The Unbalanced Coffee World: How a Mismanaged Resource Can Lead to Opportunity

The Unbalanced Coffee World: How a Mismanaged Resource Can Lead to Opportunity

It’s jaw-dropping and downright painful to recognize that a $100 billion worldwide coffee industry is choking the life out of itself. Recently, at the 2014 Specialty Coffee Association of America annual event, I learned that 25 out of 30 of the poorest countries in the world are coffee-producing countries. How could this be? In an industry with arguably the second-most traded resource in the world, how is it that such poverty exists at its root level? The coffee industry is as imbalanced as a NFL linebacker and my two-year-old daughter on a see-saw together. Seriously, can we at least stop for a minute from sipping our perfectly-made cappuccinos and selling our $20 bags of specialty coffee and recognize the colossal problem with the origins of the seeds we can’t live without? A Minute Goes By While We Sip On Our $4 Coffee Flip-flop the scenario to the coffee producer in Burundi (where Seeds Coffee just bought some green coffee from last week), which happens to be the second-poorest country in the world. What do you think this farmer thinks about the $100 billion industry? I can’t imagine the reaction of a Burundi farmer hearing that less than a pound of coffee (which he probably received less than $2 for) just pocketed our retail shop $42 or so. Not to mention that ninety percent of the effort spent to make this coffee available was done by the farmer, not the coffee shop, not the barista. It took our greatly-skilled baristas around four minutes to grind and extract the right amount of coffee soluble of this precious resource. But back at...
It’s More Than Coffee: The Forgotten Beauty of SCAA 2014

It’s More Than Coffee: The Forgotten Beauty of SCAA 2014

Ahhh… There we were, riding up the escalator at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual event, awaiting new flavors and cutting-edge gadgets. Everyone was decked out in sleek button downs, slightly rolled up above the ankle jeans, perfectly un-groomed facial hair, and sleeve tattoos so fresh you could smell the anti-infection ointment. One could feel the trendiness…I mean excitement in the air! We walked a little further. The show floor was filled with thousands of things that I would love to blow my money on. All of the top coffee personalities were in attendance. From coffee roasters, to the sleek espresso machines, and weird contraptions with coffee traveling around in clear tubes that nobody understands what they do, this event had it all. I’m poking fun, but all of these things (for the most part) are enjoyable and useful. It is just that sometimes the wrong things steal the true beauty. I can get sideways and giddy over a new brewing scale and my mind can be blown by a $20,000 espresso machine, but those things still leave me empty. I mean, they will just build another scale and manufacture better espresso machines as this is the way that innovation works. Despite all of the flashy things that will be outdated by this time next year, there are some things that you can’t replace — something – or better yet someone – that makes the event worth attending. It’s your friend from Guatemala who happens to grow the coffee roasted and served at your cafe. Nobody really knows who he is, and he doesn’t get awkward, uncontrollable hugs...