I’ve been in aesthetically unpleasant cafes and visited shops that just couldn’t make a decent cup of coffee. While I’ve felt sorry for these businesses and often puzzled by their inability to fix their problem, I never harbored open disdain or complete bafflement towards their operation. Yet this is exactly the reaction I have when think back to my recent visit to Bad Ass Coffee in Barnalillo, just north of Albuquerque, off Interstate 25. Oh, where to begin.
Bad Ass, or more formally, the Bad Ass Coffee Company of Hawaii is – first warning sign – headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s a chain of roughly 45 cafes, not counting the online store, that specializes in “100% Kona and other Hawaiian coffee products.” The stores are located in 16 states across the U.S. as well as Japan, Korea and the Virgin Islands. Their menu consists of the usual coffee and non-coffee cafe drinks as well as food items. Their house brewed coffee and espresso blend contain only 10% Kona – second warning sign. They do serve a 100% Kona coffee brewed coffee and sell three different roast-levels of their 100% Kona coffee on the shelves, but I couldn’t find any indication of a roast date on the bags – third warning sign.
I ordered a cup of the 100% Kona, which was freshly brewed (I failed to note whether it was freshly ground). Based on this one single cup, my impression was that Bad Ass might want to rethink its core concept. The coffee was far too hot to enjoy for quite a while but even once cooled, it tasted mostly of roast. There were some hints of something vaguely fruity and chocolaty lurking in there somewhere, but this cup was certainly not worth the $2.75 I paid for it (not an unreasonably price for good Kona, mind you). I am sad, for the sake of writing this blog, that I didn’t end up ordering an espresso.
I suppose these findings might be enough on their own to warrant a fairly low score, but at Bad Ass, it just gets better. There’s still the cafe itself and the hours of merriment that are in store for you as you check out the Bad Ass coffee website. I offer the following guiding thoughts:
- Is there any love for the name of this place? Bad Ass purportedly has an historical origin (donkeys, coffee-harvesting, blah blah blah), but you can’t escape the naughty nuances and obnoxious attitude of the name. Certainly, others haven’t (1,2,3) and I don’t think Bad Ass owners can or want to either. Don’t get me wrong, I love scatological and otherwise immature humor, but even Bevis and Butthead are high brow enough to laugh at and not with the people who Christened this coffee shop for such a stupid idea.
- What’s up with the logo? The donkey donning the label looks like a strange hybrid of eyore and a unicorn. Far from bad, this ass simply looks tired. Furthermore, the “eye-catching name, which is unmistakable and unforgettable” surely is supposed to conjure up someone with an attitude. I’m not sure how this jives with the “laid back ‘live aloha’ lifestyle” the web site expects its stores to produce.
- The tiki is tacky. The white wicker furniture, glass-topped tables and wacky little beach dioramas fall short of “an extraordinary tropical atmosphere that whispers Hawaii.” All they do is make me seriously question the mental health of their interior designer.
- What’s up with that writing? Possibly written by the same geniuses who coined the name Bad Ass, the website is a veritable grammatical naughty list. There are misspellings layered upon sentence fragments. My favorite is “Our distinctive Hawaiian Signiture blend (10% Hawaiian coffee and beans from around the world), our unique signature espresso drinks, and other related food and beverage items.” There are malapropisms – “nitch” market – and gorgeous phrases like “extremely unique.”
- ???? I basically don’t know what to do but roll around in glee when I read a sentence like: “Feel free to explore and get to know our company better while you experience the “Aloha Spirit” of the emerging “Bad Ass Coffee Culture” as it fans out across the globe like a warm Hawaiian breeze.” Oy Vey! Go away.