Coffee Common

This is a hugely important step for the coffee industry and I am so incredibly happy about it happening.

What am I talking about?

Go check out Coffee Common.

Stumptown. Intelligentsia. Square Mile. Counter Culture. George Howell. And on. And on. I mean... just look at that list!

I've long decried the lack of collaboration in the industry. I've pointed out time and time again that a rising sea raises ALL boats. I've tried to explain that a common voice about coffee issues and consumer education would leave the coffee companies that are trying to do the right thing less vulnerable to the misinformation spread by the other (cynical and unethical) coffee companies.

And for the longest time none of the leading companies were willing to even consider the idea. They saw this as a competitive issue.

But now... it's happening.
And I am so incredibly happy about this.
Brent... Tim... Sean... Stephen and Brian. Thank you!
Duane, Doug, James, George, Peter and all the other leaders within the various coffee companies involved. Thank you!

Coffee consumers. Coffee professionals.
Get involved with this. Read it. Explore it.
And celebrate it.

This could be the start of something special.


onocoffee said...

Reads more like a "cool kids" of the coffee roasting world than a truly inclusive list designed to raise the tide for all boats.

How can we bemoan the rantings of people like Giorgio Milos, Todd Carmichael then complain about the hundreds, if not thousands, of "average quality" coffee roasters out there if are not being included and engaged with the discussion?

It's a "cool" and "hip" idea and concept for those are "in the know" but it's doing little to raise the tide when it's excluding the larger community.

chris said...

If other (high quality) roasters who now ask to get involved are told "no" -- then you're right. My hope is that we've learned better.

onocoffee said...

Then is that to say that Coffee Common will say no to other (presumably not "high quality") roasters?

Because it seems by your reply that Coffee Common is indeed limited to a "cool" few.

chris said...

Actually, no.

1 - I would hope that Coffee Common will say no to roasters who are not doing the right thing.

2 - If so, it would be possible and perhaps even likely that some of the "coolest" roasters would thus be told no.

3 - And that is a good thing Jay. And you know it.

4 - But then again, I'm just a consumer and have no real knowledge of what Coffee Common will and won't be so am just projecting my hopes on it.

5 - So to sum up, yes... I hope it's elitist in the sense that it doesn't include roasters who are producing and selling crap. After all, we don't really need another SCAA now do we?

onocoffee said...

I'm not involved with Coffee Common because I was never invited.

I'm not advocating the invitation of roasters who are set in doing "the wrong thing" but I am advocating that we cannot "convert" others if we remain exclusive rather than inclusive.

Not too long after one of Todd Carmichael's Esquire articles came out, I was in Philly judging a latte art throwdown. A couple of the baristas in attendance were from La Colombe and expecting the community to treat them as pariahs because of their boss.

Rather than treat them as lepers, I (for one) welcomed them and spoke openly with them. We talked about coffee, how I disagreed with Carmichael (and where I agreed with him) and new friendships were forged. Friendships that can open pathways to new thinking.

Like you, I'm an outsider, and it seems to me that this kind of "exclusivity" will only plague our industry rather than offer cures for it. Lots of good work being done by those listed on the website, but it's the crew of usual suspects and no real "new blood" to initiate or convert.

Is it a "good" thing? Honestly, I don't know. Right now it seems quite a bit elitist and pretentious - which, as you know, I'm not down with elitism and pretentiousness. I mean when your masthead has "to proselytize the simple truths around coffee" on it, it certainly comes off high falutin'!

And while I would like to see a break from things SCAA, from what I've seen on the Coffee Common website and have heard who's involved, there are a number of elements within Coffee Common that are the very people who I think have damaged the SCAA's reputation.

Of course, only time will tell. But right now, Coffee Common is exclusive rather than inclusive.

Unknown said...

Jay -

Coffee Common is 7 folks right now - and there's not a whole lot of a plan beyond serving the TED attendees. We are all, however, aware of the potential of a group of knowledgeable coffee folks coming together to tell stories of coffee to an audience willing to listen.

At CC we are agreed that this is the path we will take - constantly collaborating with innovative industry folks to serve the purpose of highlighting coffee's complex journey.

There were certainly many, MANY great and valuable people who weren't invited on this trip to TED. While certainly regrettable, it was simply not possible to invite all the talented coffee professionals we admire.

If CC has a future it won't be to create more events aimed exclusively at the coffee industry. It will be in consumer education. We hope to be able to work with as many of the fantastic coffee pros out there as we can as we evolve and get stronger.

Kyle Glanville

onocoffee said...

I know we tweeted a little about this a couple of weeks ago but I've just been a bit too busy since then to sit down and consider the thoughts presented.

My original comments were based on what was presented - mainly the cc website where there's a lot of high falutin' talk going on about coffee and that's where the disconnect begins. So much verbage that whatever the intent, it starts to fall under glassy eyes - kind of reminds me of reading the coffee sheets from Counter Culture...

Unlike others in the community, I'm not interested in whether or not I was invited to participate. I'm concerned about others not invited. As I wrote above, if the notion is to "raise the tide" then we need to include those outside of our comfort zone. And looking through the list of baristas and roasters invited to join cc, there's no one or company outside of that comfort zone.

Without the inclusion of people who may not be "like minded" how can we change and expand our industry and its approach? Simply by serving free coffee to the rich and famous?

Collaborating with innovative industry folks is a nice idea but if we do not include those "not so innovative" then how can they be exposed to progressive thinking?

As a community, we bemoan those "second wave" types and if we continue to exclude them from the conversation our forward progress is slower and all the more difficult.

Also, is cc really about something more than simply staffing coffee bars for TED? Perhaps Intelli just wasn't prepared to handle (physically and financially) another TED event?

And if we're talking about supporting the barista, were the people on that fine list of baristas compensated in any way? Were their costs covered? Were they paid a salary or given a stipend? Or were they expected to do this "SCAA Style" - meaning that they paid their own way and "volunteered" their own time?

If it's the latter then perhaps coffeecommon should be ashamed of itself. Lots of high talk and proselytizing about how we need to "help the farmer" and "respect the coffee" but we still expect the lowliest paid people in the American coffee chain to pay their own way to one of the most expensive (and richest) events held today?

chris said...


I'll let Kyle respond - but there is one point that I think I have to respond to.

In my mind, the goal of CC should be to raise the bar for coffee in the US (for customers and for professionals). As said, "a rising tide raises all boats." That - however - assumes the tide is rising.

If there is not a minimum bar for inclusion, that instead of raising the bar - we'll actually at best be simply celebrating the status quo. Yes... it's elitist. And I have absolutely no problem with that.

I, for one, honestly don't care about so-called "second wave" coffee companies and don't believe that those who have not decided to be progressive in their coffee by now are going to change.

If anything, my worry is that CC will be too inclusive and set the bar too low.

onocoffee said...

I guess we'll just have to disagree on that point.

My thought is that cc could do the "TED thing" - including the "movers and shakers" of the industry - especially those from varying viewpoints, in an effort to perhaps "convince" that there are progressive approaches worth considering and exploring.

From what I understand about TED conferences, they have speakers who present new programs, opportunities and/or ways of thinking to a group of community and national leaders and influencers - or: "Ideas Worth Spreading."

One can only presume that with the diversity of attendees at TED there will be those with opposing and divergent experiences and viewpoints. By including them in the experience and exposure the notion is that everyone will learn and grow and that the community as a whole will benefit.

Groups comprised solely of like-minded people are about as progressive and useful as a DNC or RNC National Convention. Quite simply, there's little to be gained when everyone sits around congratulating each other on just how cool they are.

And just as cc currently does't involved anyone and everyone in this so-called "third wave", there's little advocation for including anyone and everyone either - in fact, we already have a dysfunction association for everyone and anyone, it's called the SCAA.

Just as TED deigns to include those with influence, what is the trouble with bringing persons such as Milos or Carmichael into the Coffee Common conversation? These kinds of coffee people have a reputation and a following. Why not include them in the conversation? Even if they aren't converted, the discussion has begun, and for those of us on the retail front facing new and uninitiated customers daily, that's half the battle.

Instead of converting, our community desires to exclude and bash. Certainly giving the finger to someone like Carmichael is no different than him berating the "third wave" in Esquire.

Maybe it's time to reach across the aisle and truly start talking about progressiveness in our industry.

Tony said...

I just posted to coffeed a similar question, but how many roasters have you visited that serve and sell other roasters' coffees on something more than a marginal basis?

I'm considering selling bulk and drip coffees from other roasters at our spot in the way that a brewery will sell beers from other producers. Just wondering what your experience has been with this.

Tony Dreyfuss
Metropolis Coffee Company