A recent twittering made me think more considerably about when the public will be ‘on board’ with speciality coffee. This lead me to thinking about what we actually mean when we say that.
The first thing taught in modern management is SMART tasking. The memetic ‘M‘ being measurable, the term of ‘on board’ is entirely subjective and immeasurable.
The ideal which I have held is the point where instant is a minority product and 6 oz cappuccino are the norm everywhere, anyone can walk into any coffee shop and be served properly brewed coffee or prepared espresso with perfectly formed milk at a good temperature which doesn’t burn your tongue and through which the nuance of the coffee still maintains. Alas if heaven is a reality and I get in, that shall be mine, along with unrusting 1988 Mini Designer in black and a track to accommodate it.
Roland Glew made a more realistic goal of;
… for me, the pivotal moment will be when the concept of people being coffee geeks is familiar to non coffee drinkers….pretty much everyone knows of wine and real ale aficionados, but I get a lot of people surprised that there is equivalent for coffee.
Personally, I would like a step further where people don’t automatically add sugar and milk/cream to a coffee and realise that boiling point is not the optimum temperature to brew nor enjoy coffee. But for now let’s just aim for recognition in place of amusement and snickering akin to the attitude with which computer specialists were treated 10 years ago.
This goal is helped and hindered by lazy articles in the media that laud the qualities of Kopi Luwak or other gimmicky over-priced coffees.
These articles are, in my view, dangling a golden carrot to the larger public. They introduce the idea of [pseudo]speciality coffee and then they make it unapproachable by throwing in a price point that most people would turn up their noses at (and rightly so).
By using Kopi luwak as an example coffee they also introduce a coffee that isn’t always widely available nor a particularly palatable idea, and further more can create a perceived snobbery depending on who is presented in the article.
One step forward, two steps back.
I make the claim of these articles being lazy because a headline is more grabbing when you can drop in claims like ‘£5 for a cup of coffee‘ or ‘cup of monkey poop coffee‘ rather than writing something much more accessible like Gethumbweni’s Ribena blackcurrant taste or Sidikalang’s banana funkiness or Cachoeira’s overall chocolatey deliciousness.
So… how long is it going to take before people recognise that just like wine and ale there are aficionados for coffee and that coffee can be more than just coffee. Well in the last three years I’ve been in coffee I’ve noticed the shift of people realising that there is more to coffee.
I’d like to think that more than 55% of people could be of a progressive mindset in the next 3 years but more realistically I’d estimate we’re around 5-10 years away without any media change in the way coffee is reported upon.
However all it would take for a massive acceleration of this process is for the media to get onboard properly and as a segment on one of the Saturday morning cooking shows to include a tiny segment on speciality brewed coffee and the inception of coffee en masse would be massively expanded.
At the end of the day I think few members of the public are going to push their coffee practices to the extend to the point where everyone has scales accurate to 0.01g for weighing their coffee and then a further set for weighing their water, a digital temperature probe to make sure the water temperature is “just right” and a professional grinder in their kitchen.
And when we get into the really geeky levels of coffee then the goalposts are eternally moving back as more is thought about, and it’s unfair to expect the ordinary member of the public to go that far.
When it comes down to it the mass public are never going to invest into coffee if they can’t see the benefits of it. Most will never buy a grinder because they don’t see the difference between grind-on-demand and pre-ground, and even when the reasons before are explained they don’t notice the difference in the cup. And though I would never be without my grinder, I think that’s fine, even if it is somewhat limiting.
The reason I love having my grinder is because I drink coffee in a variety of brewing methods and like the adaptability, I especially like trying coffees through different mediums and tasting the difference, but I have to remind myself I’m a geek, and most folks aren’t going to buy a cafetière, a vac-pot, an aeropress and a drip brewer to satiate curiosity though.
I think the goal at the moment should be people buying good coffee from micro-roasters rather than the supermarket, and for now at least, pre-ground makes a much lower starting investment when you can pick up a cafetière for £5 so why not get people in with it and then introduce them to a home grinder and an aeropress.
They may never move further along the spectrum but if people are drinking better coffee at home they will demand better coffee when they go out and that’s better for everyone.