Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Time For Reflection

I've taken quite a bit of time off from blogging, as you may have noticed. My personal life went through a bit of an overhaul and my attention had to be focused on more pressing issues. Vida Coffee Co is under construction, but I am no longer employed there. My mission to get this project off the ground was a success, so I felt my consulting job there could end fulfilled.

Over spring break, I've traveled around quite a bit, keeping me busy and off my blog. I do have substantial home roasting experience now, and do plan on sharing these experiences soon, possibly as soon as this week. Since this post is basically just designed to reassure you that I am still alive and blogging, I'll leave you with a short story.

While having Easter dinner "down home", I had a conversation with my brother-in-law, a barista for Starbucks. He showed me his new "Elite" training manual for only the most valuable baristas. His enthusiasm for the coffee company is muted a bit due to my regular injection of reality into his coffee knowledge (sharing the truth of how Starbucks is getting less and less 'special', and losing influence because of it). After reading through this 'confidential' manual full of run-of-the-mill coffee facts with knowledge accessible to anyone with Wikipedia, I found that this 'elite' training was no more than what I would consider standard for my employees. I think this standardized underachievement policy, promoted by Starbucks and others like them, significantly retards the advancement of coffee knowledge the "Third Wave" is trying to develop.
In March 2008, Pulitzer Prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold of the LA Weekly defined the third wave of coffee by saying:

“The first wave of American coffee culture was probably the 19th-century surge that put Folgers on every table, and the second was the proliferation, starting in the 1960s at Peet’s and moving smartly through the Starbucks grande decaf latte, of espresso drinks and regionally labeled coffee. We are now in the third wave of coffee connoisseurship, where beans are sourced from farms instead of countries, roasting is about bringing out rather than incinerating the unique characteristics of each bean, and the flavor is clean and hard and pure."[1]
Without knowledgeable baristas in our coffee shops (coming standard), our customers will miss their greatest opportunity to learn about the true potential specialty coffee has to offer. Things like micro-roasting, single-origin espressos, single-cup brewing, cupping knowledge, and the like will all be passed over because these topics only are fitting for the 'elite' among us. Bologna. These topics should be common knowledge and commonly discussed with our customers to help broaden their coffee horizons, and in effect, widen the reach of our commercial interests.

Lord, keep my head deflated and on straight. I pray You would bless me in my new work. Help me to perform well and keep my coffee standards high. Here we go.
  1. ^ La Mill: The Latest Buzz LA Weekly, March 13, 2008

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