As the one who said “coffee purist,” I don’t think anyone is applying that label to themselves. I think about a particular shop in KC, when I lived there, where for a long time they only had espresso and pourover, no dairy or sugar available except steamed milk in a cappuccino, latte, or flat white. Those guys were sort of the prototypical coffee snobs in a way, but they roasted awesome beans. They also care a lot about ethical sourcing, got rid of disposable cups in favor of reusable glass, and while I might find the extent of their methods exhausting, I can appreciate what they were and are doing.
Regardless, none of this is about a method “matter[ing] more,” it’s just about what method produces the best cup of coffee, or rather, what each method brings out in the coffee. A discussion about imperialism and colonialism in coffee is something else entirely. Nothing wrong with having that discussion but that will likely have even less bearing on wine preferences than does this current topic, which is almost tough to do.
Let me ask about Coava which seems to be the only one you’ll still vouch for.
How detailed is the information they provide on the growers, farm location, soils, etc? Is it detailed enough for a person to bypass them and go to the grower to get beans, if they so choose?
I’m harping on this because consumers seem to generally allow a level of vagueness in coffee sourcing that wine lovers would never allow in wine (and still purchase).
There’s a big roasting company here in DC called Compass. They make all the “fair trade” claims. But the most detailed they get in sourcing is things like The Americas. That’s like buying wine and saying it’s European, and having it be blended from whatever countries. I’m not saying it’ll taste bad. Some blended multi-country coffees taste great. But it invisibilizes the farmer and the site, keeping control and prestige at arms length.
As a craft/industry evolves and matures there are different needs and motivations. And even for mature regions like Burgundy or Bordeaux, as competition evolves, shifts in style become necessary.
In Oregon wine, the industry was a back water novelty for years and getting recognition was the pre-eminent need. So wines were picked later, barrels were newer, concentration was king, and success was repaid in recognition and price point.
There were a few alternate paths, but most only recognized by locals. The producers making bigger wines had more resources and grew into bigger brands that often retained an identity of quality and terroir while producing large amounts of bigger, ok wines for those who like bigger wines, not unlike Starbucks or Peet’s producing “better” coffee that eventually turned into bigger ok coffees.
Now that Oregon is on the map, there’s a much broader range of styles as there are many consumers coming to explore the Willamette Valley and many of the smaller quality oriented producers are looking for wines that walk a middle path between the old ways and the new. Coffee seems to be similar in many ways. And eventually it becomes a matter of finding a producer you trust and enjoy working with the sites/farms that excite you.
An interesting set of issues here. So first I’d say I would have no problem complaining to a Spaniard that the shitty little cups they give me at tapas restaurants are terrible for drinking wine, and that a real modern glass like a GGG or Zalto would be 100 times more enjoyable. I would even plea with them to try the wines in the modern glass because the experience is so superior. Same with a bota. We belittle Apothic Red but I doubt a 1770 french table red that’s been chaptalized to off-dry is really all that different, and I don’t think any of us really respect that product for any reason other than business acumen. Or even consider just filthy conditions of most wineries for centuries. Do you really respect that and the spoliation that likely went along with that? Does anyone love mousey wines? Again, I do not agree that the “old ways” are inherently worthy of respect or admiration. Maybe insofar as they didn’t know better, or did the best they could with the means at their disposal. I respect that. Unequivocally. But not necessarily from a comparative basis.
The second issue you’ve proposed is a more interesting one, and it’s more of an appropriation issue and I think Marcus hits on this in his post on Stumptown. There should be serious respect for the folks who are growing and processing the beans, not just for the end-line roaster/seller. I’m with you on that. Italian coffee sounds silly, as to my knowledge, little or no coffee is grown in Italy. But it’s a style. It’s like folks discussing which British tea house sells the best tea. None of it is British. But styles are styles. You can get Chicago style pizza or Brooklyn style pizza or Neapolitan style pizza. The end production ties to the style and point of sale, not the origin of the ingredients (not a lot of wheat grown in Brooklyn for the flour used in pizza dough). Coffee and chocolate are more dramatic examples as they are typically grown in impoverished areas of the world, which often leads to some abuse in pricing as the parties to the negotiation have disparate resources. One would hope international competition would mitigate that post-colonialism, but I would assume it’s still a slow move up in pricing as competition is always a two way street.
Coava has a number of coffees that are sold under the name of the coffee grower themselves. It’s Coava coffee. The bags are differentiated by the farmer. They have started selling a blend as well, and also have coffees differentiated by region and process. The individual farm coffees do not typically last more than a month or so.
But I do enjoy the Mr. David Mburu that they offer from Kenya and buy it whenever it’s available.
The information printed on the current bag I have is:
I am enjoying this thread, but it seems the “falcons no longer hear the falconer”. Kind of a classic WB thread, although still in its youth. @ToddFrench this could turn out to be time-capsule material.
The guys who run the shop I mention would go on buying trips to visit farms and mills for their sources a couple of times a year. I see a fair amount of this amongst better small coffee roasters. Does it result in truly ethical sourcing? IDK. But it’s not simply them buying a product remotely with a FT label on it. Here’s a blog post on their recent trip to Colombia.
This is not one of my current coffee sources except for when I find myself in the area for work (rarely), but I know of several shops with similar approaches.
Funny(ish) story. I bought a wine bota in Spain when I was 8 years old. Probably in Toledo where I also bought supposedly a replica of the Tizona sword of El Cid (and then flew back with it those were the days). I was told I had to cure the bota. Poured wine into it and carried it the whole trip (about a month), supposedly curing it. This was in July. You can imagine the heat. I don’t recall how long it was that they said I needed to cure it. I drank a little every few days because I wanted to perfect the long throw of the stream. Again I was 8. This was hilarious to my travel companions. When I got back home, I tried pouring other wine into it. Still tasted terrible, leathery and cooked. How much of that was the fact that I was 8, who knows? I probably tried again when I was around 15. It still sucked. But it was a great conversation piece.
I still would not lecture the Spanish on the best way to drink wine. I won’t drink from a bota. And I’d rather bigger glasses than smaller in general. But I won’t set myself up look down on their traditions (which of course are, but for an invasion, also my own traditions). And that’s my problem with coffee snobs.
I agree with a lot of what you said other than to state that, to my knowledge, wheat does not transmit terroir, But you’ll get a lot of discussion on the source of the cheese and the tomatoes for the sauce.
That’s hilarious. I definitely thought wine sucked until I was about 20(and a lot if it does…).
Winemaker or not, I’ll drink wine from whatever it’s served in and just try to enjoy the experience. I’d rather drink wine from a tumbler or jar in the place it was made than from a fancy glass at my house. But, at my house we use Grassl because it does usually taste better.
But looking down on tradition is foolish😬 We are always in a process of evolution. I may think that what I like now is best, but that has yet to hold true over time…Brussells sprouts are delicious, raw fish is divine, Pilsner is my favorite beer(now), and white wine is not just for summer…and traditionally made wines may have been limited by resources and knowledge, but they are also often the end product of centuries of experience.
I said I would never recommend Stumptown for serious coffee now, and Starbucks goes without saying.
But back in the 80s the coffee was as good as that era offered. I randomly met the original roaster for Starbucks through a micro-roaster called Fontes. He left Starbucks when it became apparent to him that the company would put growth and meeting demand ahead of quality. I wasn’t around, or drinking coffee, in Seattle in the 80s but the Stumptown story is not dissimilar. Just like wine, the requirements for the very best coffee doesn’t translate well to high volume output.
Well, Lafite does produce 200,000 bottles a year, and Dom 5 million… most would consider them to qualify as some of the “very best wines” available, even if they don’t express a singular grape and terroir. One would argue that (blended) third wave coffee can also be produced at very high quality and high volume, but it’s still a relatively new market. Perhaps Blue Bottle (now owned by Nestle) comes closest, with 100+ stores now.