Why I Loathed the Word 'Artisan'

Early one warm and sunny summer morning, I drove from a neighboring town to our coffee roastery. In my hand I held a cup of “artisan roasted” Nicaraguan coffee brewed in a Chemex.  As I took a sip the sun hit my windshield and I experienced a surreal and divine moment. I realized: I was drinking art.

The word “artisan” is hugely popular. You see it as a tag-line for almost every new product released. You see it in artisan teas, artisan cheeses, artisan chocolates, artisan beer. You also see it almost everywhere in the modern coffee industry. Why? Why do so many people use the word “artisan” to describe the food and beverages they create?

1My first experience with artisan products was in craft beer, when I worked as a brewer in a local brewery. In the Portland craft beer industry the word “artisan” is in so many places it became cliché. I began to loathe the word. It became dry and meaningless. Yet, I now know my dislike came from ignorance.

Art is more than just a label. Art enables us to take the passion that lies deep within our souls and to share it with the world. Art is our way to create. Art is our way to give back. It is as the French novelist Emile Zola wrote, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”

We long to feel important. We yearn to be known. We crave to leave our mark on the world. As if to say, “I was here.  I made a difference.” Thomas Merton once said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Art makes us feel bound with acceptance and free from the monotony of life. In art, we lose ourselves as part of a greater community and find out how significant we really are.

The word “artisan” is more than a marketing gimmick. It is a stamp placed on a product that says, “I was here. I made this. I want to share it with you. Come join me!” The reason why the concept of “artisan” products is common is because at the core, the desire to create beauty and meaning is innate within each and every one of us.

For some it may be wine. For others it may be chocolates, cheeses, or breads. For us, its coffee. We were here. We created this.  We want to share it with you. Come join us!

– Marcus

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