developed through craftsmanship and skill, I’m afraid that the majority of those establishments boasting artisan credentials do so only to appeal to that part of our nature that craves that certain something that makes us feel just a little bit special – the ego boost that elevates us above the humdrum and everyday.

It’s a technique that inworld merchants in SL have employed for ages, both as a marketing tool and an encouragement to stay loyal to their brand. I remember my early days in the virtual world and seeing other avatars sporting group tags that proclaimed them ‘VIPs’, ‘officers’ and similar and wondering just what one had to do in order to achieve such an accolade. It didn’t take me long to find out that such status was never earned, but was usually afforded by the simple expedient of joining a group – ostensibly for the benefits promised: Promotional gifts, exclusive offers, discounts and the like, but also the accompanying direct line allowing the easy dissemination of targeted marketing messages and a means for vendors to communicate simply and conveniently with customers. Not to mention the clever exploiting of group members to provide free advertising and recruitment services through those same group tags that so intrigued me as a noob.

lg6_001The allure of being distinctive and special, whether ‘craft’, ‘artisan’ or ‘VIP’ is undeniably strong. Indeed, in SL even the group thing can be taken one step further – some stores have cottoned on to the fact that we’ll even pay to gain VIP status… Yes, rather than having a standard group tag like the majority of our fellow store enthusiasts, by forking out our hard earned lindens, we can proudly become a ‘Privileged VIP’ or whatever elevated status is promised to lift ourselves even above that enjoyed by the lesser privileged masses.

Well, if that’s your thing, I won’t stop you – but let’s not have it cloud our judgement and fool us into believing that things are not necessarily special simply by virtue of somebody with a vested interest saying that they are. Good taste, a smattering of perspective and a healthy degree of cynicism are excellent tools when it comes to evaluating the true worth of the world that we live in.

Maybe the same might be true of people too?

s. x

I want you to notice
When I’m not around
You’re so very special
I wish I was special
Postmodern Jukebox ft. Haley Reinhart – Creep

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