March 15, 2012

Dare to Compare

The industry is making money, but doing so, in part, thanks to those ever so convenient "pods". Oliver Strand, James Hoffmann, and others, have written about this already, but even still, I am compelled to add a little something.

The focus, generally, is on the price of the things. It's substantial - stupidly so, when one considers the quality of the beverage produced. And yet it is fast, easy, and convenient. There is nothing to clean up, only a plastic pod to throw away. (Which, I might add, is something else to consider. Coffee filter waste is one thing; this is quite a bit more egregious.)

But mostly, I think this is about fear. Those of us in the coffee profession would like to think we're doing something worthwhile, and that we will be able to continue doing it. We value or jobs, and we really do care about creating a quality product. When that product is shunted for something inferior, it can seem something of an insult. Furthermore, it can threaten our financial viability. We fear becoming anachronistic, a host of John Henry's, put out to pasture.

In his latest post, Hoffmann calls this fact "depressing".
It is easy to point out the flaws – it doesn’t taste amazing, it is expensive.  It is proving that this stuff doesn’t really matter to the market.  Maybe we’re going to continue to ignore it, while it may slowly make what we do increasingly obsolete.  No one is going to argue that vinyl doesn’t sound better, but it doesn’t do much to change the fact that this matter less and less to people, and technology is catching up all the time. Depressing right?  If anything it ought to be inspiring us to do something about it, to move specialty coffee out of the place where people compare amazing coffee to single serve, preground pods.  I have no idea how we do this, but it is certainly worth thinking about…
Allow me to present one idea: We allow the comparison. I do not think the success of Kcups, Nespresso, and their ilk prove that people don't value flavor and quality; rather, I think it supports the notion that such things are not ubiquitous. I think if there were a distinct difference in taste, people would notice, and they could be convinced it's worth the (usually less) money. The onus is on us, then, to make coffee that is amazing, and to sell it to people. We need to force the comparison, and have faith in our product and ourselves.

Call this naive if you like, but I can't help but believe in good coffee. If we don't, how can anyone else?

1 comment:

  1. This really wise kid I know once said "...if we're not showing these people who won't notice the difference precisely what that difference is, how do we ever expect them to learn?"

    That's really all there is to it, in my opinion. There will always be people who choose convenience over everything else. So it goes. But we can definitely affect people by showing them what quality looks like. Which is awesome, because no matter how convenient Kcups get - quality tastes good.