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by Libby Smith

Connecting the Dots

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

What comes to your mind when you hear “sin­gle serve cof­fee”? Do you think of K-cups and cof­fee pods or bean to cup machines? Perhaps you pre­fer a lovely four-minute pour over or a thirty-second AeroPress®?  Whatever your pref­er­ence there is no deny­ing that sin­gle serve is rapidly esca­lat­ing in its share of the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try. And even though con­sumers are pay­ing 50 plus dol­lars a pound for arguably unex­cep­tional cof­fee, single-serve cof­fee sys­tems only con­tinue to gain in pop­u­lar­ity.  Improvements in design and tech­nol­ogy are over­com­ing many of the pre­vi­ous draw­backs and crit­i­cisms of weak cof­fee, the abil­ity to brew only one cup at a time, and most notably, flawed cap­sule designs and water heat­ing sys­tems. Capsule sys­tems now offer big­ger and bolder por­tions, some with their own travel mugs serv­ing up por­tions from a 4 oz. cup to a four-cup carafe and some machines allow you the options of using cap­sules, pods or ground coffee.

As far as the envi­ron­men­tal havoc that dis­pos­able K-cups cre­ate, the race is on to see who can real­is­ti­cally cre­ate a recy­clable or com­postable K-cup that will still main­tain the fresh­ness of the cof­fee. Much back­lash stems from the vast amount of waste involved in sin­gle serve and 2020 is the tar­get date for which Keurig intends all K-Cups to be 100% recy­clable. Illy has already intro­duced its IperEspresso cap­sule recy­cle pro­gram where you can mail in your used cap­sules and they will take it from there, and Ethical Coffee of Switzerland adver­tises their cap­sules as the only biodegrad­able ones avail­able.  Nespresso, mean­while has intro­duced recy­cling bins in Switzerland to col­lect its used cap­sules. In British Colombia the Lafarge cement plant turned 1.4 mil­lion K-Cups into cement last year by team­ing up with Van Houtte Coffee Services, who col­lected the used pods for recycling.

Between the Halifax-based Egg Studios (in part­ner­ship with Social Bean Gourmet Coffee Co.) video of pods attack­ing the earth and K-Cup inven­tor John Sylvan’s inter­view in which he regret­ted cre­at­ing them, it is indeed encour­ag­ing to see com­pa­nies com­pete to make cap­sules more envi­ron­men­tally friendly.

Thankfully con­sumers are no longer rel­e­gated to only a few choices in the sin­gle serve realm. K-Cup vari­eties now include tea, hot choco­late, iced teas, fruit drinks and fla­vored waters. You can even car­bon­ate them if you so wish.  Many com­pa­nies offer cus­tom cof­fee blends, fla­vored cof­fees, cer­ti­fied and organic cof­fees, and a vari­ety of roasts. The num­ber of refill­able reusable fil­ters is grow­ing and even small batch roast­ers are get­ting on board with mak­ing their own com­pat­i­ble capsules.

So, CoffeeTalk invites you to peruse the fol­low­ing pages to delve fur­ther into the sin­gle serve phe­nom­ena and explore the inno­v­a­tive sin­gle serve prod­ucts and machines available.

 

Pods & Cups
by Pod Pack International, LTD.
podpack.com | 225.752.1160

Choose the Single Cup Experts. Choose the qual­ity and ser­vice ori­ented copacker spe­cial­iz­ing in pri­vate label­ing and national brand­ing using your cof­fee and tea blends. Now, you can also choose between the con­ve­nience of the Cups or the qual­ity, greener, and value story of the Pods.

 

EcoCup™ with RealCup™ Technology
by Mother Parker’s Tea & Coffee Inc.
realcup.com | 800.387.9398

With smart prod­uct design, com­mit­ted indus­try part­ners and pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sions, Mother Parker’s devel­oped EcoCupTM to give con­sumers the abil­ity to sep­a­rate (with­out tools) all the com­po­nents of the cap­sule, giv­ing it the abil­ity to com­post what can be com­posted, recy­cle what can be recy­cled, and sig­nif­i­cantly min­i­mize land­fill waste.

 

Café Don Pablo Signature Blend Single Serve Cups
by Café Don Pablo
cafedonpablo.com | 305.249.5628

If you are not get­ting a deep, rich, fresh, full-bodied and fla­vor­ful cof­fee from your sin­gle serve brewer, don’t throw it out. Try Café Don Pablo Single Serve; it’s spe­cialty cof­fee roasted in small batches that’s com­pat­i­ble with your Keurig machine. It’s sur­pris­ingly good!

 

Omnidegradable® Films
by TekPak Solutions
TekPakSolutions.com | 416.505.3839

With 54 Billion sin­gle use cups enter­ing our waste stream each year, we offer a solu­tion that allows enhanced Biodegradation in Landfills or Oceans in a frac­tion of the time it would take tra­di­tional plas­tics. We can replace the Lidding, Cup and Outer bags with high bar­rier Omnidegradable ® materials.

 

KReal In-Room Capsule Brewer
by Bloomfield World Wide
bloomfieldworldwide.com | 314.678.6336

Fresh & fast fla­vor in every cup! The NEW Bloomfield in-room brewer is sim­ple to oper­ate, has bet­ter cof­fee extrac­tion (more com­plete cof­fee soak) and has a large 14oz brew­ing capac­ity. Can be use with any K-Cup® or cap­sule. The per­fect cup of cof­fee every time!

 

Curtis Gold Cup™
by Curtis
wilburcurtis.com/ | 800.421.6150

What’s new in the sin­gle cup brew­ing world? The Curtis Gold Cup Brewer! Each cup deliv­ers SCAA “Golden Cup” stan­dard cof­fee and per­fects American-style, drip fil­tered brew­ing. Elevate the cof­fee expe­ri­ence and bring your cus­tomers the ulti­mate cof­fee expe­ri­ence with this remark­able new “open source” brewer. Check out wilbur­cur­tis. com/goldcupbrewer

 

AeroPress cof­fee maker
by Aerobie, Inc.
aerobie.com | 650.493.3050

The AeroPress cof­fee maker uses a rapid, total immer­sion process to brew amaz­ingly deli­cious, rich, smooth cof­fee in less than a minute with­out any bit­ter­ness and with very low acid­ity. It brews a clean cup with­out any grit and cleans up in a few sec­onds, both unlike a French press.

 

Club Coffee L.P.
by Club Coffee L.P.
clubcoffee.ca | 800.387.4367

Coming in 2015: First 100% Compostable Pod!

This rev­o­lu­tion­ary pod is designed to work in Keurig brew­ers includ­ing the new K2.0 mod­els. But unlike K-cups, our entire pod is 100% Compostable. No sep­a­rat­ing, no mess, no has­sle. After brew­ing sim­ply drop the pod into your kitchen com­post bin. “Convert to dirt!”

 

PodPerfect Espresso
by ABCD – Automatic Brewers and Coffee Devices, Inc.
abcd-pods.com | 610.828.6000

PodPerfect Espresso Pods from ABCD 610.828.6000 | abcd-pods.com. We pre­ci­sion grind your espresso beans to your exact­ing specs, pod it pre­cisely in biodegrad­able fil­ter paper, nitro­gen flush and seal for fresh­ness. ABCD is the first co-packer of pods in North America. For more infor­ma­tion email ABCD today at pods@abcdusa.com.

 

Coffee Condiment-Spinner
by Plastic & Products Marketing
plasticpm.com | 800.654.5741

Keep your cof­fee cus­tomers engaged with just a spin. Look how much this holds in just 12” of counter space. From K-Cups, cream­ers, sug­ars & stir­rers on 9” com­mer­cial grade turntable. Made in the USA (includ­ing Plastic!) and from a Female 100% owned business.

 

Double Wall Glass French Press
by Service Ideas, Inc.
serviceideas.com | 800.328.4493

French Presses allow your guests to cus­tomize their cof­fee expe­ri­ence. Brewing cof­fee at the table, and hav­ing it read­ily avail­able is a great way to allow cus­tomers to truly appre­ci­ate the cof­fee they’re drink­ing. Double wall glass offers clear view with­out heat transfer.

 

RC400 Single Serve Brewer
by Grindmaster
rc400brewer.com | 800.695.4500

The RC400 Single Serve Brewer has rev­o­lu­tion­ized sin­gle cup brew­ing. The machine’s patent-pending brew cham­ber design com­bined with the uti­liza­tion of pulse brew­ing and pre-infusion results in bev­er­ages that boast an out­stand­ing fla­vor prod­uct. Superior bev­er­age qual­ity no longer has to be sac­ri­ficed in favor of convenience.

 

Bistro 10T3 HC
by Newco Enterprises Inc.
newcocoffee.com/family-bistro10.htm | 800.325.7867

The Bistro 10T3-H&C gives cus­tomers the option to serve 10 hot or cold drinks in less than 10 sec­onds. The H/C option allows dis­pens­ing of ambi­ent cof­fee and drinks to be served over ice. The 10T3 allows sales of two liq­uid cof­fees, French Vanilla cap­puc­cino, hot choco­late and pow­dered milk.

 

Presse by bob­ble
by bob­ble
pressebybobble.com | 919.809.5219

Presse by bob­ble is a clever one-cup-at-a-time cof­fee brewer that com­bines immer­sion brew­ing and reverse flow fil­tra­tion. Brew, press & go for the per­fect cup of cof­fee every time. Micro-filter pre­vents over-brewed bit­ter­ness and grit. 3-wall insu­la­tion keeps your cof­fee hot for hours. No plas­tic pod or paper fil­ter waste.

 

FLAVIA® Barista
by Mars Drinks
barista.marsdrinks.com/barista | 484.332.3017

The Mars Drinks FLAVIA® Barista single-serve brewer was designed with the office of the future in mind; craft­ing per­fect cof­fees, teas, lattes, cap­puc­ci­nos, and now espres­sos, at the press of a but­ton. In fact, the only thing it won’t do is mis­spell your name on a paper cup.

 

Single Serve
by Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA
mzb-usa.com | 757.215.7300

No mat­ter your need for sin­gle serve cof­fee, Massimo Zanetti Beverage has you cov­ered. MZB offers a pro­pri­ety closed loop sys­tem for Office Coffee Service, or if you have an exist­ing sin­gle serve pro­gram, try our new Filter Cups™, which offer an eco-friendly design, more cof­fee aroma and richer flavor.

The View

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

This month Seattle will host poten­tially the largest gath­er­ing of cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als in North America ever. The Specialty Coffee Association of America “Event” boasts 10,000+ par­tic­i­pants from 72 coun­tries, 50+ hours of lec­tures given by close to 100 pre­sen­ters, 124 Skill Building Workshop hours includ­ing 41 offer­ing Certificate Credits, and a mul­ti­tude of spe­cial events, com­pe­ti­tions, and net­work­ing opportunities.

To be blunt, you will miss some­thing impor­tant dur­ing this event. It is 100% guar­an­teed. Though you may pos­sess great pri­or­i­ti­za­tion skills, make a list of all poten­tial activ­i­ties and meet­ings, iden­tify which are urgent vs. impor­tant, be flex­i­ble and adapt­able, and even know when to cut, there are sim­ply too many oppor­tu­ni­ties to take advan­tage of all of them.  I know I find this incred­i­bly frus­trat­ing and thus am really par­tic­u­lar about mak­ing sure every activ­ity has max­i­mum poten­tial for mul­ti­ple objec­tives. That is way I love the Charity Scavenger Hunt! It is designed to cre­ate last­ing rela­tion­ships and mem­o­ries great for busi­ness, AND give back to our amaz­ing indus­try at the same time. Please check out our web page on the event and see if you can be a part of this! coffeetalk.com/scaahunt

AND another thing not to be missed!

If you are inter­ested in pur­chas­ing extra­or­di­nary green cof­fee with a great story, that guar­an­tees to change lives then you need to mark April 23rd on your cal­en­dar for the Cup of Excellence online auc­tion. Astrid Medina, 38, is a woman who finds time for every­thing, includ­ing tak­ing care of her fam­ily and pro­duc­ing excep­tional cof­fee. In the last 2015 Cup of Excellence com­pe­ti­tion, her cof­fee, which the cup­pers described as hav­ing exotic attrib­utes, came in first place with a score of 90.2 points.

Ms. Medina was enthu­si­as­tic, “This is an amaz­ing accom­plish­ment. Thank God we won. Coffee is won­der­ful and we mustn’t let it go to waste. This achieve­ment trans­lates into a bet­ter future for Gaitana and for Planadas (her hometown).

We women are bound­less and beau­ti­ful. Although being a cof­fee grower is chal­leng­ing, it’s a won­der­ful dream. I only grow my cof­fee based on good prac­tices.” Astrid specif­i­cally thanked the FNC’s Extension Service for the per­ma­nent sup­port it pro­vides to cof­fee growers.

In regard to the auc­tion on April 23, Astrid knows that the qual­ity pre­mium that the high­est bid­der will pay for her cof­fee will trans­late into wel­fare for her entire fam­ily, her employ­ees, and pro­duc­tive improve­ments on the farm. “I will invest it in improv­ing our house, pro­vid­ing bet­ter liv­ing con­di­tions for our farm man­ager, our employ­ees, expand­ing the “ben­e­fi­ci­adero” (post-harvest pro­cess­ing facil­i­ties), because we think about grow­ing more cof­fee in the future, hav­ing bet­ter tech­nol­ogy, improv­ing every­thing,” she says.

Astrid Medina: a mother, a wife, and a producer of an exceptional coffee in Planadas, Tolima

Astrid Medina: a mother, a wife, and a pro­ducer of an excep­tional cof­fee in Planadas, Tolima

Thanks to the farm, her eldest daugh­ter has already started study­ing envi­ron­men­tal engi­neer­ing in Bogota and she will be able to con­tinue to pur­sue her career. Coffee has allowed Astrid to keep her fam­ily together and help each other. “There is strength in num­bers. There have been ups and downs. We have already been work­ing nine years on this farm. There have been times of low prices in which one wants to give many things to the employ­ees and one can­not, but we keep going on hope,” she ends.

This com­pe­ti­tion is part of the FNC’s dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, value added and posi­tion­ing strat­egy and orga­nized in con­junc­tion with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, which designs and imple­ments its rules and stan­dards. The 31 lots that received more than 85 points on the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) scale will par­tic­i­pate in a real-time online auc­tion and buy­ers from all around the globe will have the chance to bid for the best Colombian cof­fees. The auc­tion can be fol­lowed at
www.cupofexcellence.org.

The Crowd Funding Phenomena

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Crowd fund­ing cer­tainly has a pur­pose, and its inten­tions are gen­er­ally good ones. The major­ity of cam­paigns launched on Kickstarter also have good inten­tions, but over the past cou­ple of years, there are cer­tainly lessons that can be learned from suc­cess­ful and failed cam­paigns, some of which I will share for those who want to launch crowd-funded cam­paigns. After Bonaverde and ZPM Espresso, crowd fund­ing for cof­fee mak­ers just got harder.

  1. Be real­is­tic. Campaigns are often run by overly opti­mistic indi­vid­u­als with lit­tle man­u­fac­tur­ing expe­ri­ence. Manufacturing a com­pact disc (CD) of music is not the same as man­u­fac­tur­ing a com­plex machine for which tool­ing doesn’t exist. If you have lit­tle man­u­fac­tur­ing expe­ri­ence, you shouldn’t make promises or opti­mistic state­ments until you have the facts at hand or pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence to sup­port your claims. Every crowd-funded idea is not the same, but there are basic prin­ci­ples that apply to all, and being real­is­tic is one of them. Understand the mar­ket and con­sumer you’re pitching.
  2. Be hon­est. Don’t present your cam­paign as “all fig­ured out – give us money to make it hap­pen” when the real­ity is the oppo­site. In the case of the Bonaverde machine, they pre­sented their his­tory of pro­to­types (18 months, 130+ units) and made claim that they were ready for man­u­fac­tur­ing. The real­ity is noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. To get fund­ing and then com­pletely walk away from what was promised only to rein­vent the wheel again is grossly dis­hon­est, uneth­i­cal and neg­li­gent use of sup­port­ers’ money.
  3. Reward care­fully. Here’s where I say crowd-funding cam­paigns have got­ten car­ried away, anger­ing back­ers while putting project own­ers and crowd-funding sites at risk. Many have reward lev­els that are aimed squarely at offer­ing the project item for which fund­ing is being solicited. As a result, you have a dichotomy with sup­port­ers who treat crowd-funding cam­paigns as a ‘store,’ to buy the things of inter­est; the crowd-funding sites strug­gling to remind peo­ple they aren’t “buy­ing” a prod­uct, but sup­port­ing a vision; and project lead­ers treat­ing crowd-funding sites as inter­est free loan, with lit­tle recourse if the project fails to deliver. Crowd-funding sites should vet their project more care­fully, or at the very least pro­hibit expen­sive one-off projects from offer­ing the actual prod­uct as a reward. As stated pre­vi­ously, try­ing to man­u­fac­ture an album on CD or print­ing a book isn’t the same as build­ing a com­plex cof­fee maker. Rewards could be treated more like buy­ing your place in line (with a credit towards the item once it’s avail­able), which lim­its the expo­sure from sup­port­ers, and lim­its the expo­sure of the project at hand. I think many Bonaverde sup­port­ers would be less irate at hav­ing con­tributed say, $50 to being first in line to be a Beta tester vs. the $250-$500 spread for a machine.
  4. Update Frequently. Here’s where Bonaverde, in one respect, did some­thing prop­erly: they engaged in fre­quent updates to their sup­port­ers. Quite often, espe­cially when a project runs into trou­ble post-funding, the updates stop. However, the updates Bonaverde gave con­tin­ued to alien­ate their sup­port­ers. Statements made in the ini­tial fund­ing story were com­ing to light in the updates as being patently false. They claimed that not only had they done tool­ing and pro­duc­tion line set-up prior (ironic given no one on the Bonaverde team had any true man­u­fac­tur­ing expe­ri­ence pre­vi­ously), but made mul­ti­ple claims over the next 12 months that “tool­ing has started” even though that didn’t appear to be the case. Fourteen months later, not one cof­fee machine had been deliv­ered. Their updates for the 12 month period would not only con­tra­dict pre­vi­ous updates (see #2: Be hon­est), but would con­tinue to include infor­ma­tion that wasn’t rel­e­vant to sup­port­ers or even changed the terms of what sup­port­ers backed (read: RFID tags would be required to brew cof­fee, mean­ing you had to buy your cof­fee from Bonaverde exclu­sively – this has been rescinded after back­lash from supporters).
  5. Stay True to your cam­paign. If one thing is obvi­ous from the list of the first 4 items, it’s that Bonaverde changed their terms mul­ti­ple times, anger­ing sup­port­ers who feel they’ve been cheated, mis­led, or taken advan­tage of. The cam­paign for Bonaverde started out to raise money for an all-in-one cof­fee machine that was appar­ently ready to go. 135 pro­to­types, and yet Bonaverde sud­denly had to build an all-new unit? The sec­ond change from the cam­paign was that this was sup­posed to be all about a cof­fee maker. Not buy­ing cof­fee from Bonaverde. They were offer­ing a plat­form to con­nect buy­ers to farm­ers. This bit receives exactly 1 and ½ sen­tences in their cam­paign story. 6 months into the project updates, it was announced that only cof­fee pur­chased through Bonaverde (with a sin­gle use RFID tag) will work in the cof­fee maker. This was never described in the orig­i­nal project cam­paign. It wasn’t even hinted at. Less than two months later, Bonaverde par­tially back­tracked say­ing that RFID tags for var­i­ous roast­ing states with unlim­ited use will be sup­plied to early back­ers only. A series of stretch goals (hit­ting finan­cial tar­gets) offered color choices, timers, and other improve­ments. Those have all since been rescinded. It’s under­stand­able that things can change, but when they change con­sid­er­ably, even after finan­cial tar­gets have been exceeded, it brings into ques­tion the ethics sur­round­ing the campaign.

Crowd fund­ing has its place and a lot of great things have come out of crowd fund­ing, be they prod­ucts or even sim­ple finan­cial sup­port for those strug­gling with life chang­ing ail­ments. At the same time, crowd fund­ing for new and excit­ing prod­ucts (from games to gad­gets) has got­ten reck­less, and the crowd fund­ing sites them­selves have to shoul­der a large part of the respon­si­bil­ity. It’s their plat­form that con­nects sup­port­ers and believ­ers with the dream­ers try­ing to turn their dreams into reality.

In the end, there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tun­nel for early sup­port­ers of the Bonaverde all-in-one cof­fee brewer. However, there does seem to be a never-ending sup­ply of start-up cap­i­tal for their quest to change the way we drink cof­fee. But will any of us ever get a taste of this sup­pos­edly won­der­ful coffee?

Book Profile

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

CoffeeTalk is proud to pro­vide a series of sneak pre­views of Dr. Shawn Steiman’s new book, The Little Coffee Know-It-All: A mis­cel­lany to grow­ing, roast­ing and brew­ing the world’s best cof­fee, uncom­pro­mis­ing and unapolo­getic.

Dr. Steiman’s forth­com­ing book explores the mul­ti­ple aspects of the cof­fee plant and of cof­fee pro­duc­tion through the lens of a sci­en­tist. And while backed with sci­en­tific data and facts, his easy­go­ing and infor­mal writ­ing style makes it acces­si­ble knowl­edge to all.

Shawn is a cof­fee sci­en­tist, Q-grader, author, and con­sul­tant. He’s a grad­u­ate of Oberlin College as well as the University of Hawai‘i. His cof­fee research has included cof­fee pro­duc­tion, ento­mol­ogy, ecol­ogy, phys­i­ol­ogy, bio­chem­istry, organolep­tic qual­ity, and brew­ing. Aside from being an owner of Daylight Mind Coffee Company, he also owns Coffea Consulting, a coffee-centric con­sult­ing firm. Shawn reg­u­larly presents sem­i­nars, work­shops, and tast­ings for both pub­lic and pri­vate events.

Why this book? (An excerpt)

People are crazy about cof­fee. They read cof­fee blogs, trade mag­a­zines, and books and attend con­fer­ences, trade shows, and cof­fee schools. They buy all kinds of cof­fee brew­ers, grinders, and related para­pher­na­lia. They dis­cuss the nuances of cherry pro­cess­ing, roast­ing, stor­age, and brew­ing at every oppor­tu­nity. They’ll even wait in line for twenty min­utes for a $10 cup of cof­fee! And these are just ordi­nary peo­ple, not cof­fee professionals!

Coffee has become a wor­thy hobby and intense pas­sion for all sorts of peo­ple. People want to learn as much as they can about cof­fee and they want answers to all sorts of ques­tions brew­ing in their heads. What, then, is more appro­pri­ate than pro­vid­ing answers to some of those ques­tions in a fun way that doesn’t feel too much like a high school class­room? While there are many cof­fee books avail­able, this one is dif­fer­ent. It attempts to look at a myr­iad of cof­fee ideas and explore them using sci­en­tific prin­ci­ples, sci­en­tif­i­cally acquired data, and peer-reviewed pub­li­ca­tions. Even though the sci­en­tific method isn’t fool-proof and there are other ways of acquir­ing truth and knowl­edge, sci­ence has gen­er­ally proven to be a good way of explor­ing the world.

Part 1: The Beans (an excerpt) 

Why does a cof­fee plant pro­duce caffeine?

So many of us love cof­fee because of what caf­feine does for us. Without the caf­feine, human­ity may never have con­tin­ued con­sum­ing cof­fee after the first ini­tial tries (what rea­son would we have had for stum­bling on the impor­tance of pro­cess­ing, dry­ing, roast­ing, and brew­ing?). But, what does caf­feine do for the cof­fee plant? After all, it doesn’t man­u­fac­ture the stuff for us and it requires energy to pro­duce it.

Caffeine is found in all parts of cof­fee, from the roots to the seeds and even in the xylem, the upward-elevator organ in plants. A num­ber of hypothe­ses have been posited for what caf­feine can do for the cof­fee plant. It could be an allelo­pathic agent, an anti-herbivory agent, a form of nitro­gen stor­age, and/or a pol­li­na­tor stimulant.

Allelopathy is plant chem­i­cal war­fare against other plants. Some plants pro­duce chem­i­cals that can harm or kill seeds or plants, typ­i­cally of other species. These com­pounds, spread by the decom­po­si­tion of leaf lit­ter or exu­da­tion by roots and seeds, influ­ence the pop­u­la­tion dynam­ics of plants within a com­mu­nity; not all alle­lo­chem­i­cals kill all plants. Many researchers have demon­strated that caf­feine is toxic to a num­ber of dif­fer­ent plants. However, nobody has demon­strated caffeine’s effi­cacy in a nat­ural set­ting. Thus, just because it can kill some other species, there is no guar­an­tee that it would kill com­peti­tor plants in the forests of Ethiopia (where it evolved).

Caffeine is incred­i­bly toxic to some insects and fungi (humans, too, in a high enough con­cen­tra­tion). So, it is often argued that it is a defense mech­a­nism from crit­ters. This hypoth­e­sis is sup­ported by the fact that caf­feine is pro­duced in young, devel­op­ing organs that are more sus­cep­ti­ble to insect attack. This is a log­i­cal hypoth­e­sis but it is incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to prove.

Since caf­feine has been found mov­ing up through a plant and it con­tains four nitro­gen atoms, it is thought that it may sim­ply be a way to store nitro­gen until needed for a spe­cific pur­pose. What lit­tle research has been done on this hasn’t suc­cess­fully demon­strated this function.

Lastly, caf­feine may be an incen­tiviz­ing treat for pol­li­na­tors, par­tic­u­larly hon­ey­bees. Research has shown that hon­ey­bees’ long-term mem­ory is improved after hav­ing caf­feine. Presumably, this would help the bees remem­ber the flower they were enjoy­ing and be more likely to return to it in the future, thus help­ing the plants to cross-pollinate. While this is promis­ing research, it has yet to be tested out­side the lab­o­ra­tory. In addi­tion, it wouldn’t explain why caf­feine is syn­the­sized in all the organs in the plant.

We will prob­a­bly never know why cof­fee first devel­oped caf­feine. If we’re lucky, we’ll find out why it has con­tin­ued to do so. Of course, from the coffee’s per­spec­tive, caf­feine pro­duc­tion has been a huge suc­cess. After all, because of that mol­e­cule, the human species has spread the seeds of the plant to nearly every place on the planet in which they could thrive!

Dr. Steiman has authored numer­ous arti­cles in sci­en­tific jour­nals, trade mag­a­zines, newslet­ters, and news­pa­pers. He is the author of The Hawai‘i Coffee Book: A Gourmet’s Guide from Kona to Kaua‘i and is a co-editor and author of Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage, and the Industry. His forth­com­ing book, pub­lished © 2015 by Quarry Books, will be avail­able in the spring of 2015. Stay tuned to future issues of CoffeeTalk for more excerpts from The Little Coffee Know-It-All.

Root Capital Investments in Coffee

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

The New York Times’ con­ser­v­a­tive Op-Ed colum­nist David Brooks recently penned a piece on impact invest­ing — lead­ing some to ask, “Has impact invest­ing gone main­stream?” You may have just answered that ques­tion with a resound­ing no if you are ask­ing your­self, “What is impact investing?”

Impact invest­ing seeks to gen­er­ate a wide range of finan­cial returns along­side mea­sur­able social and envi­ron­men­tal impacts. J.P. Morgan esti­mates that last year, there were more than $46 bil­lion in impact invest­ments under man­age­ment, a nearly 20 per­cent increase from 2013. Just last month Unilever and The Clinton Foundation announced a $10 mil­lion impact invest­ment that will be used to strengthen small­holder value chains.

Brooks’ col­umn, How to Leave a Mark, exam­ines the role of impact invest­ing in cre­at­ing social change. Brooks touts the promise of social cap­i­tal­ism — the blend­ing of non­profit and for-profit minds — in pro­vid­ing solu­tions to vex­ing global issues from poverty to cli­mate change. There are many mod­els to look to, rang­ing from Benefit Corporations (or B Corps) like Sustainable Harvest, to social invest­ment funds like Root Capital—both of which were born in and of coffee.

Willy Foote, my part­ner in crime, founded Root Capital to grow rural pros­per­ity in low– and mid-income coun­tries. We pro­vide tools—loans and finan­cial training—that enable small and grow­ing agri­cul­tural busi­nesses to access global mar­kets and improve liveli­hoods for small­holder farm­ers. As bet­ter run, more effi­cient busi­nesses with access to cap­i­tal, Root Capital clients become more reli­able sup­pli­ers. They are able to pro­cure, process, and sell greater vol­umes of agri­cul­tural goods, like cof­fee, while also invest­ing prod­uct qual­ity and consistency—all of which is crit­i­cal to the long-term resilience and via­bil­ity of the cof­fee industry.

In 1999, we made our inau­gural loan of $73,000 to a cof­fee and car­damom coöper­a­tive in the high­lands of Guatemala. Since then, Root Capital has dis­bursed nearly $800 mil­lion in credit to 530 agri­cul­tural busi­nesses, rep­re­sent­ing 1.1 mil­lion small­holder farm­ers around the world.

While David Brooks and some of his read­ers are just wak­ing up to the power and promise of impact invest­ing, it is some­thing that the cof­fee indus­try has been brew­ing up for over a decade.

Atlantic (Ecom), Dean’s Beans, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (now Keurig Green Mountain), and Starbucks were among Root Capital’s first investors. These trail­blaz­ers’ pio­neer­ing invest­ments were cat­alytic for Root Capital. On a larger scale, I believe that they are the unsung heroes of impact invest­ing. Their lead­er­ship has helped give rise a new finan­cial ser­vices indus­try, focused on serv­ing the world’s 450 mil­lion small­holder farmers.

Thanks to those early inno­va­tors and the hun­dreds of investors who have fol­lowed, Root Capital reached an impor­tant mile­stone ear­lier this year. For the first time in our his­tory, our out­stand­ing port­fo­lio bal­ance – the amount of cap­i­tal we have actively deployed – has exceeded the $100 mil­lion mark. Whether you look at this mile­stone from the per­spec­tive of scal­ing our direct impact on farm fam­i­lies or evi­dence on new mod­els for using cap­i­tal for good, we hope this accom­plish­ment can serve as a tes­ta­ment to the via­bil­ity of our clients, our model for impact-driven agri­cul­tural finance, and the emerg­ing field of impact investing.

Brooks ended his piece by say­ing that if we want to leave our mark and cre­ate pos­i­tive change in the world, we should con­sider get­ting involved in impact invest­ing. We couldn’t agree more. It’s proven, and we have a 15-year track record to show for it. Impact invest­ing works because we work together. And together, we are grow­ing pros­per­ity through­out the entire value chain—including –and espe­cially– for farm­ers, who are the very lifeblood of this industry.

By Liam Brody, Root Capital

Coffee Service Corner

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

The Coffee Service Industry has long rec­og­nized the Specialty Beverage world for the role it played in revi­tal­iz­ing our indus­try. For many years lead­ing up to the cof­fee shop boom, North American work­places were mostly being pro­vided mediocre brews in glass pots that did lit­tle more than pro­vide a caf­feine lift for the work force.

In the 1980’s air pots and ther­mal carafes pro­vided some improve­ment to the qual­ity of the bev­er­age, but a decanter can­not mag­i­cally re-craft an aver­age brew. I com­fort­ably con­tinue to tip my hat to the cof­fee shop com­mu­nity even though they con­tinue to take prof­its from office accounts that my indus­try serves.

A Key Metric

Most oper­a­tors have a key per­for­mance mea­sure­ment tool that is designed to grow profit per account, or same-store profit as some call it. I pre­fer to attach the met­ric to each brewer rather than an account as this has an equal­iz­ing effect as per­for­mance is monitored.

When single-cup arrived on the scene in the early nineties, the oppor­tu­nity to drive profit per machine was upon us. (For this arti­cle, I am includ­ing sin­gle cup as a “spe­cialty” bev­er­age know­ing that some read­ers will dis­agree.) Prior to single-cup, a typ­i­cal brewer sup­port­ing 30 work­ers might aver­age $60 profit per machine. A K-cup or Flavia unit could eas­ily gen­er­ate dou­ble that.

My assump­tion is that for a sin­gle machine, a batch brew account would pur­chase 3–4 cases of 40-count frac­tional pack cof­fee in the $30-$35 range, add some basic related items to the ticket and gen­er­ate 50–55% profit for the oper­a­tor. This trans­lates into industry-accepted con­sump­tion trends.

Changing that brew site to a single-cup machine with the same con­sump­tion met­rics inflates the cost of goods and sell­ing price but reduces the per­cent­age of profit some­what. The net result in my expe­ri­ence is that the brewer prof­its eas­ily dou­ble. Fast for­ward to 2015 and we see com­pet­i­tive pres­sures dimin­ish­ing single-cup prof­its, but cof­fee ser­vice oper­a­tors con­sis­tently report prof­its exceed­ing that of batch brew.

Batch brew redux?

A num­ber of oper­a­tors are report­ing a grow­ing demand for higher qual­ity, arti­san style bulk or frac­tional pack vari­eties from their office accounts. If this trend con­tin­ues, we could see a rebirth of batch brew­ing to a mea­sur­able degree.

From a key per­for­mance met­ric stand­point, that could be a good thing.

Some points to consider:

• From a cost of goods and sell­ing price stand­point, single-cup is more costly.

• The cof­fee ser­vice cus­tomer base is pay­ing upwards of 75 cents per cup. The expec­ta­tion has been set.

• There is com­pet­i­tive down­ward ser­vice provider pres­sure on pricing.

• Could I intro­duce bulk cof­fee or 40 count, 2.5 ounce frac­tional packs to my menu and improve my prof­its? Assuming that a 40-count kit gen­er­ates 400 cups (10 cups con­tain­ing 7 ounces of liq­uid served in an 8 ounce cup) and I paid $40.00 per case ($6.25 per lb.), I could sell that case for $80.00. That equates to an aver­age sell­ing price of 20 cents per cup. Quite a com­par­a­tive value to sin­gle cup. Some of you will chal­lenge that the cost per lb. on some cof­fees might be closer to $10.00 per lb. If that is true, the value story still holds. (I include bulk cof­fee as an option as this would be the pack­age of choice by local, craft roast­ers that do not have sophis­ti­cated pack­ag­ing lines).

• It should be noted that should an oper­a­tor go the route of bulk cof­fee dis­pensed by the cup from a hopper-based sys­tem that the brewer cost will be sig­nif­i­cantly higher but will allow com­bi­na­tion bev­er­ages, as there are typ­i­cally one or more water-soluble hop­pers within the brewer.

• As an oper­a­tor, I would have three to six vari­eties pre­sented in a hand­some dis­play rack of ther­mal decanters. Would offices want or pre­fer this option?

• As an oper­a­tor, I see a chance to enhance batch brew prof­its well beyond where they were pre-single cup. I also see this as a reten­tion tool.

A Tea “Movement”?

My per­sonal jour­ney in explor­ing the world of tea as a cof­fee ser­vice oppor­tu­nity began when my wife Charlotte relayed her first-time expe­ri­ence at a Teavana store, which was very positive.

Fast-forward 8 weeks and I have immersed myself into learn­ing more about this cat­e­gory. It cul­mi­nated with a visit to the Teaja cor­po­rate offices at Vancouver, BC. I was pro­vided a wealth of infor­ma­tion and was able to sam­ple of num­ber of exquis­ite loose leaf Teaja offerings.

In my many take­aways, one was insight into the grow­ing demand for tea. I had already rec­og­nized the Millennials’ inter­est in high-end tea. I per­son­ally see my baby-boomer gen­er­a­tion tak­ing an inter­est in herbal rem­edy teas. When one cou­ples that real­ity with the influx of work­ers com­ing in from over­seas from pre­dom­i­nantly tea-drinking coun­tries, the poten­tial of this oppor­tu­nity is foreseeable.

The Coffee Service Industry has his­tor­i­cally fol­lowed the Specialty Beverage world regard­ing trends. Could tea become the next cof­fee? Is demand for high-end, organic tea already in the workplace?

Where can we hear more?

At the upcom­ing NAMA show in Las Vegas, April 21–24, Mike Tompkins will be mod­er­at­ing a ses­sion focus­ing on Specialty Beverages in Coffee Service. Mike is a well-known and respected expert who has been NAMA’s Quality Coffee Certification pro­fes­sor for more than a decade. The panel of four well estab­lished regional and national cof­fee ser­vice oper­a­tors will address the mar­ket­ing and oper­a­tional chal­lenges to incor­po­rat­ing retail-quality spe­cialty bev­er­ages into business-to-business envi­ron­ments, in order to sat­isfy the grow­ing demands of emerg­ing demographics.

This is also a grand oppor­tu­nity for the non-NAMA-member roaster com­mu­nity to see new client oppor­tu­ni­ties at the trade show.

I hope to see you there!

Ken Shea, DS Services

OCS Series">OCS Series

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

dg2.epsAs Goliath moved in for the kill, David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at Goliath’s head. Finding a hole in the armor, the stone sank into the giant’s fore­head and he fell face­down on the ground. The story of David and Goliath com­pares to the cur­rent Office Coffee Service (OCS) envi­ron­ment as Big Box stores move in for the kill. Using the com­pet­i­tive advan­tage requires an under­stand­ing of strengths and weak­nesses, and hav­ing a com­mit­ment to success.

OCS is a con­ve­nience that began in the late 1960’s with a vision of pro­vid­ing cof­fee and equip­ment to offices at a low cost per cup. The OCS con­ve­nience was worth $0.05 per cup to the office buyer, and OCS oper­a­tors had a fast return on the invest­ment in $75.00 brew­ers. Success cre­ates com­pe­ti­tion, and many OCS com­pa­nies started. OCS oper­a­tors cre­ated com­pet­i­tive advan­tages through addi­tional con­ve­niences designed to improve the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, includ­ing allied prod­ucts, water-connected machines, and inven­tory ser­vice. The indus­try con­tin­ues to inno­vate and cre­ate new con­ve­nience with single-cup prod­ucts, inter­net order­ing, and state-of-the-art equip­ment solutions.

The office buyer wants qual­ity prod­ucts that are easy to acquire at a fair price. Some office buy­ers may have more lofty, environmentally-minded goals. Operators must take these requests seri­ously, and pro­vide solu­tions for today’s chal­lenges. Convenience, alter­na­tive prod­ucts, and per­sonal ser­vice will sep­a­rate the OCS oper­a­tors from other chan­nels. However, the OCS oper­a­tion must clearly com­mu­ni­cate these advantages.

The single-cup trend con­tin­ues to grow because it is con­ve­nient. Proprietary sup­pli­ers of equip­ment and cup solu­tions are moti­vated to place equip­ment at lit­tle or no cost to the oper­a­tor in exchange for a signed agree­ment to pur­chase a cer­tain num­ber of machines, and to use only the pro­pri­etary prod­uct. Alternative sales chan­nels and Big Box stores are tak­ing advan­tage of the low-cost equip­ment to gain mar­ket share through com­mer­cial sales. the oppor­tu­nity to diver­sify the plat­form gives the OCS advan­tage in single-cup.

OCS oper­a­tors diver­sify the single-cup plat­form using non-proprietary prod­ucts, includ­ing bean-to-cup machines and pods. These open plat­form options require the oper­a­tor to under­stand the func­tion­al­ity of the brew­ing equip­ment and prod­uct choices to opti­mize the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. These machines are plug-n-play from the fac­tory, but oper­a­tors can make adjust­ments that dif­fer­en­ti­ate the prod­uct and cre­ate coffee-shop qual­ity drinks at a lower cost than a closed plat­form sys­tem. Additionally, some equip­ment options offer profit oppor­tu­ni­ties in sol­u­ble prod­uct not read­ily avail­able from the dif­fer­ent sales channels.

Alternative sales chan­nels are typ­i­cally catalog-based with a large num­ber of branded prod­ucts. However, they may not pro­vide spe­cial­ized bev­er­age prod­ucts for the office. Some oper­a­tors use locally roasted prod­ucts with a story to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves from other sales chan­nels. New prod­uct oppor­tu­ni­ties are avail­able from whole­salers. They are eas­ily added to a prod­uct list­ing, and add value to the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Also, sup­port­ing local events or orga­ni­za­tions with loy­alty pro­grams (i.e. dur­ing May pur­chases ben­e­fit…) will encour­age orga­ni­za­tions to pur­chase from a home­town operator.

Furthermore, OCS oper­a­tors have capa­bil­i­ties to pro­vide var­i­ous water solu­tions to cus­tomers to improve the cof­fee expe­ri­ence and make drink­ing water avail­able. In cer­tain loca­tions ice mak­ers are an appro­pri­ate add-on item. Water solu­tions offer options for other bev­er­age and food items includ­ing tea, cocoa, soup, and oat­meal. Although these cat­e­gories are not new, prod­ucts are avail­able to dif­fer­en­ti­ate oper­a­tors from main-stream cat­a­log items. Operators should look for prod­ucts that keep com­peti­tors out of the cus­tomer location.

Personal ser­vice pro­vides a clear advan­tage ver­sus Big Box stores. Operators should empha­size the inter­ac­tion between employ­ees and the buyer as a ben­e­fit, and accom­mo­date the con­ve­nience of the buyer. Some buy­ers are eas­ily frus­trated when the ease-of-use regard­ing the Big Box Internet order­ing process is over­whelmed by an inef­fi­cient return process. OCS com­pa­nies are customer-centric, and pro­vide a valu­able resource con­cern­ing the buyer experience.

Communication ties the advan­tages together. The ben­e­fits OCS oper­a­tors offer requires con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The route dri­ver pro­vides a per­sonal ser­vice the alter­na­tive chan­nels do not. The cus­tomer should know the machine is clean and work­ing prop­erly, the prod­uct is stocked to an appro­pri­ate par level, and new prod­ucts are avail­able to enhance the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Everyone in the OCS orga­ni­za­tion par­tic­i­pates in the sales process, and com­mu­ni­cates these val­ues each time they inter­act with the customer.

Regardless of the OCS orga­ni­za­tion size, com­mu­ni­ca­tion will improve the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. OCS man­agers should pro­vide a theme the employ­ees com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing cus­tomer inter­ac­tion. The theme need not be sta­tic. Examples include sea­sonal prod­uct, local prod­uct, equip­ment inno­va­tion, and allied prod­uct growth. Encourage the employ­ees to pro­vide ideas, and take part in the suc­cess of the business.

Success cre­ates com­pe­ti­tion, and the OCS man­ager can pro­vide incen­tives to employ­ees for growth. The incen­tive should be in line with the goals of the orga­ni­za­tion. The goal of the orga­ni­za­tion may be to exploit the com­pet­i­tive advan­tage by increas­ing cer­tain prod­uct cat­e­gories. Communicating the com­pet­i­tive advan­tage encour­ages a per­for­mance cul­ture in the orga­ni­za­tion, and inspires the employ­ees to be the best in their field. The com­pe­ti­tion cre­ated within an orga­ni­za­tion is a model for sus­tain­able growth.

Today, the OCS cost of con­ve­nience is between $0.10–1.50 per cup ver­sus the $0.05 start­ing point, and brew­ing equip­ment ranges from $100-$3,000. Success con­tin­ues to add com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket, and many options exist for the office buyer. Understand the com­pet­i­tive advan­tages avail­able in single-cup, prod­uct alter­na­tives, and per­sonal ser­vice, and then com­mu­ni­cate reg­u­larly to cap­i­tal­ize on the mar­ket. Tradeshows are an excel­lent resource to find new prod­ucts, and improve man­ager and employee exper­tise. Although the com­peti­tors rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent sales chan­nels, the goal for OCS oper­a­tors remains the same: pro­vide cof­fee and equip­ment at a low-cost per cup.

Dan Ragan, Pod Pack International, Ltd

Roaster’s Guild new Score Sheet

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

The Roasters Guild Executive Council, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the SCAA and the Roasters Guild Certificate Committee has been hard at work on a new tool for roast­ers. The SCAA has had a score sheet for cof­fee eval­u­a­tion for some time. If you are a cof­fee taster, you know the form. Having a stan­dard­ized form has been a bit of a rev­o­lu­tion in the way we com­mu­ni­cate about Specialty Coffee.

However, this sheet is focused on cof­fee qual­ity analy­sis, and does not flesh out other inputs, pri­mar­ily: roast. When we roast­ers get a hold of a cof­fee (which we have already ana­lyzed) and we shape it to express fea­tures that we decide we want to high­light or dimin­ish. How do we go about ana­lyz­ing this? The same score sheet can present some challenges.

I have reached out to Nolan Dutton, of Ozo Coffee in Boulder, CO. to fill us in on the new scor­ing sys­tem. Nolan has been the main spear­head in get­ting this put together.

Why did the RG feel a sep­a­rate analy­sis tool was needed for roast, vs. cof­fee quality? 

The exist­ing SCAA cup­ping form is a good tool for eval­u­at­ing the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a cof­fee, ide­ally for mak­ing pur­chas­ing deci­sions or com­mu­ni­cat­ing qual­ity up and down the sup­ply chain. The Roasters Guild wanted to cre­ate a form that could take a cof­fee that is already ‘spe­cialty’ (hav­ing passed a grad­ing test and scored above an 82 for exam­ple) and help dis­cern the dif­fer­ences that show up in that cof­fee as the effects of dif­fer­ent roast batches or profiles.

Highlight some of the unique attrib­utes of this form and the thoughts behind those. 

The biggest change on this new Roast Evaluation Form is the sweet­ness cat­e­gory. We changed it from a yes/no score to a 0–10 numer­i­cal score (like acid­ity, fla­vor, or body). The idea is that dif­fer­ent roast pro­files or approaches can make a cof­fee more or less sweet, and roast­ers reg­u­larly talk about the sweet­ness of their roast. We wanted to score sweet­ness since it dif­fers greatly in roasts based on how the roaster con­trolled the Maillard reac­tions and carameliza­tion, and is very much a qual­ity con­trolled by the roaster oper­a­tor. Other changes we made are that we weighted some of the nor­mal cat­e­gories more or less depend­ing on how rel­e­vant the spe­cific cat­e­gory is affected by roast­ing (i.e. the scores for Acidity and Body are mul­ti­plied by 2 because the roast has a huge effect on how these are perceived.)

Another big change is the use of deduc­tions for roast­ing defects (tip­ping, fac­ing, scorch­ing, bak­ing, etc) instead of the green cof­fee faults of uni­for­mity and clean cup. This allows the cup­per to specif­i­cally reduce points for the sam­ple based on neg­a­tive aspects from poor roasting.

Where is the form in the approval process? 

We are still work­ing with the stats and stan­dards com­mit­tee in the SCAA to get this form finalized.

When do you think this form will be avail­able to the masses as an SCAA sanc­tioned tool? 

I hope this will be a sanc­tioned tool by Expo 2016 at the lat­est, maybe earlier!

Can peo­ple get their hands on it now to check it out, and if so, how? 

We will get the form as a work in progress on the RG web­site and blasted on social media plat­forms soon for peo­ple to use and give us feed­back. We are try­ing to make a really use­ful tool for our mem­bers, and get­ting the right feed­back before we offi­cially release it is very impor­tant to us.

SCAA Awards Process">SCAA Awards Process

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

What we award when we award awards…

A career might be com­pared to a meal at a new restaurant’s com­mu­nity table: you find a seat and intro­duce your­self and start slowly, cau­tiously; you might intro­duce your­self or sit back and watch the oth­ers for a bit. Perhaps you’ll have a sip of wine, or, more care­fully, a glass of iced tea, maybe even a bite of bread.  You’ll look to see what oth­ers order, and who knows whom.

You might start out with an appe­tizer or a light snack. This first course could be con­sid­ered your intern­ship or pro­ba­tion­ary period. Then you dive into the main course — years of hard work. If you’re lucky, and you love what you do, this is the best part. Dessert, obvi­ously, is where you sit back and reflect on the entire meal, the company…you may have got­ten to know a cou­ple of peo­ple at the table over the course of the meal; you may feel per­suaded, espe­cially if you’ve had a glass of wine or two, to make a toast to some­one who you believe added some­thing spe­cial to the evening.

It is that toast at the end of a glo­ri­ous meal that an indus­try award might be com­pared to. We want to rec­og­nize those who added to our enjoy­ment of the meal, even if we both eyed the same drum­stick, or rib, before yield­ing up one for the other.

Granted, a forty-year career is a much more com­plex under­tak­ing than an evening’s meal, but the sen­ti­ment of want­ing to acknowl­edge those who con­tributed to our enjoy­ment and nour­ish­ment is the same.

In the cof­fee indus­try, and in the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try espe­cially, this com­par­i­son works par­tic­u­larly well because so many of us enjoy the com­pan­ion­ship of a great meal. We also appre­ci­ate the craft, artistry, and arti­sanal exper­tise that go into mak­ing a great meal come together, per­haps because that effort is so sim­i­lar to all that goes into mak­ing a great cup of coffee.

The offi­cial awards that our trade orga­ni­za­tion, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, has bestowed upon the var­i­ous par­tic­i­pants and allies of our indus­try, over the years have been a group effort and a work in progress. As a group, we’ve wanted to acknowl­edge past accom­plish­ment but also to moti­vate and inspire future break­throughs and suc­cess. It is hard to say which aspect is more important.

Competing with and some­times enhanc­ing those two desires is a third more com­plex endeavor, one that is not as man­i­festly self­less but finally just as impor­tant. We want to ally our­selves with and nur­ture those who can bring future ben­e­fit to us: through their good name; through their recog­ni­tion of us; or through the resources they can bring to us, whether out of their own good will or mutual ben­e­fit. It may be viewed as crass to con­sider this third aspect, but it is some­times the sole rea­son many non-profit orga­ni­za­tions give awards to their com­mu­nity mem­bers at all. Rather than ignore the fact that we want to praise those whose promi­nence might bring more to us than our award will impart to them, we are bet­ter off acknowl­edg­ing this as a nat­ural part of the award dynamic and ensure that it is con­ducted trans­par­ently and forthrightly.

It must be noted that not all awards or moti­va­tions dri­ving them orig­i­nate from a gen­uine desire to help the indus­try as a whole, but rather to help par­tic­u­lar per­sons or com­pa­nies. It is even pos­si­ble for cer­tain indi­vid­u­als to gain a rep­u­ta­tion for the abil­ity to ensure that cer­tain awards are granted to cer­tain mem­bers. Whether this is done out of some notion of cama­raderie or –worst case– cash up-front, it obvi­ously doesn’t serve the inter­ests of the indus­try as a whole and tar­nishes the process, and the mean­ing of the award.

This past year, thanks to the efforts of the SCAA’s imme­di­ate past chair, Paul Thornton, a cod­i­fied pro­ce­dure was put into place for col­lect­ing nom­i­na­tions for the SCAA’s Annual Recognition Awards, vet­ting them, and pre­sent­ing them to the board for approval. In the past that process has lacked coher­ence, much less com­mon­sense, in some cases.

The SCAA’s board and mem­ber­ship have adopted a num­ber of award cat­e­gories over the years to acknowl­edge and moti­vate excel­lent achieve­ment in a num­ber of cat­e­gories. Some of these awards are more nat­u­rally pre­sented to some­one in mid-career (or ear­lier) and some oth­ers, the Life Achievement Award in par­tic­u­lar, at the con­clu­sion of one’s work-life.

An exam­ple of an award designed to moti­vate and inspire both the awardee and other mem­bers of the indus­try is the SCAA’s newest award, the Distinguished Newcomer Award. This award, being pre­sented for the first time in 2015, is designed to acknowl­edge “a cof­fee pro­fes­sional of 5 or less years whose sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions have made an impact, change of course, sig­nif­i­cant insight or added value within the cof­fee indus­try.” Such an award, it is hoped, will not only inspire oth­ers to excel in their con­tri­bu­tions to the indus­try at the ear­li­est stage of their career but also encour­age the recip­i­ent to con­tinue with his or her con­tri­bu­tions well into the future.

Speaking of “his or her,” it should be noted that every effort is always made to solicit as many nom­i­na­tions as pos­si­ble and that the awardees, as a group, invari­ably rep­re­sent a cross-section of those nom­i­nated. Those that claim to have an inter­est in greater diver­sity after the awardees are announced per­haps should con­sider par­tic­i­pat­ing ear­lier in the process next year when the call for nom­i­na­tions is made, rather than after the fact. Ironically, the call for nom­i­na­tions was reopened twice this year, and yet the com­plaints with regard to the over­all diver­sity of the awardees were the shrillest.

Healthy democ­ra­cies with diverse, rep­re­sen­ta­tive leg­isla­tive bod­ies depend upon active, engaged par­tic­i­pa­tion, bar­ring any imped­i­ments to that par­tic­i­pa­tion. The awards process of our indus­try also depends upon its mem­bers bring­ing forth as many deserv­ing nom­i­nees as pos­si­ble in time for them to be con­sid­ered. While per­haps address­ing an area of con­cern and start­ing a dis­cus­sion, com­plain­ing after the fact does lit­tle to directly cor­rect the situation.

Perhaps, it is time for us, as an indus­try, to encour­age more diverse par­tic­i­pa­tion from out­side our trade than presently exists. Despite the vibrant par­tic­i­pa­tion of a rel­a­tively few very dynamic women, our trade is still male dom­i­nated, espe­cially at its high­est ech­e­lons of cor­po­rate lead­er­ship. One look around the room at any indus­try gath­er­ing will quickly show that our group has more work to do with regard to eth­nic diver­sity. The per­son or group that spear­heads that ini­tia­tive might even be deserv­ing of an award, per­haps The Special Recognition Award*, and surely a toast.

* “…is an indi­vid­ual award in recog­ni­tion of a person’s spe­cial con­tri­bu­tion of self to the SCAA. These con­tri­bu­tions may include but are not lim­ited to ded­i­ca­tion of time, vol­un­teerism, con­tri­bu­tions of pro­fes­sional skill, exem­plary work on a spe­cific SCAA project, or other notable con­tri­bu­tion of self. Importantly, the con­tri­bu­tions should be above and beyond the every­day and have had a long last­ing impact on the Association.”

What’s Your Story

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

When you run a cof­fee shop, what comes first: the cof­fee, or the people?”

 

Abbas Arman of the Ebrik Coffee Room in Atlanta posed this ques­tion to me when I vis­ited him last week­end. To add some con­text, he was describ­ing a time when he had to let one of his best baris­tas go. While knowl­edge­able and skill­ful, she drove an Ebrik cus­tomer away when the they asked for a “cap­puc­cino, with­out foam.”

 

There is a good way to teach cus­tomers about cof­fee, and there is a bad way. My barista flat out told the cus­tomer he was wrong.”

 

Abbas expected a help­ful expla­na­tion of the dif­fer­ence between a cap­puc­cino and a latte, devoid of snob­bish­ness and per­haps includ­ing a sam­ple of both. Abbas and the Ebrik team take cof­fee very seri­ously but know that edu­cat­ing, not belit­tling, earns back customers.

 

Ebrik Coffee Room sits on the edge of Georgia State University cam­pus in down­town Atlanta. In the late 1970s, down­town earned a dan­ger­ous rep­u­ta­tion and it has been rebuild­ing ever since. The 1996 Summer Olympics brought Olympic Centennial Park, The World of Coca Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, and the CNN Center, but active down­town life has not yet returned in full.

We real­ized we had a catch-22 down here,” Abbas said, “People weren’t stay­ing down­town on the week­ends, so busi­nesses would close. Now that busi­nesses are closed on the week­ends, peo­ple won’t come down­town. We took a leap of faith to try to change that.”

 

Ebrik Coffee Room opened its doors on February 17, 2014 to par­take in the down­town revival. In order to sur­vive down­town, Abbas knows he must build a sense of com­mu­nity where there is none.

 

Born in Chicago and of Palestinian decent, Abbas vis­ited Chicago cof­fee shops with his fam­ily where cus­tomers became friends and com­mu­nity came first. He is now try­ing to recre­ate a bit of what he expe­ri­enced grow­ing up. “Those places looked noth­ing like this, though,” he said, look­ing around his shop.

 

We think the key to suc­ceed­ing down­town is build­ing com­mu­nity. People down here will work in the same build­ing for years but never talk to each other. When they see each other in Ebrik, they will intro­duce them­selves and start a con­ver­sa­tion.” Abbas told me.

 

Downtown Atlanta is one of the most diverse neigh­bor­hoods in the city and Abbas actively seeks out chances to build com­mu­nity within his shop. I watched him greet reg­u­lars by name as they walked in and wave at oth­ers when they walked by. When he didn’t rec­og­nize a cus­tomer, he asked if it was their first time in the shop, where they were from, and would also intro­duce him­self at the end of the trans­ac­tion. “I have dozens of GSU pro­fes­sors come into the shop and I’ll intro­duce them to other pro­fes­sors from dif­fer­ent depart­ments,” he said, “We get all kinds of peo­ple in here. It’s a very inter­est­ing mix.”

Hand-brewing locally roasted beans from Land of 1000 Hills Roasters and Atlanta Coffee Roasters, Abbas is both stu­dent and teacher of Third Wave cof­fee. “I’m learn­ing some­thing new every­day,” he told me.

 

Ebrik brings entic­ing new cof­fee options to the city. Of course there are the Italian traditions—espresso, cor­tado, machi­atto, and latte— and you can order a single-origin Yirgecheffe from Atlanta Coffee Roasters brewed in a Chemex. But unusual to Atlanta is one of Ebrik’s most pop­u­lar options: Turkish coffee.

Turkish cof­fee con­sists of finely pow­dered cof­fee, car­damom spice and sugar, mixed into a small cop­per pot of boil­ing water, oth­er­wise called an Ibrik or Cezve. “Turkish Coffee” is the gen­eral term for a broad range of cof­fee brew­ing recipes all orig­i­nat­ing in Middle East and Mediterranean.

 

Once steeped, Abbas poured the cof­fee into a tiny demi­tasse and handed me the Ibrik on a plat­ter. The cof­fee is strong, vibrant, and fla­vor­ful thanks to the car­da­mon. “We are actu­ally mak­ing some­thing closer to Lebanese cof­fee,” Abbas says as I take my first sips.

Another tra­di­tional Middle Eastern option offered at Ebrik is Kurdish cof­fee, which starts with milk and includes the same pow­dered cof­fee, car­da­mon, and sugar. Called the “Deniz” at Ebrik, it is one of their most pop­u­lar and deli­cious drinks. It had the con­sis­tency of Chai tea.

 

This diverse assort­ment of options offers many oppor­tu­ni­ties for cof­fee drinkers to learn and ask ques­tions. And this is exactly what Abbas wants. “We don’t just fol­low the Middle Eastern cof­fee tra­di­tion. We mix sev­eral tra­di­tions into one. Our cus­tomers are always very curi­ous about our dif­fer­ent options.”

 

How can you sum up Ebrik Coffee Room’s hos­pi­tal­ity, unique options, and beau­ti­ful space? Abbas says his cus­tomers cre­ated their slo­gan for them. “We look to pro­vide three things: com­fort, com­mu­nity, culture.”

 

As a life returns to down­town Atlanta, patrons, res­i­dents, and guests alike will be look­ing for com­fort, com­mu­nity, and cul­ture. Whether they are jump­start­ing their day, meet­ing with friends, or relax­ing after work, every­one should know they can find these things and more at Ebrik Coffee Room.

Ben Putano cur­rently trav­els the coun­try look­ing for great cof­fee and good times and blogs about it at thwave.co. To con­tact him, send him an email at ben@thwave.co

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