A Coffee Memo edition of the FGC blog from the writer's corner on Mike's desk.http://freshgroundconsulting.com/blog1/
I know you’re busy, what with marketing and distribution of your instant coffee going national and opening stores not named Starbucks and everything. Then there is that damned $1.89 iced coffee over at…another retailer. These things are just the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure. The last two years have been challenging. I want just a moment of your time. I'm writing for myself, but as you might guess, I'm also writing to you on behalf of the industry segment that gave birth to you and raised you, the Specialty Coffee Industry.
Look, I know things between you two have been awkward for some time, but think about the early days, when the Specialty Coffee Industry and Starbucks were close and your futures appeared to be inseparable, when you spent time together because you wanted to, not because you felt a “family obligation.” That was before you started hanging out with soda pop makers, fully automatic espresso machines, and coffee companies that, well, I’m just going to say it, roast something less that specialty grade coffee. This was before you grew so big that people began to mistake you for the parent and the Specialty Coffee Industry for the child. You know, your older brother Peet has never really forgiven you for letting people think that.
But I don’t want to focus on the negative. You went out into the world and made a place for yourself. That is how life works. And we recognize that you kept some of the values with which you were raised. The Specialty Coffee Industry has always been proud of your commitment to the proper brewing of drip coffee. Though we all sometimes wished your coffee was not roasted so dark, we recognized that this was part of your personality, and had been since you where a baby.
We might not have said anything, but we noticed that consumers could still often find some very fine specialty coffee, whole bean, at many of your stores. We noticed these little things, these acknowledgements of your childhood. I mean, we didn’t like how you handled your infatuation with Clover, but we recognized the gesture, the attempt to recapture something from your youth and refocus in uncertain times.
I know what you’re thinking. This is the point where we usually start lecturing you and giving you unwanted advice, which always ends with you telling us that we have no idea who you really are and that we don’t understand the pressure you’re under. You’re probably right when you say that.
So, no lecturing this time, no “self-righteous diatribes” about quality. There is nothing the Specialty Coffee Industry can tell you that you have not heard a hundred times before and already knew anyway. We have just this simple request, and it’s about this “Taste Challenge” you’re doing with the VIA.
Sweetie, it’s embarrassing. I think we’ve already had our say in the past about your selling instant coffee, which is just, well, backpacking food, so we won’t go into it again. But whose idea was the whole taste challenge set-up anyway? Did this idea come from one of your soda pop industry friends? Because that’s the sort of thing they use to do…in the 1970’s.
Okay, okay, I said I wouldn’t lecture, but I have just this last question. Why do you keep telling everyone you meet that this VIA is just as good as your regular coffee? It says nothing about this new product of yours and everything about your drip coffee.
This is our request. Sell all the VIA you want. Buy a giant billboard in Time Square and be as proud as you can be about creating the best backpacking coffee on the market. Go head to head with Nestle and slice a sweet chunk out of their pie. But please stop telling consumers that you can fool them into thinking they are tasting real coffee.
Finally, we just want to tell you again, you can always come home. No matter what, there will always be a place for you. Of course, we won’t let you make VIA in the house, but you can set up the camp stove in the tool shed if that’s what makes you happy.