There has been increasing interest in the intersection of the excitement about the Clover and the slowly growing recognition and buzz around the Cup of Excellence.
When the first prototypes of the Clover were being evaluated by various people, I was told by a respected coffee person that it could "save single origin coffee." At the time I thought this was pretty over-blown. In retrospect, I guess I didn't really understand either the problem or the answer.
When you look at the list of initial buyers of the Clover there is a lot of overlap with the US companies that are becoming most active in the Cup of Excellence. You see Stumptown and you see Intelligentsia. And you see Artigiano which, after the recent Brazil CoE auction, has to be considered another major player.
The interest in the intersection and my appreciation for the relevance of the Clover to great single origin coffees (and "saving" them) started soon after the Brazil CoE auction when the news started to come out that Artigiano was planning to offer the Brazil Fazenda Santa Ines (the #1 coffee from the Brazil CoE and the highest scoring coffee from any CoE event ever) only by the cup, brewed using the Clover, with a premium price charged.
This really changes the rules in many ways. It opens up so many new opportunities and creates new potential models. Before the Clover it was unrealistic for any coffee company large enough to buy a lot like this to only brew it by the cup. It was economically unfeasible and simply impractical in a number of ways. This then set hard limits on the potential value of these coffees as the value was limited by the potential retail and wholesale prices. In addition, there was enormous risk when it came to trying to manage inventory and recoup your costs - and a perhaps greater risk when it came to the coffee being prepared (and mis-prepared) and the potential brand damage that could result.
In my mind, this is a big step. And it could be a huge step.
I'm very excited. I really hope that the customers in Vancouver appreciate what they're going to get and are supportive of this coffee. I hope the market accepts this new model and is willing to pay for the culinary value and experience of this beautiful coffee.
It's incredibly brave of the folks who bought it - I applaud Vince's courage and conviction. By seeing the potential for a new model given the introduction of the Clover and by being willing to take such a risk, he may well have taken the coffee industry past an enormous and important hurdle. I wish him luck and success in this.
I know that I'll be planning a trip to Vancouver in a couple months!