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.


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.


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.




Closing Statement

We white guys have had a good long run of it, and to be honest we kind of made of mess of things.

It's time to give someone else a chance to run this shit.

Now let's not destroy civilization on our way out, mkay?


Is espresso getting worse?

I was recently inspired by a conversation I had with some long-time coffee professionals to do a quick and dirty survey of current and former coffee pros.

This was a very simple survey as it asked two questions only.

First: "How long ago did you drink the best espresso of your life?"
Second: "Share your thoughts on espresso."

The results were rather startling (for me).

The average answer for how long ago the best espresso had been turns out to be a little over 5 years. That's right... I said years.
And while there were answers that were measured in months, there were also ones answered in decades.

Also, there was an interesting correlation in the responses as well.
For respondents who answered less than a year, the vast majority indicated that they either don't drink espresso frequently or don't "like" espresso (most commonly expressed as "I'm just not into espresso anymore").

Obviously I have some conclusions, but as they're speculation based on a highly unscientific collection of data, I'll keep them to myself with one exception.

I believe that the answers to the second question answer the Why presented by the answers to the first.

Oh... and as espresso represents a majority of top line revenues for almost every single coffee business... Y'all need to fix this shit, yeah?


Freaks in the Wilderness

I grew up in a tiny rural town. I grew up without TV.
My exposure to the world was limited and constrained at best.

I knew from a young age that I was different - that I was not like the others.
This was terrifying.

But I grew up with music all around me. I grew up with the sounds, the songs, the words and the melodies around me every day. I grew up with Dylan and Marley and Bach and Coltrane and the Beatles and Aretha.

And I grew up with Bowie. The Thin White Duke. Ziggy Stardust.
I grew up with his words, his music and perhaps most of all his persona(s).

It was because of Bowie that I learned I could be me - the freak and the oddity - with pride.
It was through him that I learned that you could change - could reinvent yourself.

David Bowie allowed me the space and the play to be me.
He changed my life.

This is my thanks.
This is my expression of sorrow and loss.
This is my embrace and my love.

RIP to the man who taught me that "weirdo" is just another way to say "one of a kind."