Illustrated Insight to the Coffee Market

03.14

There’s been a lot of recent talk about the rising cost of green coffee and the impact it will have on consumer prices. Much of that talk, like most things related to global markets and trade, can be difficult for the average person to understand. Thankfully Peter Giuliano, President of Counter Culture Coffee & the SCAA, and designer Katy Meehan have turned an overwhelming topic into something a bit more manageable. “What’s the deal with the coffee market?” is a colorful 12-page comic that sums up the various factors responsible for rising coffee prices.

I got to spend a lot of time talking with Peter G. while we were at Coffee Common and he’s one of the most sincere coffee enthusiasts I’ve met. Peter’s passion for sharing the miracle of great coffee with anyone willing to listen is inspiring and encouraging. The effort to create this comic is just one example of how he continues to help elevate the industry. This is the kind of work that will help inform consumers and invite them into the conversation instead of alienating them.

Check out the full comic on Flickr

posted by on 03.14.2011, under Design

A Summary of Coffee Common at TED

03.11

It’s been one week since the debut of Coffee Common at TED came to an end. Since then, I’ve been collecting my thoughts while enjoying those shared by others who took part. First, I’d like to thank all the baristas and my fellow committee members who passionately volunteered their time to make this such an incredible experience, one that has set an ambitious stage that’s now being gazed upon by a rapturous audience.

While, our goal was to begin a much needed conversation about coffee with consumers, I don’t think any of us involved knew just how quickly we would gain such vast attention. The support, inquiries, and critiques have been equally overwhelming and humbling.

Though the idea of a collaborative coffee service at TED had been in development for a couple months, Coffee Common—and the idea of it being something more than a single event—is just a few weeks old. There is a lot to be figured out moving forward, but our purpose from the beginning is still very clear—we believe that great coffee is, at its best, a collaboration of an empowered coffee farmer, an artisan coffee roaster, a dedicated barista, and an enlightened consumer. Through a diverse collection of voices and future collaborative events we will work together to continue educating consumers about the process and pleasures of truly great coffee. With greater consumer understanding, comes better appreciation, quality and value that will benefit everyone involved.

When I first joined Alex Bogusky on a call with Stephen Morrissey from Intelligentsia, I thought I would just help design a logo and some t-shirts for the baristas serving coffee at TED. But I quickly realized this was an opportunity for much more. I had finally been introduced to a group of industry insiders trying to do the same thing I attempt to do here at DCILY—to enlighten and inspire consumers to expect more from their coffee.

Over the next few days, a brand, a voice and a forum were developed to carry the message of this newly formed collaborative to those who would listen. Over a weekend, a book had been written, designed and sent to press; a website had been launched, and a conversation had begun. Shortly after, I left for California to join the rest of the team and watch all the pieces we’d been working on virtually from around the world, come together before our eyes. Collaboration at its finest.

Being able to spend a week with great people whom I admire, who’s blogs I read regularly, who I rooted for at their Regional Barista Comps, and who make me want to drop everything to be a part of the coffee industry full time—was an experience I won’t soon forget. It was a pleasure helping support the baristas in various capacities at TED and documenting the experience for everyone back home to enjoy.

When lines got long, I helped field extended conversations with attendees, and discussed the simple truths and nuanced joys of great coffee with them. There’s a great satisfaction that comes with a person’s first positive reaction to black coffee or their excitement upon first learning about the complexities of the coffee process. I witnessed many moments during the week when attendees at TED “got it.” The same spark many of us have experienced—that initiated our uncompromising love for great coffee and the genuine concern and support for the farmers, roasters and baristas who make it possible. Those moments are why we are doing this.

First-Hand Coffee Common Reports

Sean Bonner – GOOD
George Giannakos – CleanHotDry
Erin Meister – Serious Eats
Anthony Benda – Cafe Myriade

Also check out the great barista interviews being posted at Coffee Common

posted by on 03.11.2011, under Misc.

Boycott Bold

02.10

This poster was created with the same intention as the others I’ve designed—to simply express my own frustration with certain habits and trends within the coffee industry. While the first one (the dreaded x) was self explanatory, some of these need a bit more explanation. So let this be the first.

Bold: adj \’bōld\ 1) Fearless before danger. Daring. Adventurous. See ‘bold’ type.

I know that coffee fearlessly takes on each morning like an undefeated champion and gives us the courage to face the day. But there are many other ways to describe this revelation—and the taste of your coffee—than with a hollow descriptor that Starbucks practically own the rights to:

What Makes a Coffee Bold? At Starbucks we will call a coffee bold based on its flavor intensity. Bold can come from a combination of roast, flavor intensity or the complexity due to where is it grown. Some examples are the grapefruit notes in Kenya or the full body of the earthy and spicy Komodo Dragon Blend®. –Starbucks

By this definition, any coffee that exhibits “complexity, ” whether it’s a citrusy Kenyan or a spicy Indonesian constitutes being described as “bold.” Coffee by its very nature is an intense (some might say bold) beverage. The flavors, the aromatics, the body, the complexity, the caffeine—all create a unique beverage experience unlike anything else.

However, the word “bold” has been hijacked by marketing and used to describe everything from darker roasts, to higher brew ratios, to even implying there is more caffeine in bold coffee (which there isn’t). This creates confusion among customers, frustration among baristas, and puts pressure on roasters to participate in the erroneous descriptor circus, just to sell coffee to an indoctrinated market.

The industry is full of metaphor and sometimes rather curious coffee descriptions:

Sweet, just bracing enough, the coffee recalls nothing so much as getting out of the subway at Lincoln Center on an icy winter day with three dollars in your pocket, and saying “Yes. Today is the day I buy those honey-roasted cashews from the guy with the nut cart.” –Blue Bottle Coffee

But creative and indiscernible is better than vague and ambiguous. My suggestion, remove “bold” from your coffee vocabulary. Boycott bold. Begin to notice more specific characteristics of your coffee—do you like sweet, fruity, floral, citrus, spicy, smokey, nutty, earthy, chocolaty? These are some of the basic coffee flavors that can help you pick out what you enjoy about your coffee. You don’t need to discern Satsuma orange and rosewater to order a coffee you’ll like, but everyone will benefit if you avoid using bold.

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posted by on 02.10.2011, under Design, Misc.