There’s a phrase that I keep coming back to when I’m spending time with people; premium mediocre. It’s was brought back to front-of-mind by a friend, originally attributed to this long, mildly sweary article from 2017 which – on re-reading – starts out talking about the features of mid-range dining options, but is much more of a deep-dive into the purpose of life for millennials, parental aspirations for their children, and the financial stability of different lifestyles.
And there I was thinking it was just about the over-the-top decor at some of the places I have visited recently. Looking around at a more sophisticated online “cafe recommendation” system than existed ten years ago – when I was still writing my hundreds of reviews – it’s more difficult to generate the enthusiasm to write a review of a cafe.
While I still appreciate a well-made cup of coffee, and my standards for such a cup of coffee are higher than most, it’s increasingly the details of the venue (ambience, noise levels, suitability for conversation, overall price and fussiness of coffee presentation) as the venue is now more the context for the conversation than an end in itself.
When I need to have a difficult conversations with someone, or try and work productively, the issue is not so much where a venue appears on the social hierarchy (though it often needs to be a factor), but whether it helps achieve the aims of the meet-up. It’s not the cup of coffee (here today and gone tomorrow) but the outcome of the conversation (with a person who will – depending on whether we share a faith-shaped worldview – live forever or at least outlive the coffee) that’s the most important.
Is the person I’m meeting with going to be distracted by the venue? Then it’s time to dial it up, or down, away from the premium mediocre setting.