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Changing your opinion is so wrong? When did that happen?
Changing your opinion is so wrong? When did that happen?
Posted March 1, 2010 10:40pm
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Before the Olympics came to Vancouver, I went from being mildly supportive of the Olympics, to being mildly annoyed with them, to being more vocal (especially on my Twitter Feed about my distaste with many things happening in and around the Olympics. I was displeased with the taxes we in Vancouver (and BC) are going to be paying (my discretionary income will take a 6% overall tax hike in 2010, 100% Olympics related, as an example); I was miffed at the crazy restrictions and security measures in town; I was not happy with inconveniences being applied in the city not only during the Olympics, but weeks before the Olympics.

Then, Beata said to me I should stop being a fuddy duddy and at the very least try to recoup some of my (future) tax dollars. And I said to myself - yes, that makes sense - yes, okay, I'm going to get positive about this and see how it plays out.

And sure enough, like the vast majority of Vancouverites, I got swept up in the euphoria of what my fellow Canadians and international travelers were doing - they were making Vancouver a fun place during the Olympics. The Olympic committees and organizers, the mega corporate companies weren't doing that - the people were. And I loved the Olympics. And I tweeted about it ad nauseum.

And, from some very predictable corners of the Internet, I got the "so like, weren't you anti Olympics or something?" jabs. Some friendly (like my good friend Steve Leighton), but some much less so (and I'll save my speculation on why I believe that to be true - it's a bit too contentious).

It got me thinking about the upper (and perceived upper) denizens of the specialty coffee realm - and some interactions I've had in the past. It even got me thinking about John Kerry (you know, Mr. "flip flop" from the 2004 elections).

Somehow, many within our cultures (both north and south of the border, but I'm looking heavily at the States on this one, re John Kerry lol), changing your mind or even gasp admitting you were wrong is a major failure - a social crime, a sign you're weak, stupid, inept or all of the above.

Frankly, that's absolute bullshit, in my opinion.

And that's a key phrase there - in my opinion. I am someone who has some pretty strong opinions about a lot of things - especially in the world of coffee and espresso. I like to do my research, work on things, talk to people, test things out, then develop an opinion and state said opinion. Most of the times I'm pretty confident in those opinions and I base that confidence not on personal gravitas, but on actual education and experience when making the statement.

But, I've never, ever been afraid to change my opinion, and especially, to have my opinion changed by someone else. I see that purely as an educational exercise - I had a strong opinion and then some additional research, discussion, experience came along and the opinion got altered.

In my thirteen plus years being involved in a global coffee community now, I've had some whoppers. Go look at my posts in alt.coffee from 1998 through 2001 - and even on this website in posts from 2002 and even 2003 - I was such a huge proponent of the ristretto style espresso shot, it's almost embarrassing for me now (almost, but not quite). Around 2004, maybe even early 2005, my opinion started to sway. Ironically, it wasn't so much people telling me ristrettos sucked, but more a case of ristretto pulled shots getting more and more extreme - whereas in 2002ish, we were packing in 19g into double La Marzocco baskets and pulling 30-40ml shots, by 2005ish, new hotshot baristas were proclaiming triple baskets, 23grams coffee, delivering 25-30ml shots were "where it was at".

I really started to reexamine all aspects of espresso extraction in 2004, 2005, got intensely serious with my research, WBC judges certification, etc etc, and then experienced shots (around the world) that, pulled with 16g of coffee, delivering 2 25ml shots (50ml total) rivaled many so called godshots in the ristretto format.

And it developed a new theory I started to really discuss publicly - that ristretto shots were crutches for situations where not enough experience, time, attention to detail could be given to develop the most beautiful shots of "regular volume" espresso from a more standardized dose.

Expressing that opinion back in 2005, 2006 brought a lot of finger pointing "but you were like the champion of ristretto shots!" Yes, I was. But I'm not any longer. What's your point? That some how I'm a flip flopper, just going with the wind?

Yeah, if you are the type to change opinions just based on the "direction of the wind", then that deserves whatever scorn it garners. But if an opinion gets changed because of some pretty hard facts, some pretty deep experiences, some educated and enlightened discussion, don't dare lump that in with "how the wind blows" mind changers.

Sometimes, I feel this anti-changed opinions sentiment really hurts development in the excellence of coffee and espresso. I've seen it many, many times, had many, many conversations with people who privately express an opinion, but publicly stick with a long held mantra (different from their private opinion) simply because they either didn't want to rock the boat or be perceived as wishy washy on their stands on coffee development.

Which brings me to single origin espresso. Everyone thinks I'm anti single origin for espresso. That is categorically not true. What I have said is that I have yet to drink a single origin espresso shot that tastes anywhere near as good as some of the best espresso blends I've had in my life. I have also gone on record as saying I find most (not all) single origin espresso shots to be one dimensional, flat, and boring.

Yet I pull probably 50 or more single origin espresso shots a month, usually from as many as 10-15 different roasting samples. Every month. I do this because I'm still trying to find a single origin coffee that will blow my mind. And when I do try one that is of decent calibre (to my palate), I do mention it. I'm not afraid to be proven wrong on my opinions on single origin espresso, in fact, I've been very vocal in asking for a change.

Yet, my opinion on single origin espresso is where people think I'm a stone wall - anti for the sake of being anti. Even my dear friend Andy Schecter likes to poke digs at me on single origin espresso and my stance on it.

Just too weird. So if you stay hard and fast on your opinion, you're a luddite. If you change your opinion, you're a flip flopper. If you do both... what are you then?

Nevermind, don't answer that :) But I'll leave you with this - especially to my friends and colleagues in coffee. Please, don't ever be afraid of changing your opinion - your learned opinions - on coffee and espresso. And especially never be afraid of having others change your opinion for you - when you take that road, it is oftentimes an amazing journey of discovery, enlightenment and even joy. My best moments in coffee and espresso have been the epiphany moments when a long held opinion got turned around 180, showing me an even better path to great tastes, experiences and rituals.

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