Yes, specialty coffee is ripe for parody. There’s the pretentiousness, the high-end equipment, and the talk about flavor profiles.
Conan O’Brien used all of that to great effect on his show Tuesday night. He took his show’s associate producer Jordan Schlansky to the Los Angeles branch of Intelligentsia, one of the pioneers in the third-wave coffee movement.
They had espressos made for them, they did a coffee cupping, and they watched the roasting process, which involves degassing the coffee beans.
“I degassed about three minutes ago,” O’Brien said.
As they stood over a cooling rack, which was shifting the coffee beans, O’Brien looked over at Intelligentsia’s Sam Sabori.
“Has anyone ever fallen into this machine and been mixed in with the beans accidentally,” he asked. “And when they went to drink it, it was filled with human bone, and blood, and gore?”
Some of the biggest gags came when O’Brien sat around a cupping table, where coffee aficionados gather to talk about how coffee has a hint of this, or a hint of that.
“I’m getting coffee on this side of my mouth, and over here I’m getting more coffee,” O’Brien says. “In the front, I’m picking up strong hints of coffee.”
Then, he grabs a big canister of artificial flavoring, which is an anathema to most high-end coffee drinkers.
“Where do you guys stand on putting flavoring into the coffee?” O’Brien asks. “This is one I enjoy: chocolate chip cookie.”
He pours it in as a barista grimaces.
“This is my favorite,” Conan says.
He then puts whipped cream on it.
Throughout the clip, Schlansky, a coffee acolyte, plays the emotionless, straight-faced straight man.
“So what did we learn today?” O’Brien asks at the end.
“Coffee, like most things in life, is best enjoyed with the people you care about,” Schlansky responds.
“I’m going to throw up,” he says.
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Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.