Price is the best-known shortcut for quality. Pay more, get better stuff. Speciality coffee has long battled pricing, for the most part, fearful of putting people off for something that tastes more delicious. For years we’d been cautious of appearing too expensive, running a bare few percentage points more expensive than the global chain competitors. In some places we’re more expensive, maybe 30-40% more expensive. There is one exception: speciality coffee does, from time to time, get really, really expensive. The recent news cycles have seen incredibly high priced geisha lots, very, very expensive cups of coffee served at restaurants and coffee shops, and something about it unsettles me.
Coffee now spends a lot of time being compared to wine, much to the chagrin of many. I appreciate the arguments that they’re not the same, that they make for a poor comparison. However, I’m still going to compare the two.
Wine is very expensive because people have been mining out the value in it for decades. There is a large, sufficiently affluent audience for it, all chasing the best value they can get. This has driven up prices and, broadly speaking, the good stuff is much more expensive now because it is good.
As such consumers might reasonably expect that spending more on wine gets you better wine. Spending a lot on wine gets you fantastic wine. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but it is broadly accurate.
Coffee does something different when it gets very expensive. It doesn’t necessarily get better, it gets weirder. The most expensive coffees aren’t the sweetest. The most expensive coffees aren’t the most complex, structured and delightful.
The most expensive coffees are the most esoteric.
Many take delight in the weirdness of Geisha lots, of other rare varieties, or strange cups. I’m always interested to taste coffees like these, to experience something new. However, we’ve come to position these coffees as a substantial upgrade to one’s daily morning brew, rather than a dramatic detour into strange territory.
This isn’t really aimed at Geisha lots specifically, but at all super premium coffee. I believe that we’ve come to disproportionately value weird, strange and unusual coffees, coffees that require context. I think this means that we don’t celebrate the straight up exceptional as much as we used to (I think of the early days of the Cup of Excellence, which promoted these kinds of coffees).
I’m not saying we shouldn’t sell weird coffees. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be expensive. I am saying that I think we need to be careful with how we communicate their value to us and their value to our customers. The challenge will be that the two won’t always line up.
- Well, more than one thing – but this piece is about just one ↩︎
A few updates on various things:
The Jimseven Book
We closed the IndieGoGo backing page today, and won’t be taking any more pre-orders for the book. The good news is that the physical books are printed, packed and currently in a container inside a ship somewhere, and are getting ever closer to the UK. We hope to be dispatching mid-August (depending on customs clearance). After that, they’ll be available in the Square Mile shop and a few other places online that I’ll link to once they’re live.
Update: The book is now available here at Square Mile Coffee, and also here at Decent Espresso.
I received my test press of a finished book and I’m really pleased with it. The printer has done a great job, and it feels and looks great. I am excited!
The E-Book Version
The E-Book version has been sent to backers already – if you haven’t received an email check your spam folders. As such it is now available for purchase and immediate download in the jimseven shop. It is delivered as a link to a zip containing both .mobi and .epub files. It is £3, the price of a good cup of coffee . Thanks to everyone who has supported this.
The best of jimseven 2004-2015 (ebook) – £3
The Shop & T-Shirts
We built a little shop that currently has a few new things. The shop has had a little redesign to be more in keeping with this place.
Alongside the Coffee Variety Family Tree Timeline poster (I need a better name), and the ebook, we now have a few t-shirts available. A few people had asked about them, and I thought it’d be fun.
They’re simple designs, no words (No one has to know it’s a coffee shirt. Unless they know already…) and just the jimseven circle swirls from the book cover. They’re available in a bunch of colours, not just black and white.
T-Shirts! – £16
We’ve some fun, ridiculous, sensible, useful and useless new things lined up. Keep an eye out…
- This will come in a separate email after the confirmation ↩︎
I enjoyed being a guest on The Coffee Podcast. I think I got a little ranty in places, and so this is part one of two of the interview.
I talk a lot about writing, blogging, the early days of blogs and forums, the frustrating obsession with stats and data it is all too easy to acquire. Listening back there’s a lot I want to correct/improve about what I said – so feel free to pick me apart on twitter!
I don’t post every video I make on this blog, but this one seemed relevant. It’s a bit of an experiment at this stage, but it felt like a fun way to do a Q&A. This round used questions taken from Twitter, and I have a few questions from Facebook (I haven’t forgotten, those who asked things!) to make up the next one. Perhaps I’ll do a Youtube one, or a Reddit one for r/coffee and obviously one from the contact form on here. (All of this presumes that people like the format/the video – so do please let me know your thoughts)
- Speciality Pods and Instant
- Saturation in the coffee market
- Cupping for Espresso
- Will roasters buy coffee farms?
- Automation in Roasting
- Simplicity vs Selections in Cafes
Work continues apace at Coffee Jobs Board, and I thought I’d post a quick summary of what’s going on with four key new features:
For baristas or other coffee professionals looking for places to learn, we now have a directory of businesses and training schools that offer training, courses, certifications and classes. Click here to go and have a look.
If you’re a business that would like to be listed then sign up here as an employer, and tell us what you’re offering!
A feature that has been requested for some time now – you can now search our directory of baristas and coffee professionals from all over the world. Most of the 500+ candidates are from the UK, but there’s a lot from everywhere else too. If you’re looking for a new opportunity in coffee make sure to register a candidate account here so that people can find you. You can remain anonymous but still be searchable if you don’t want your current employer to know you’re considering other opportunities.
If you’re looking for candidates then you can search by skill levels, experience, qualification and whether they’d be available for an emergency shift. We’re delighted at the positive feedback so far!
Not the most exciting one, but some savings for regular users. Bundles are for all featured adverts (city, county and worldwide) and will have a 10%, 15%, 20%, 25% discount for 2,3,4 and 5 jobs respectively. (If you want more than 5 get in touch directly here) Bundles can be used within a year of purchase.
The events page is a new part of the board. We’re slowly building out a large collection of coffee events all around the world. Whether it be a talk, a workshop, or anything with tickets (free or not) – we want to know about. You can submit your event here, we’ll review and get it up to reach a pretty coffee focused audience for you.
More news in the pipeline!
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