Monday, March 02, 2009

Fair Trade vs. Cup of Excellence

No, this is not so much a debate between the two, as I very much think both have their place in this vast world of coffee.

Mark (CoffeeGeek) had a Twitter post that tipped me off to this article, in which I found a pretty offensive and disturbing quote that begs to be confronted with such cheesiness as "Why can't we all just get along?".

Gasp, Guffaw, I know. Me? Saying something like, "Why can't we all just get along?"?

Yes, and if you think this is inconsistent, then you've probably misread, or have been a part of the audience who may or may not be defensive of comments or thoughts I have had in the past.

Really. Why CAN'T we all just get along?

Okay, enough of the lengthy prelude.

Here is the quote:

Simon Wakefield is sceptical of the elaborate tasting notes which accompany the Cup of Excellence auctions: “It is clever marketing. But after the beans have been roasted, ground, kept on somebody’s kitchen shelf, made into coffee, and then milk and sugar have been added can you really tell me that you can taste a difference?”


Which seems like a nice enough article
, but at what point does it become necessary to bash the Cup of Excellence as nothing but marketing?

It seems pretty clear to me that this guy has either never tasted a cup of excellence coffee, or he has an agenda to promote certification LABELS over Quality. (which would be to the benefit of many FT coffee sellers, as well as TransFair.. and let's not get into the discussion of why Fair Trade is not always fair, and how there are purchasing practices that are far more fair than Fair Trade)

I mean, really, how many of you readers have ever thought you might one day buy an extravagantly priced coffee, just so you can have it pre-ground for you to make at home. Oh, and you'll naturally add milk and sugar to this high-priced coffee, because it's "just coffee". And, since it's "just coffee", it will taste like "coffee" (whatever that tastes like), and even pre-ground, it will exhibit no brilliance beyond what an ordinary "good" coffee can offer.

I have tasted some CoE coffees, and they are high priced and scored highly for a reason. Marketing was NEVER the purpose, and Mr. Wakefiled is most probably aware of this fact.

So, my question is this. What does he hope to accomplish with this comment? Especially when there are others saying things like this about Cup of Excellence in the same article:

“It is the absolutely highest echelon of quality coffee,”

As stated by Stephen Hurst, the founder of Mercanta. (If you live in the US and don't know about Mercanta, you probably will soon, and if you don't, then you should)

Now, I'm not saying that Fair Trade sucks, or that Cup of Excellence is the premier coffee solution for everyone, but I don't see any major buyers of CoE coffees smack-talking Fair Trade in public articles from financial publishcations.

Someone send this guy any CoE coffees you have left, and film the tasting. I fail to see how supressing the reward incentive for quality can be of benefit to ANYONE (except for those who build a profit based on a label and misdirection of good will).

ugh. Thoughts? ..ugh.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

WRBC 2009 Trailer (?)

This is pretty sweet. Barista competitions now come with trailers? Hmm...

WRBC 2009 from wrbc on Vimeo.

This blogger sucks.

And why you may ask? Well, if it isn't obvious, it's been months since I've revisited the ol' coffee aspirations blog. This blog is where I documented my venturing out into the world of specialty coffee a few years ago, and I've been trying to keep it rolling ever since.

Since starting this blog, I've gone on to a number of other things. For one, I started For another, I started, which is where much of my time is spent, and most of my blogging efforts are put to use.

Being a semi-public figure in coffee, I've found it harder and harder to express my personal feelings towards things for fear of accidental defamation, pissing off people who have been around the industry for longer than me, and for just plain not wanting to give the wrong impression about myself in the eyes of others.

Things have been slow with this economy, and it's just now that I'm starting to see retailers recognize what they need to do to survive. It's taken months, but they're coming around... at least, the ones who have come to realize that they need to focus on quality and value ahead of every other principle are.

This is where comes in. If you are a retailer, and you need to revamp the quality or approach to spark new life into your coffee program, or if you just need to get an edge on your competition in an effort to survive this economy, there is no better investment than an investment IN YOURSELF. (or so many professors have told me throughout my college career, and I'm inclined to believe it to be true)

You and your people are the best tools you have, and to invest in your company's people is the best mode of investment possible. It's better than advertising. It's better than shiny new equipment. It's better than impulse buy products. Sure, this is a shameless plug, but it's more than that. It's the truth. The companies that are thriving in this economy are the ones who have already done just that, and if you find your business struggling, and you aren't quite sure what to do, consider bringing in a consultant or professional skills trainer. (like myself) Usually, they'll talk with you to see if they can help in the first place before you spend a dime. (I know I do)

Most of us got into this business to help others succeed primarily, and to make a living secondarily. I love coffee, and I want to see the progress of coffee do well, and I want to see businesses who dream of coffee to see this progress in the realization of their dream, as well as in their proverbial pocket book, without which, no dream can survive for long.

Until next time, enjoy your espresso, and savor the flavor. I hope readers of this blog fare this recession well.