Friday, September 16, 2005


why does this sound so eerily familiar?

"it exists within a system largely dictated by the power of the multinational roasters."

long-time readers have endured nearly 6 solid years of l'il blonde me harping on this very point. . .thank goodness the guardian has finally figured it out.

but actually it's a great article and i wanna comment on several parts of it.

"by the time it reaches a consumer's cup, a spoonful of coffee may include beans from up to 20 different countries -- and it is this crucial fact that provides the roasters with such enormous muscle. the precise makeup of each blend can be determined by sophisticated financial software, enabling roasters to hop constantly from supplier to supplier in a dance that ensures they will always get the lowest price."

this practice is often called "blend management" in the trade. and its consquences are horrid for coffee farmers and consumers alike. not only does it serve to depress prices for farmers, it rips off average coffee lovers -- as the multinational roasters -- the big four of sara lee, kraft, nestle, p&g, plus tchibo who are responsible for the supermarket cans and jars -- slip in as much trash, junk "coffee-by-products" as they can at the very edge of taste.

you think you're buying the coffee blend you want, with the quality and "brand value" you think you can trust -- but no! the "big four" are constantly dragging you toward the bottom, bit by bit, hoping you won't notice the steady deterioration in quality.

oh, but we coffee drinkers do notice! we do care! and we are unhappy about it!

this is why single-origin, estate coffee, specialty-grade, with g.p.s. markings that tie it absolutely to a real origin, a place of certified quality, even a washing station, is crucial. this is one reason why the scaa has spent so much time developing its g.p.s. system.

"The director of the government's Coffee Inspection Division is a meticulous personality, in charge of a team of experts that Ethiopia believes will improve the competitiveness of its coffee. 'Quality: that is what we can do'. . ."

bingo. as always, to quote stevie colten, greenie and former scaa prez: "quality begets price begets quality."

what should consumers do to escape the traps the "big four" sets for them? realize that our fate is tied to that of the farmer and the independent specialty roaster/retailer.

we are a family in specialty coffee!

buy fresh, high-quality whole beans, particularly those from single origins. even if you buy an espresso blend, try to ensure that all the coffees in it are of the best quality.

support your local nabe's independent roaster/retailer. they are on our side.

grind and brew your coffee at home whenever you can -- this is the easiest, most economical way to deliver all the pleasure of fine coffee to yourself, your family, the independent roaster, and the farmer.

posted by fortune | 8:57 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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