Coffee Common Launches

(photos by Kyle Glanville)

I take my coffee pretty seriously. So the idea of some of the most respected names in the coffee business—who, under normal circumstances, consider one another competition—coming together to work towards a common goal is very interesting to me. As a consumer I'm always trying to get my hands on really delicious coffee. As an enthusiast, I'm constantly annoying my local baristas with questions. As an advocate—well, my advocacy work to date has consisted mostly of caffeinated rants to friends. But a few months ago, the opportunity to explore that a little deeper presented itself.

In December, my friend Stephen Morrissey, who works at Intelligentsia, called with a crazy idea. In 2010, they provided coffee services for the TED conference in hopes of spreading the word about really good coffee. Stephen also happened to be the 2008 world barista champ; he knows about really good coffee. His idea for this year: rather than just serving coffee, the goal would be education. Rather than employees of a single company, the bars would be staffed by some of the best baristas in the business from all around the world. Rather than beans from one roaster, various skilled and talented roasters would be contributing the best they had to offer. This wouldn't be advertising for a single company, it would be advertising for coffee itself. But does anyone really need to learn about something as ubiquitous as coffee? And would something this weird even be possible? Turns out the short answer to both questions is yes.

In fact, the whole reason something this weird needs to exist is to help with that education. It's worth noting that coffee—at just about every level, from farm to cup—is a mystery to most of the millions who consume it each day.

For example: coffee grows on a tree and is the product of a cherry. Each cherry yields two "beans", the seed of the fruit. For the best farms, each tree, spaced meters apart, will yield only a pound of roasted, defect-free and delicious coffee. After the coffee is planted and matures, it endures a vast and complex chain of custody during which any weak link can destroy all the intrinsic qualities the coffee has to offer. Only the smallest fraction of coffee grown on the planet can be considered "specialty quality," and few people have the pleasure of ever tasting it.

But that's just scratching the surface. We're hoping to dig in much deeper. Who's we? When Stephen first told me about this crazy idea, he also explained that he was pulling together an all-star team, inlcuding Kyle Glanville, Brent Fortune and Peter Giuliano— all with the shared goal of producing an amazing coffee experience for TED 2011.

And all would be associated not with any single coffee company, but rather the top names in the business all working together to show off not just how amazing coffee could actually be, and why it's important for people to know what happens with it before it reaches their cup. At the TED event, yes, but also well beyond after that to broader audiences.

Stephen asked me to join them, and before long Tim Williams, Brian Jones and Alex Bogusky would get roped in as well. Yes, that Alex Bogusky.

We knew what we wanted to do, but not what we wanted to call it. Coincidentally, Alex had just announced the launch of Common, a new collaborative brand that would be rethinking capitalism and injecting some social responsibility. This made way too much sense, and almost immediately Coffee Common was born.

Just this weekend, was launched and the coffees we'll be presenting at TED next week have been finalized.

For the few of you readers who will be attending TED in person, some of the top baristas in the world will be on hand to expertly prepare one of the following:

Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters: Abangakurushwa, Rwanda
Counter Culture Coffee: Buziraguhindwa, Burundi
Stumptown Coffee Roasters: Loja, Ecuador
Madcap Coffee: Los Lobos, Costa Rica
Terroir Coffee: Mamuto, Kenya
Ritual Coffee Roasters: La Orquidea, Colombia
Square Mile Coffee: Villa Loyola, Colombia
Has Bean Coffee: Finca Machacamarca De Berengula, Bolivia

For everyone else, we're going to be putting up a ton of information, photos and videos, on the site over the coming days, as well as after TED.

We're looking at this as the first of many awesome steps Common Coffee will be taking. I'll be guest-blogging about it here from time to time as well.

We've got some amazing stuff planned. I am confident that we're about to change everything you think you know about coffee. For the better. It's going to be awesome.

(photos by Kyle Glanville)


  1. I also love a great coffee. But this absolutely off-the-deep-end scientific obsession with coffee that I see in the USA in the last 5 or so, seems, I don’t know, a bit obsessive and masturbatory. It’s better than watching sports all the time, :) but I take it as another sign that some people couldn’t come up with something to do that actually matters.

    Maybe that means that I don’t *really* know what great coffee is. In that case, I apologize. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun :-)


    1. I think you are looking at it from one angle only. Keep in mind that there are countries were thousands upon thousands of people have been ravaged by war and poverty that are now able to make a wonderful living thanks to the coffee industry. In the US we only see the end result, coffee isn’t grown here, but that is a very very small part of this puzzle and the point of Coffee Common is partially to help explain what is going on with those other steps and bring to light just how many people are involved and how lives have been changed by this. I don’t think that’s just something to do because people are bored.

      1. Yes, I am certainly very excited by the initiatives to help the local economies in these places. Of course!

        It is the quantitative geekdom of extreme coffee-tasting that I find a bit tiresome. Alas it’s just the wrong brand of geek-dom for me, I guess. Enjoy it, coffee folks, I’ll do something else. Hey at least neither of us are watching football ;-)

        1. Sometimes it takes a certain level of hyper obsessive geekdom to bang a drum loud enough that non-geeks take note and cause actual change. If through Coffee Common we can educate just enough people that they start asking questions and the overall quality and level is increased (which sends benefits all the way down the chain) then it’s a good thing, and even people who don’t care benefit from it. Rising tide lifts all boats, and what not.

          1. You are conflating coffee geekdom and human/worker’s rights issues.

            Worker’s rights should be protected, fair trade policies are a good thing, these ideas stand on their own.

            Coffee workers and farmers will benefit if your coffee snobbishness goes mainstream? That might be true, that’s no longer advocacy, its trickle down economics. “Rising tide lifts all boats,” indeed.

            People don’t need to know more about how fancy schmancy coffee is made to support the social issues around coffee production. Same way you don’t need to know what a continuously variable transmission is to drive a hybrid vehicle.

          2. Why are producers’ welfare and coffee quality issues to be kept separate?

            I would think the biggest task for CC is proving that coffee far more than just a commodity. It’s a product that can be stunning and if demonstrated is worth a premium. Personally, I’m ok with paying more if i can taste in the cup the care taken along the chain from growing, picking, roasting to brewing.

            If my roaster can then establish longterm mutually profitable relationships with growers that can then invest, pay workers more, and i in future harvests have access to better quality coffee because it – i’m definitely ok with that.

            I’m not ok with squeezing farmers on price for coffee that tastes bad, just because a company has big buying power and coffee is seen as only a caffeine delivery system.

            TED seems an apt place to demonstrate quality and have this dialogue. I hope it works.

      2. Coffee IS grown in the United States. Kona Coffee is quite renowned, and specifically the coffee grown in the Big Island’s Ka’u region is highly regarded.

        I got a free pound of Ka’u coffee some years back as a tip from one of the owners. It was quite good, and unusually potent– I’m more or less immune to the effects of caffeine due to being on prescription Focalin, but this stuff actually kept me up!

      3. Coffee is grown in the US, though most of the mainland is too dry or cold. There’s a lot of it in Hawaii, and presumably some grown in US colonies in the Caribbean or South Pacific, such as Puerto Rico which was one of the early New World coffee-growing areas.

    2. It’s like being obsessive about wine, beer, or pretty much anything else you can be a connoisseur of. The main difference from most other things is that you have a chance to have an actual qualitative difference in what you consume without going of the same extremes as, say, making your own beer or wine. All it takes is some knowledge and a small investment in some equipment to make something miles better than you’d get from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.

    3. @JeffreyMartin: I actually find it a bit ironic that you talk about coffee being obsessive and masturbatory. In some sense I’d say you’re probably a little right. But where you’re probably far more right is with respect to TED.

      TED is one of the worst modern faux intellectualism charades out there. It’s “New Yorker” sound bytes in “Science” journal clothing. Attending one of these events years ago, I was taken aback at how much the emphasis is on presentation style and self-congratulatory posturing than it is about any meaningful, substantive discussion on a topic. (i.e., “I talk about big topics therefore I am smart and I feel good about myself here. But now I’m bored after 20 minutes… let’s move on to the next topic.”)

      I practically ran out of the place screaming.

  2. While I appreciate the value of consumer education, (I work in the specialty food business myself, and spend most of my time educating consumers), I have to question the advocacy element of this mission.

    Yes, these roaster produce wonderful coffee, and letting people drink wonderful coffee will create a larger market for it. I am a particular fan of Intelligentsia and Terroir, and drink their products regularly. I believe food is a quality of life issue, and connecting people with “better” food can be a valuable service. This won’t, in any sense, be “open sourcing” or “Creative Commonsing” coffee, though, especially if the outreach will be at venues like TED.

    Serving well-made, expensive coffee at TED, and educating TED attendees about good coffee, is just an example of a luxury industry targeting a market for expansion. Nothing more.

  3. I don’t think it is merely a masturbatory time waster, I think it might be part of bigger movements colliding.

    For instance:

    1) Think globally, act locally
    2) Slow food, not instant
    3) fair trade
    4) Knowing where you food comes from

    And good coffee is decadent, sure. But it is an affordable decadence.

  4. Just wait until they grok coffee + bacon as the next webmeme.

    (posted from Italy, where a coffee is a coffee is a coffee – but if it’s underage is probably our PM’s)

  5. Hmmm … a professional barista- kind of makes me think that my dream of becoming an expert Netflix queue consultant isn’t so far off.

    1. If you can figure out how to trick them into allowing more than 500 items in queue, you’d have me as a client.

  6. Thanks for this. I’ll never understand criticism of people’s passion, but hey, i’m a profesional kite flyer and builder, so many don’t understand mine.

    Love learning more about coffee, and want my one cup a day to be perfect!


  7. I have to say that Intelligentsia coffee is truly awesome on a completely different level to anything I’ve tasted before. Obviously everyone can taste different coffee (being able to tell that the cup of sumatra tastes different than the cup of french roast) but with Intelligentsia you can pick out different tones like wine. Not over the top mocha berry crunch tones but it really is a unique experience.

  8. The aspects of this Coffee Common venture changing the social economics of the coffee trade is interesting, but this post seemed more like self-serving promotion for a conference which has become more about celebrities and rich people being seen. If you want to talk about Coffee Common, then please tell us! Just don’t tell us you’re going to tell us at TED. Nor do I frankly give a shit what fancy coffees you’ll be serving the TED elite to “educate” them.

    1. The launch of Coffee Common is happening at TED, it would be hard to talk about that without mentioning the conference. The coffees are listed to illustrate the point of how far this reaches. There is a farm from Rowanda involved for crying out loud. The event at TED is just the first, of many big steps. Feel free to be annoyed by it, but in order for second and third steps to happen, first ones have to come first. The site, which I think I pointed out, is where all the info is going to be. But it’s a TON of info, so it’s going to take a little while to get it all in place. The majority of the work we’re doing will be seen on the site, not at TED.

  9. Great post, and great initiative. As a newbie to the world of coffee advocacy, I am delighted to have a chance to learn more…and hopefully join in the process of education. Our coffee is produced on the backs of others…it’s time we appreciate (and yes, pay for) the privilege of drinking it. Thanks for doing this work.

  10. This is a great grassroots effort with the right people involved. Any effort to apply better business practices to any industry for the benefit of positive change should be looked at as a good thing. Who cares if TED is the first stop and caters to “the elite”? People who comment negatively just can’t see the larger picture. Change has to start somewhere! As consumers, we should be educating ourselves about the products we’re buying. I’d much rather buy beans from a company that supports communities in need, than from a company that only cares about profits.

  11. Sorry, mainland US. Yes obviously I know about Kona and such, but that’s off the radar of most people in the US because it isn’t staring them in the face. There are a billion other agricultural products that are much more obvious when people think of things grown in the US. The majority of Americans will never see a coffee farm unless they specifically go looking for one, where as corn, strawberries, tomatoes, etc are everywhere.

  12. That bin of coffee cherries raises a question I’ve been mulling for a long time: does anyone know of an importer who handles fresh coffee cherries in bulk? I need a few hundred pounds for a project… a SCIENCE project.

  13. So this would be the appropriate place to plug then, yes?

    Consider it done.

    Check it out. Order a couple pounds. Hot rod a popcorn popper and prepare to get your socks knocked off. I’m not affiliated. I’m just a fan.

    Go coffee!

  14. Huffs on nails, shines ’em.

    Me, I roast it myself. I get the green beans from Just Us! Coffee Cooperative, out of Wolfville in Nova Scotia, just a few kms from the much-storied Grand Pré. I rotate through a variety of, um, varieties, so my palate doesn’t get jaded.

    My very favourite are beans from their Mexican supplier/grower. (Who knew!) Hints of chocolate, cinammon, and other notes. A wonderful, satisfying shot of espresso.

    Yeah, you obsess over it initially. Once you’ve figured out the brewing/roasting/cups, you can leave the obsessive/compulsive behaviour by the wayside and concentrate on the wonderful pleasure that a good coffee is.

    1. But can we spare folks the home roasting proselytizing, please? I’ve been doing it for over a decade, and Sweet Maria’s is the bomb, but preachers are irritating no matter what religion they’re pushing.

  15. the bars would be *staffed* by some of the best baristas in the business from all around the world

    fixed it for ya

    /pedant mode

  16. I don’t understand the criticism. The companies that are roasting the coffee’s for coffee common at TED all have extremely ethical purchasing practices and in some cases full transparency in their buying policies. If you try to get away from the “geeky-ness” that comes with the coffees and people currently involved not only do you lower the quality of the coffee you also run the risk of lowering the purchasing ethics currently involved. It seems like complaining if a group of like minded chefs and farmers were asked to create food for an event. “what’s with the food geekiness, Mcdonalds makes hamburgers, why not use them?” Since when is using quality ingredients and preparing them carefully masturbatory? The ratio in price difference going from bad to amazing coffee is nothing compared to most specialty foods or boozes. It is also safe to say that in most cases buying really good coffee is by default buying ethically produced coffee.

    If you want to bitch about what TED is go for it but that bitching should be aimed at TED. Many of the people involved with coffee common are putting their money where their mouth is day in day out and would be doing it whether or not this event was taking place. They’re trying to help people in developing nations, trying to educate consumers and trying to improve coffee quality cause it’s what they love to do.

  17. Damn, I love coffee. There is a downside to becoming very enamored of incredible coffee because then you do have a really tough time drinking coffee in ordinary circumstances. And honestly, I’m not a snob and don’t own any special equipment. I just buy really good coffee.

    Quiche–I do think that some connoisseur coffee geekdom can be good if it creates a market for great coffee and the supply to that market is eventually saturated with guaranteed fair trade coffee. If small farmers control their growing through co-ops and produce these high quality arabica beans then the geek factor does benefit them.

    I get bummed sometimes because you can get truly phenomenal fair trade coffee–but so often your connoisseur cafe owner futzes around with the fair trade idea to water it down and make his own less-than-fair product sound equivalent. How ‘we’re not fair trade but we pay fair trade prices’ or ‘we work with farmers’ (which can mean ‘we work with big plantations in Guatemala who don’t benefit any of the extremely poor people who pick the crops’) and so on and so forth. And it does tend to be your geek/hipster coffee contingent that is more motivated to do this because their audience cares about those issues but wants to feel good and isn’t looking too deeply into the commodity chain. But by blurring the lines of what’s just ordinary buying and what is really helpful to poor people dependent on coffee growing they are doing damage to people much more vulnerable than they are.

    I think maybe the cafes are operating on close profit margins and they tell themselves that they are doing good but there are ways to be more deeply committed to the people growing the coffee. Without secure control over the price of their coffee that fair trade gives they tend to be desperately poor–it is rare to see evidence that this is really on coffee seller and drinker’s minds. I think also coffee geeks are not so politically savvy about the politics and economics of the regions they buy from and maybe aren’t starting out with the idea that the people who grow the coffee are striving for justice, equality and freedom, not just a well or a school.

    It would be so cool if in this the people that grow and pick the coffee would be involved somehow on these TED talks and speak for themselves. When the fair trade model is authentic the small farmer who grows the coffee has more say so. We could hear their voice also.

    I will watch this coffee commons with interest. Ultimately, I hope there is some awareness about the role of coffee in the world economy and the place of the people involved in supplying it to us and not a bunch of hip people talking for them and reassuring us with misleading rhetoric.

  18. I never said the that producers’ welfare and coffee quality must be separate, I said he is conflating them. Conflate is to treat two separate things as if they are all one concept.

    I don’t want farmers squeezed, but don’t tell me that I need to care about traveling with my own hand-crank coffee grinder and annoying erlenmeyer flask looking carafes and other coffee snob bullshit to support ethical coffee production.

    I will gladly pay extra for ethically produced coffee. I have no need for all the other crap, and it is in fact off-putting.

    1. You appear more annoyed with the gadgetry than what appears to me, an obsession with quality. I can forgive the refractometers and nuclear centrifuges if it leads to a better cup.

      I’m a little disillusioned with the certificates handed out for “ethical” coffee when it doesn’t translate into sustainable improvement and a better product. I feel a lot better when i see that, because of the demand for quality, auction prices rise above $20 a pound. When it comes to speciality coffee i think conflating quality and welfare is ok. They are causative.

      1. I say it again, I will pay more for ethically produced coffee.

        I am not annoyed with gadgetry. If you like the gadgets and super fancy quality coffee, that’s great, more power to you. But why do you have to put people down who don’t share your obsession? When a self described coffee snob tells me to “GTFO” if I don’t have a burr grinder (as Sean said in his own post he linked to above), well that makes me want to GTFO.

        Coffee Common apparently wants (a) to sneer down their noses at my coffee unsophistication while I pay a higher price for their ethically sourced coffee, or (b) normal coffee drinkers like me to have nothing to do with them.

        I’m leaning towards (b) and looking elsewhere to support ethically produced coffee.

        1. I think you are trying hard to draw connections where there are none. Generalizing a statement I made in a post about my own choice of coffee equipment (reread it closely and tell me where I said anyone without a burr grinder needed to GTFO, I made a joke about a blade grinder from Target) and the mission of Coffee Common. I don’t see how you can get (a) or (b) out of what Coffee Common has produced, and the whole point of CC is to help normal people who aren’t as obsessed as we are understand some of the reasoning behind our obsession, why those obsessions are important and help the farmers and the ethics all the way down the line. Coffee is fragile and any step can ruin the care and efforts in the others, so in having a larger discussion about it it’s impossible to sing the praises of ethically produced farmers who are paid a fair and decent wage for their work and effort while ignoring the final preparation stage. In the same way no matter how much care and how fancy the equipment is, if you are using cheaply produced bottom tier beans it will never taste good. It’s a complete discussion and Coffee Common will be looking at all the pieces equally. Though again, I think your assumptions of sneering or elitism is a bit of of a stretch. We’re just putting the info out there, it’s up to you if you think it’s valuable or not.

          1. I apologize for taking your statements the wrong way. That was mean spirited of me. Your GTFO in your travelling coffee obsession story is obviously tongue in cheek. I should have seen that from the start and it wasn’t fair for me to cherry pick it and try to beat you with it.

            But I will say this:

            There will always be plastic bags of cheap ass coffee in office break rooms that are brewed in Bunn drip machines with tap water. And then it often sits there on the burner for an hour before it is consumed – sometimes with sugar and dry creamer. (I like to think I can see you cringe when you read that.) AND THERE IS NO REASON WHY THAT COFFEE CANNOT BE ETHICALLY PRODUCED.

            In fact it should be. You should not have to do it if crappy coffee is so repellent to you. Coffee Common is a good thing for what it is. But don’t pretend that coffee advocacy is restricted to your kind of coffee snobbery. Ethically produced coffee needs to happen with the cheap stuff too, if it’s going to help most of the farmers and workers. We coffee barbarians will probably always outnumber you elites.

            Again I am sorry for my earlier attacks, and I wish coffee common well in its efforts to help coffee growers. I will buy a pound of fancy schmancy coffee from Intelligenstia to make up for it.

          2. Just don’t expect me to brew it in a chemex. That stuff is brewing in my Mr. Coffee, after I grind it in my cheap Target grinder with a small blade.

        2. This does raise an interesting question for me: Where is the “Folgers” equivalent of “ethical” coffee? There are many people out there who love coffee, but not enough to ever be mistaken for a snob. They’ll buy a big can of pre-ground whatever at the grocery store and toss a few spoonfuls into their drip coffee maker. Every morning they enjoy what comes out. While great coffee is great, it seems like these people really just want something cheap, easy, and predictable.

  19. If you told me that 10 coffee roasters would be offering coffee at this post-capitalist conference anonymously, with no mention of brand, only the names of the farms where the coffee was sourced, I might be impressed. That would seem an advancement, a step towards putting the focus on the producer, and on the cup quality. Cups could be plain, servers unknown, just coffee, region where it is grown, farm or cooperative name.

    As is, you have supreme branding fetish by something that claims to be beyond brands, beyond product promotion … I am sorry I just don’t buy it. We have seen this one before; we know how it ends.

  20. I’ll say it again, the companies chosen are there because they go to origin, they meet the people who grow the coffee, they work hard to make sure those people are paid fairly. That’s why they were chosen. That’s why they’re successful. They all have websites and blogs that chronicle their travels in great detail. They are setting the bar for others to reach for. These are the most respected businesses in an industry that is under a microscope when it comes to ethics. Less people are worried about who picked the cotton they are wearing or who picked the roses that are on their table. Yes, be concerned about where your coffee comes from, but pick your battles. This event isn’t the right one. This is about culinary professionals that know what ratio of water to coffee should be used for a specific brew method. Is a chef being to geeky if she measures the amount of flour to use in a roux or is that just proper fundamentals?

  21. Maybe living in Portland for five years has misaligned my expectations, but I’m shocked at the disparaging, dismissive comments on here. How any citizen of the modern world can not understand that coffee is a rewarding subject of study and appreciation (more chemically complex than wine or spirits), AND that it’s one of the most traded commodities on Earth, touching millions of lives at every point in the supply chain, is baffling.

    That cup of black heaven you wake up with connects you to companies and families around the world, just like the oil that enables your power/mobility and the cotton you wear. It’s the world in your hand. I’m rabidly in favor of any project that has the potential to improve the lives of those growers, processors, transporters, roasters, etc., and I hope you’ll give them a chance to show you why you should be, too.

  22. Coffee is a natural match for BB, as its preparation has been associated for centuries with innovative gadgets. You don’t have to be a snob to find these gadgets interesting and fun, or to appreciate a good cup of coffee.

    Some people in the coffee world do take themselves and their (a)vocation a bit too seriously, and this can be off-putting. Sean doesn’t have to answer for the attitudes of others here, he only has to take responsibility for what he himself posts. I don’t see anything over the top in this post, though there are a couple of factual assertions that need qualification: some coffee cherries contain a single bean (a peaberry) instead of two, and most trees on even the best farms will produce beans with defects.

    1. I wasn’t getting into a huge discussion about that here, but of course peaberries exist, though that is a mutation (sometimes engineered) and by pointing out how much defect free coffee comes from a tree, I meant after removing the defects. I wasn’t suggesting trees don’t have defects.

      1. Sean, sorry, I was just being pedantic. Occupational hazard.

        Quiche: When your Mr. Coffee breaks, consider replacing it with a Chemex. Coupled with a good hot water kettle it is overall faster than the Mr. Coffee, especially if you include clean-up time.

        Fernwood: The main reason Folgers is so much cheaper than Intelligentsia is the market placement and economics of scale in processing costs, not the cost of the cherry (though because of their size they do have a big incentive to minimize their raw cherry cost). The ICO composite price for beans is up around 60% over the last 12 months, but the price of supermarket coffee has hardly budged in comparison.

        1. Sorry dr, your point about coffee pricing is simply way off the mark. Intelligentsia, along with most of the roasters currently represented at Coffee Common, pay much, much more than Folgers for green. Folgers pays the “C” floor for the most part.

          Their costs haven’t gone up too dramatically for a few reasons – Folgers has their own crew of market speculators placing bets on coffee futures – they hedge massive futures contracts that keep them relatively safe from these surges for an extended period.

          Also, Folgers is simply absorbing some of the change in hopes of a market correction.

          BUT, Folgers buys, treats and labels coffee in a commoditized capacity – Intelligentsia does not. We expect a lot from the folks we work with and reward them based on quality in the cup. The prices we pay are much, much higher. How much higher depends on the producer and the quality.

  23. I think it’s safe to say “cheap” and “ethical” don’t belong in the same sentence. Cheap coffee is cheap because someone along the chain is getting screwed. If you think folgers is taking it out of their cut your mistaken.

    1. Maybe you are right, I am no expert on coffee farming.

      But I would think that for any product, you can have regular quality and premium quality but still have the workers treated ethically and fairly. Why is this not the case with coffee?

      Sean said:

      “Only the smallest fraction of coffee grown on the planet can be considered “specialty quality,” and few people have the pleasure of ever tasting it.”

      Isn’t there lesser quality coffee that folks like me would be OK consuming? And is there any reason why the people growing that stuff cannot be treated ethically?

  24. Specialty coffee is a designation given based on a score generated through blind tasting. These coffees are generally priced as commodity (NY C) plus a differential above the c price based on how good (and rare and many other factors I’m sure,) the coffee is. Most of the coffee being brewed for CC would be purchased directly from the farmer at well above c price. The difference is the entire purchase price goes directly to the farmer or co-op. No middle man. The buyer then organizes the transport themselves. When a coffee is purchased through a broker there is not really any way of finding out how much the farmer was paid for the coffee or how many hands it passed through to get to you. So you don’t have to assume that a direct trade coffee is way more expensive than another coffee. It’s about cutting out useless middle men and teaching farmers that with a quality product they can work outside the commodity market. You’re not going to find a giant tin of ground coffee for $6/lbs. that is ethically purchased but the jump to a great coffee which is ethical is not big at all when compared to most other “high end” culinary products.

    Disclaimer: I am very young in the industry and just made my first direct purchase this November with a buying trip to El Salvador next month. What I write above is based on my own research and experience. Many of the roasters represented at CC have extensive literature for anyone to read as to their direct trade policies.

  25. Thanks for all the opinions voiced here. Considering what people have said got me thinking from a consumer/customer point of view in a more realistic way than I have in some time. I preach to my staff that a true connoisseur introduces people to what they are passionate about by letting them discover it and enjoy it for themselves. No hurt feelings if someone wants to get a coffee read the paper and get out without the coffee being the focus.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still try to teach every customer that buys beans how to control the strength and flavor of the brew so they can get the most out of it. If they want more info than that I’ll keep talking.

  26. I say woot to them all.

    I have introduced many people to high end coffee. Most of them have had their eyes opened that coffee is not just a vehicle for milk, sugar and caffeine. It can actually be god in a cup. Watching someone who has only ever drank coffee on the level of Starblechs or Mickey D’s sit down at Intelligensia and drink her first ever cup of black coffee and say it is the best she has ever had brings a smile to my face.

    There will always be those of you who do not care how you get your caffeine, be it in a frappuccino or a can of Monster. But allow those of us who want to savor excellence that right and the right to share it with others.

  27. Is there a name for a person who appreciates and insists on good coffee do you know?

    I am continually frustrated by coffee shops who in the main serve hot, sickly milk with weak amounts of coffee. I have to do battle and ask for another shot every time, excepting Nero’, where they automatically give two shots. Why should I have to pay for an extra shot just to get it as the Italians would serve it?
    I am always told most people prefer it with one shot (those Starbucks fans who like hot milk with a slight coffee flavour) but they could always ask for it weak rather than coffee lovers having to pay more.
    It is not just the bean and the country of origin, or the roasting of same but the training of the Barista and make of the machine which counts for much. Gaggia has my vote.

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