9.07.2018

You Should Be Ashamed

Once upon a time I believed that San Francisco was a special place - a better place. I believed that the culture of SF attracted better people. I loved San Francisco and the people who lived here because I felt that we stood for something different - something more humane.

Once upon a time I believed that craft coffee was also a special place - a better industry. I believed that the culture of artisan coffee attracted better people. I loved coffee and the people who worked in the coffee industry because I felt we stood for something - something real and humane.


So I keep waiting for someone in coffee to talk about the problems the industry has around harassment, discrimination and abuse. And I keep waiting for someone to decide to lead.

But the silence deafens.


And today I walked by Four Barrel Coffee.


In the San Francisco I once loved, these doors would be permanently closed. Because nobody would be going to a business founded by a serial sexual predator and now owned and run by his friends and fellow owners. Nobody would support a business whose (new) owners - the ones who had enabled and covered up the founder's criminal abuse - promised to turn over ownership to the employees - which turned out to be a lie. In the San Francisco I once loved, none of the people in this photo would have been willing to be associated with such a toxic business.

And in the coffee industry I once dreamed existed companies would be calling this company out, companies would be publicly distancing themselves, companies would be refusing to do business with them.

Instead, the store is busy - crowded with people who could give a fuck about ethics and morals and values.
Instead, the coffee industry remains silent - demonstrating that those within it also could give a fuck about ethics and morals and values.


I'd love to say this is a call to action.
I'd love to say that I believe this post will result in a company or two taking a public stance against both the abuse that started this shit-show and the utter ethical failure of the current owners.
I'd love to believe that this post will result in a single SF coffee buyer deciding to go somewhere else for their latte.

But I know better.
It's too late for SF.
It's too late for coffee.

With your silence, you give tacit support.

I'm embarrassed. By all of you.

12.28.2017

SF is past its sell-by date

"The reason there are rules is that there’s a society here, and we’re all supposed to fit in somehow. But not anymore. The progressive, fussy, overly sensitive, yammering groups of San Franciscans asserting that we need to have our needs understood and rights acknowledged in order to get along together don’t matter anymore."

Yeah... it's a so-called "Long Read" (as if that were a bad thing).
Yeah... it's another "requiem for the SF we loved" (again, as if that were somehow bad).

But this piece is a true must read for those who love San Francisco or at least love the San Francisco that was.

"We are all in this together. We always have been and we always will be, no matter where things go. But for the past few years in San Francisco, it’s been apparent the counter-myth is ascendant. And this is why I left — it turns out there are places that haven’t yet conspired in the assisted suicide of “we.” There are places where people look each other in the eye, even when they drive."

7.04.2017

On Patriotism

"By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality." - George Orwell


6.16.2017

Extinction Level Event

Amazon to Acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 Billion

If you own or manage a coffee business and you don't have a plan for the coming collapse of the traditional retail and distribution channel in the United States you will be out of business within three years.

This is your only warning.

5.30.2017

we should have hired designers!

In the coffee biz, folks spend a lot of time worrying about competition.

Pretty much every single coffee shop has a competitor right nearby - and those competitors are usually selling a product that the end user cannot differentiate from their own product, and at the same price.

So understanding what causes a customer to choose your coffee biz - and what causes them to become a loyal customer for your shop, and not the one down the block - is a huge area of interest.

Like most people who have spent time in coffee, I tended to think about the drivers as things like: Brand and Marketing, Convenience, Customer Service, Speed and Efficiency, Ancillary Products and Services, etc.


Well... today I saw this amazing video.
And it explained that the real culprit is "Service Design."
It explained that, if all of us had just used the right design process when developing our mobile apps, we too would have won vs our competition.
If we had just hired a super kickass team of ninja rodeo clown coders and ethnographers, our coffee bars would have been hugely successful.


All snark aside - you all should watch this video.
Yes... the arrogance makes my jaw hurt and the ignorance makes my ears ring.
But this is the way "smart" people think about coffee as a business.
This is the way people are going to say you should run your coffee business.

So you need to be prepared.



PS. If you had anything to do with that video... you should be ashamed of yourself. You understand absolutely nothing about the speciality coffee industry and the idea that you don't need to is arrogant beyond belief.



4.18.2017

Open Letter to US Coffee Companies

Dear US Speciality Coffee Companies,

I know that you all are bored with espresso. I know you think it's lame and uncool.
I understand this.

But please listen to me for one second... We, your customers... we love espresso and espresso drinks. This is why, no matter how many brew bars you set up and no matter how many cupping hours you throw, the majority of the coffee you serve is your espresso blend.

You understood this a decade ago. That's why you put so much energy and attention and love into your espresso blends.

Since then I've watched as the quality of espresso started to fall off. First there were a dozen decent espresso blends in the US. Then there were four.

Now there are none.

That's right. At present there are no espresso blends produced by US roasters that I would describe as "good." There absolutely are espresso blends that one can, periodically, produce great shots from. But there is not a single espresso in the US that is consistent, high quality, and good tasting.

Why has this happened?

Because you all stopped giving a fuck. You stopped giving a fuck about your espresso. You stopped giving a fuck about your espresso program. You stopped giving a fuck about the baristas who have to work with a blend that is entirely different in all ways batch to batch. And you stopped giving a fuck about us, your customers.

And that, my friends, is the unpardonable sin.

You talk about your passion and love for coffee. You talk about the sacrifices you make to pursue this love. How can you claim passion for coffee and care for your customers while you blatantly give zero fucks about the coffee the vast majority of us drink?

So it's time to fix this shit.

1 - Ask yourself honestly, "am I proud of the espresso we are selling and serving?"
2 - Stop using your espresso blend as a dumping ground for unwanted coffees
3 - Understand that baristas are using this coffee at set parameters and make the damn coffee work at those parameters
4 - Know what your espresso's "signature flavor" is - and please try to keep it the same batch to batch.

It's time to give a fuck again.

-c