“The $1 cup of coffee is divisive, as drinks go,” the astute coffee critic Oliver Strand writes in his New York Times piece on the coffee game at Locol, the Los Angeles restaurant that is trying to bring cheap, good, fast food to the masses. One way they’re doing that is with buck-a-cup coffee—good coffee, too, not the watery, inoffensive stuff that you’ll most likely find on tap at a local corner store.
But what may be more divisive is the fact that Locol is also charging, as Strand writes, 50 cents extra if you want milk or sugar in your cup of coffee.
This is, by my estimation, a development more revolutionary than the $1 cup of good coffee. I know, I know, it’s subjective, but I drink my coffee black. It's honestly best enjoyed black. And it always baffles me why people want to muddy their drink with milk and sugar. We don’t add extra ingredients to our glasses of wine, so why should coffee be different? (To add an extra twist, there’s no extra charge for iced coffee at Locol.)
Still, that’s not the main reason I—and a few other aggrieved coffee consumers I’ve encountered—find milk and sugar offensive. Go ahead, ruin your cup at your will. It isn’t my problem.
But when you spend three minutes at the condiments counter carefully doing up your drink as though it’s some kind of dessert when all I want to do is grab a lid and perhaps a sleeve, then we have a problem. I commend Locol—in particular, Tony Konecny, the head of Locol’s coffee operations—for doing what other coffee shops I’ve been to haven’t had the guts to do.
By eliminating a condiments counter altogether, I would imagine Locol has made foot traffic much more fluid. And the extra charge for milk and sugar feels like a tacit nod to us black-souled bitter folks who prefer our coffee black and bitter because that’s what coffee is.