I sort of stumbled into drinking coffee.
During sophomore year of undergraduate study, I distinctly remember needing to pull a couple of all-nighters. As a crutch, I sampled some delicious, individually-packaged Oma chocolate covered coffee beans from Bogotá, Colombia. This opened my mind to the fact that even eating coffee grounds wasn’t all that bad. Later–during summer study in Alicante, Spain–I encountered a sweet powder-keg of caffeine explosion called the bombón — this sugary, condensed milk, dark espresso fused drink kept me up until 6am tossing and turning one night–probably because I sampled it following an afternoon siesta.
Perhaps, like so many others, my ‘gateway’ demand for coffee came through my need to stay awake. It did not stay that way. During a period when I resided in Colombia, I mounted a horse and rode through a beautiful coffee plantation on the side of a mountain in Chinchiná, Colombia. It was one of the most breathtaking moments of my life.
Many facets of the coffee world are fascinating:
- Be it the social ethos to better the lives of global citizens through capacity building, sustainable business and passing value along the supply chain
- Solving of the complex operations management puzzles that arise in dealing with an industry fraught with risk, price volatility, speculation, unobserved variables, and fluctuating demand or
- Sharpening the senses to discern complex distinctions between aroma, flavors, mouth-feel and finish.
Coffee is a business of people, and networking happens somewhat naturally within the industry. My experiences include: private cupping of Manizales’ best crops of 2008; roasting high quality beans from Dipilto, Nicaragua while consulting to grow a domestic specialty coffee franchise; cupping down at Caffe Calabria in Northpark (San Diego, CA); connecting with the amazing Karen Cebreros of Elan Organic importers; consuming the roasts of Bird Rock Roasters, the blends of Intelligentsia, creating a second custom blend with the good guys at Novo Coffee in Colorado, or the siphon brewed coffee of Blue Bottle in San Francisco.
It appears that in order to grow a sustainable supply of excellent quality coffee, market mechanisms much exist to:
1) protect supply security through capacity building at the farm-level
2) help producers capture more value from their output
3) improve effectiveness of marketing aimed at promoting social and environmental fairness
Have you had your cup today?