2005 Brazil Cup of Excellence

coffee competitions, auctions, best of panama, etc

Postby Mark Prince on Wed Jan 11, 2006 5:14 pm

Just had some more thoughts on this. And more analogies (sorry Trish!).

Let's equate coffee with cars. Cars are where people will spend insane amounts of money as well.

So, let's say that the typical high quality coffee coming out of CCC or Intelly or Stumptown is your BMW 320i level of coffee. Well built, expensive but not terribly so, fast, smooth, overengineered, tasty.

If that's our starting point, then the 5 series (despite it's terrible current design) is the ultra premium stuff.... this is the Latitudes line, or the Intelly micro-lot of coffees, and is priced to show the improvements. The price is what, 50, 60% more than the 320i.

So equated to coffee, you took this $12lb of coffee, and made it $18 retail. We're still in the analogy ballpark.

But you want something REALLY racy. Really unique. Really well done. So you go to the M5. You're paying a 120% premium over the low end 320i. Translated to coffee, it'd be as if you're paying up to $30 for that unique, super high end, 'leet model.

(yes, I'm going somewhere with this).

But you want more. Well for bimmer lovers, there isn't much more. the M5 is the top of the 5 series line. You could get it further customized, tricked out even more, and probably add another 50% to the price. If you want something totally unique and individual, you'd have to get one shop tuned or the like, but even then, it's going to be about 250% to 300% higher than the base 320i. Or you could go ferrari, and pay a quarter mil or higher.

But even then, translated to the coffee world, that $12 baseline specialty coffee that pleases would then have a $40 to $50 ultra mega premium, unique, one of a kind, limited time only for real kind of equivalent.

(here's where my analogy makes sense:)

Then look at it. Those who pay a quarter million or a half million for a car are usually looked at, by the general public, as having too much money to burn, or being foolish with their money, or being selfish, or being non-sensical. Yes, within the car community, they are envied and admired and even regarded jealously.

But outside of the community that buys at Barrett Jackson, they're looked on at best as being eccentric, or more likely as being strange, too rich for their own good, "playboys" or foolish. Whateve words used, it's not an overall "good" impression.

This is what I fear the general public, the ones we're all trying to reach and preach about quality coffee, about quality coffee as a culinary item and not a commodity, will think about coffees bought for $50 a lb bulk, green at auction. Even the $50 would be shocking to them. Translate that into retail lb pricing at (again, following the conventional formula of at least 100% increase) at $100 a lb, and we'll lose more converts than we'll gain.

If we're going to really win over the public, we first have to move them from the Yugos to the BMWs, then from the BMW entry vehicles to the mid ranges (insert your favourite quality car brand here). But telling them that every once in a while, there's a half million dollar bimmer that really should be tried to be believed, and you'll be a convert will just make them roll their eyes and go back to the yugo.

Mark
Last edited by Mark Prince on Wed Jan 11, 2006 5:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby malachi on Wed Jan 11, 2006 5:19 pm

Three quick points or clarification.

1) It's important to differentiate between the 2004 and 2005 Esmereldas.

2) It's also important to understand that there are multiple coffees produced from Finca Esmerelda. These coffees are not all created equally.

3) I don't think that Geisha at Finca Esmerelda is a recent planting. My memory is that Geisha has been grown in a couple of locations in Panama for quite a while (like since the 40s or 50s I think), but in small lots. As I remember it, the Geisha represented a small proportion of Esmerelda's crop before 1998, when terrible weather damaged much of the other coffees there. Since then (and further spurred now by the results in the market of their geisha) I believe that they have massively expanded the amount of Geisha planted.
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Postby Kyle Larson on Wed Jan 11, 2006 7:04 pm

I'm just happy that farmers are getting good prices for their coffee.
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Postby Peter G on Wed Jan 11, 2006 7:11 pm

Mark-

You make a very very good point. One possible negative outcome of this event is that folks will consider this price, which is a significant quantum leap over the last coffee contest sensation, outlandish and ostentatious. You're right: coffee has a place as the 'everyman's culinary experience' and we hope it doesn't become exclusive and alienating through crazy prices, a la caviar or something.

This conspicuous, outrageous consumption has been limited to Kona, Jamaica and Luwak up to now- I hope COE does not join that weird mix.

pg

p.s. I think the Geisha was one of the selections from a collection of Ethiopian varieties taken in the early sixties. My understanding is that there were three collections: one is now at the CRF in Kenya, one is in Brazil, and one is in Costa Rica.
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Postby SL28ave on Wed Jan 11, 2006 7:44 pm

If you liked this coffee, spread the word. To me there's no question this coffee was leaps and bounds higher quality than Kopi, JBM etc.

There're around 400 million birthdays in February. Only 1 out of like 100,000 of you need to decide to give a pound as a gift. No one's forcing anyone to buy anything, but spread the good word; no doubt this coffee was unique and well crafted.
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Postby nick on Wed Jan 11, 2006 9:46 pm

As I've been mentioning to a bunch of folks over the last two days...

How much ya wanna bet that the #1 at the next CoE is sure to fetch over $20/lb now?

We'll see... this might be a wonderful, landmark moment in specialty coffee... it might be a harbinger of a lot of headaches and skewed pricing. Only time will tell.

I'm just totally, utterly fascinated. I'm so glad to be in coffee right now!
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Postby Mark Prince on Wed Jan 11, 2006 10:07 pm

Had a cool podcast interview with Inny regarding this auction lot, this evening.

Should have it online in a few days. I'd put it up now, but I have that excellent discussion with Phuong that just went live, and I want to give that one at least some time as the current show before putting the new one online.

Mark
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Postby Tim Dominick on Wed Jan 11, 2006 10:55 pm

Nick- odds would say yes, $20 for the next #1. It is Colombia and it flirted with twenty last time. My money is on this: #2 will not be more than $10.

People who are interested in trying the best of everything will flock to this coffee. $120 isn't much to someone who lives to eat and drink the finer things in life.

Take mushrooms... Matsutakes grow like weeds on my friends land. #1's fetch tons of money when he gets off his lazy butt and hauls them into town. They require no skill on his part aside from picking them properly and not stepping on them. He need only drive down the valley to sell them, yet he can make more than $49.75 a pound for them.


Then there is the wine parallel, here is my take: Once you pop the cork on that 25 ounces of nectar the clock is no longer your friend. We're talking a downward spiral in hours not days. That celebrated vintage is closer to vinegar than wine in a week.
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Postby Mark Prince on Thu Jan 12, 2006 1:35 am

Vince got some big press:

Globe and Mail

$5 a cup is planned.

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Postby Keith on Thu Jan 12, 2006 9:00 am

I have $5 to pony up
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Postby malachi on Thu Jan 12, 2006 11:00 am

I'll be heading to Vancouver to drop my $5 as soon as it's in-house.
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Postby Peter Van de Reep on Thu Jan 12, 2006 12:38 pm

Yeah, I'll be putting the cash down.
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Postby Mark Prince on Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:03 pm

Tim Dominick wrote:Then there is the wine parallel, here is my take: Once you pop the cork on that 25 ounces of nectar the clock is no longer your friend. We're talking a downward spiral in hours not days. That celebrated vintage is closer to vinegar than wine in a week.


That's a really good point Tim.

I'm totally coming around to the $5 a cup thing. It's reachable for people, esp. when they're dropping $4 for steamed milk with a tiny bit of espresso flavour in it.

A $5 cup of a CoE coffee is exactly the kind of achievement of the mission: coffee that can be culinary, not a commodity.

Where I fear it breaks down is when the average joe consumer, just enlightened, decides its so good he wants to bring it home... and sees a possible $100 lb price.

Spoke to one of the judges today regarding the coffee (one of the international jurors). His take on that sticker shock: the vendor would sell it in quarter pound lots, at maybe $25 or so, and that way it makes it approachable again for the consumer, in that, this is SPECIAL. It's something you get (and brew fairly quickly after buying it) for that special dinner party you're planning. It's an event. It's a focus and a complement to the finish of the meal.

That quarter pound / 100, 150g gives you more brewed liquid than you would get out of a 750ml bottle of good quality, $25 wine, it puts the coffee in a culinary realm again, but doesn't shock the hell out of the consumer. If Artigiano and Michel's take that approach, then its a winner all around.

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Postby Peter Van de Reep on Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:32 pm

$5 a cup is a bargain when you consider the prices some places were selling Esmeralda Special per press, or (yikes!) JBM for prices upwards of 10 USD. Mind you, I haven't heard word of what size of cup... I hope for 8 oz (or 12... 12 is nice).
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Postby geir oglend on Thu Jan 12, 2006 6:26 pm

I got 5 bucks burning a hole in my pocket. How much for a refill??
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Postby Ric Rhinehart on Thu Jan 12, 2006 9:35 pm

Wow...I wonder what the Esmeralda ever did other than taste great in the cup? I had this coffee a month before its appearance in the Panama comnpetition in 2004, and I promise you, it wasn't just different than the average Panama. It wasn't just well processed and clean, it wasn't some shadow of its Ethiopian ancestors. This coffee was an unbelievably unique gustatory treat. In nearly twenty years of tasting coffee professionally I had never, ever encountered anythig quite like it. To this day the dry fragrance of lighlty roasted grounds remains one of the single most identifiable positive aromatic experiences I have ever had.

This raises a much different issue for me. I have a very particular fondness for the coffee of Panama. The best of them are beautiful, elegant and approach perfection. Unfortunately, they have traditionally suffered for their near perfect quality because they have lacked distinctive and easily identifiable flavor and aroma notes. "Sweet, clean, incredibly balanced and absolutely lacking in defect, with smooth, unobtrusive acidity, defined and palpable caramel, dulce de leche and sweet nut flavors, supported by excellent body and capped with a lingering sweet and velvety finish."

The above is my description of the Panama Carmen Estate from the 2005 Panama competition to a friend and fellow coffee professional. Still, the coffee, for all its near perfect qualities, finished third behind two unique and stunning geisha offerings. Can the worlds best merlot ever be better than half of the better Burgundies? I don't know, but I sure have lots of days when Carmen Estate is my favorite coffee, and I can't drink enough.

As for the Brazil COE winner, kudos to all those involved in its production. A great coffee, no doubt, and one of a dozen that represented the incredible depth and breadth of coffee possibilities in Brazil.

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Postby Mark Prince on Thu Jan 12, 2006 9:56 pm

I've just made the decision (based on reading a very enlightened blog) that I'm never, ever going to use the word "best" or "the best" in coffee again ;)

As my friend George says, we haven't even begun to grasp what coffee is capable of.

Mark
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Postby Matthew P. Williams on Fri Jan 13, 2006 1:38 am

I really, really, really hope this coffee is available in late March/early April when I'm around Vancouver.
Mmm, juicy. Tastes like juice. Bean juice.
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Postby dwelltimester on Fri Jan 13, 2006 11:03 am

This has been quite an interesting thread, and while I don't want to take away from any of the insights offered around the issue of "price per pound" from auction to retail, I should note that, in the end, they won't be relative to the Fazenda Santa Ines (at least not the one for sale at Caffe Artigiano). It will only retail by the cup, not by the pound. So nobody need worry about the hundreds, thousands, millions of dollars that would be charged for a pound of this coffee in a store, it aint going to happen-- $5 a cup, that's all.
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Postby trish on Fri Jan 13, 2006 11:35 am

Thanks Ric,
those comments were great

you're the best
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Great Artigiano Article on the Brazil COE

Postby Robert Goble on Sat Jun 10, 2006 10:53 am

I'm probably violating 1000 copyrights but here a link to a pdf (for educational purposes only) of an article talking about the Artigiano Brazil COE purchase and offerings.
http://www.dogsoverlava.com/images-for-web/ArtigianoVanSunJune10-06.pdf
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Postby dwelltimester on Sun Jun 11, 2006 11:44 am

Thanks for posting that up-- I wasn't sure what to expect from that article, but overall I thought it was thoughtful and balanced. As I'm sure everyone here has experienced, foodies have been known to drop the ball when it comes to treating coffee as a culinary experience. The Sun writer was fair enough to acknowledge her preference of dark roasts, but seemed happy to give Vince a paragraph or two to explain why her favourite coffee is mediocre. And while she admitted to being a bit nonplussed about the Ines from a sensory perspective, her closing remarks prove she is open to the idea that coffee is an expert field that needs to be nurtured. Pretty cool, IMHO.
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