December 17, 2012

Skinning Cats

I really don't like starting off by requiring you to read something else. Ideally, this blog could function in a vacuum, and add value to your life, independent of anything else. But, reality doesn't function that way. And even if it did, I don't have any unique wisdom to impart. Oh well.

So what I'm going to do is this, basically: I'm going to ask you to read the article posted above. Then, I'm going to steal the author's concept, and apply it to coffee. Got it? All right then, let's go.

We as baristas, shop owners/managers, and internet "gurus" have to sell something in order to distinguish ourselves from the competition. If I tamp like every other barista, why should you hire me? If I run my business the same way, why should you buy from me? And if I write the same things, why should you read me? The answer, of course, is that you wouldn't. So if I'm truly interested in marketing either myself, my shop, or this blog, I have to convince you that I have some unique, some way of doing things that runs counter to what conventional wisdom dictates.

Make no mistake; this is often a good thing. Every business needs innovators, and coffee is no different.  We need to baristas, managers, and writers who are willing to simply try shit sometimes.

But the crucial thing is that we remain humble, and never lose sight of the fact that there are many right ways. Coffee is an impossibly complex plant, with nearly infinite viable uses and preparations. While we explore those uses and seek to innovate, we need to avoid denigrating and trampling the efforts of others.

Using an inverted Aeropress may yield a good cup at your cafe, but that in no way invalidates the right-side-up using cafe down the street. Nor does it mean the pour-over guys around the block are a bunch of tools. Dare they serve a blend? Perhaps they even roast their beans a shade darker than you.

It's all good.

So long as you're all using good beans, and tending to them a careful and attentive manner, the result will almost always be quality.

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