Tuesday 18 June 2024
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DALLA CORTE DC COFFEE PRO TROELS OVERDAL POULSEN – A perspective on a coffee trend…a growing gap between the Pro’s and the rest

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Specialty coffee, or coffee of a technically high agronomical quality if you like, has come a long way, but are we succeeding in bringing along as many people as we could, or are we neglecting the largest segment of the market?

In the past 15-20 years, we have managed to create a great many highly skilled and knowledgeable coffee professionals.

The efforts of everyone involved in entities such as COE, WBC, NBC, Specialty Coffee Associations and many others, has spawned a whole culture of coffee loving professionals who remain in the loop.

They develop their businesses, investigate new possibilities and apply ingenuity and creativity to the product on a scale which hasn´t been seen since Kaldi or whoever it was, ate a bean ages ago.

Coffee has become a trendy thing, it has become even more of a conversational topic than it ever was, and so people often ask curiously about the current and coming trends in coffee, a question that never really loses its relevance I suppose.

And there are many trends!

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Various brewing methods…for instance V60 style brewing and cold brews of various kinds.

Very light roasts searching for the fine elements of acidity and cleanliness.

Quality altogether is a trend in itself.

Transparency and the illumination of the value chain.

The reinvention of the coffee shop and many others I guess!

However, although it might seem quite easy to account for the trends in your own perspective, perhaps as a specialty coffee professional, it seems clear to me that there is often a lack of correlation between this, and that of both the conventional market and the average coffee consumers perceptions.

Herein lay in my opinion another trend, a negative one, which the specialty coffee professionals need to address.

Many (specialty) professionals will argue that very light roasts and highly acidic coffees, are the trend of the day. Does the average consumer adhere to that, or is it only a very small portion of them who would actually agree that this is in fact the trend? I would argue the latter.

The vast majority of coffee drinkers are not anywhere close to having the same perception of coffee as an agriculturally diverse product as that of for instance wine.

To the vast majority, coffee is still the hot, strong, pitch black and in all ways non-transparent beverage it always has been. For them, these are the qualities that they are looking for.

They have an actual preference for the qualities in coffee, which many professionals denounce altogether. You know, I´m talking about your grandmother or your parents or the guys down at the workshop.

It would make sense to differentiate between the trends as seen from a professional point of view, and that of this average consumer.

What are they, the consumers, actually buying in to, and what does the professionals want to sell and provide? Does these two even correlate and does this perhaps unfold two different trends?

We have done a good job in promoting coffee as a diverse agricultural product, and we have been successful in presenting it to many…willing and adventurous consumers.

And there are still many willing, adventurous and curious consumers out there.

Then, there´s everybody else.

The vast majority of people who are willing to follow if what they encounter appeals to them, but who choose not to apply the initial willing interest to seek it out themselves.

They might not be particularly coffee-adventurous or coffee-curious, but nonetheless most likely have quality notions of their own, perhaps directed at other commodities than coffee.

Applauding molecular gastronomy as they might, they rarely if ever go there to eat. Appreciating the old beautifully crafted wine, they mostly enjoy rather ordinary, easy-to-drink style wine themselves. Loving it.

They don’t appreciate the waiter kneeling down and smoothly ask the buzzword questions and over-explain everything. They don´t appreciate being told that they´re wrong when having a cigarette before the IPA microbrew and they certainly don´t enjoy being regarded as simpleminded when they ask for milk or sugar.

The trend I am describing is a growing gap.

A gap between the professionals and those who didn´t chose to follow by their own initiative.
We want to include them, but too often it seems, we serve them by our own notions of the “truth”.
If someone prefers coffee of little or no acidity or with milk, then they arenot wrong!

Yes, I think that we would do good for ourselves, and for specialty coffee and the people who produce it, if we stopped explaining to people what the truth is, and instead went searching for it together. Appreciating our different points of view.

We all know that drinking coffee is a notoriously conservative discipline, but the only way we are able to penetrate an otherwise conservative, and impenetrable preferential armor, is by acknowledging that this also has it´s justification, and be humble about it. Then we, and beautiful coffees, can gain access to all of these people.

Until then, and while we may continue to point out all the wrong they´re doing, they just won´t like it.

Troels Overdal Poulsen
dc coffee pro – Dalla Corte

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