Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Coffee Bias

The history of coffee is a complex web of human interractions around a mild drug that is popular the world over and affordable to most people.

Like most commodities, the coffee market has been used to influence and oppress, to change governments and shape trade relationships.

Usually this has gone against the grower and favoured the trading behemoths in Europe and the United States.

This is changing and while the large companies such as Nestle and Sara Lee hold tight rein over some aspects of the industry still there is a growing understanding among consumers that quality coffee comes from the specialty end of the coffee market.

The internet has played an important role in providing a source of information to consumers about coffee and in helping promote specialty coffee. This has included the rise of groups such as CoffeeSnobs and CoffeeGeek where there is a concentration of all things coffee. CoffeeSnobs is a distinctly Australian expression of the coffee passion and caters for home roasters by being a source of green beans - unroasted coffee.

For many people stumbling across the website of CoffeeSnobs is a revelation, and the number of 'Snobs' is growing rapidly and now approaching 10,000. When I joined in 2006 there were just about 1500 members. It is now a mature organisation with ongoing corporate sponsors and its very own foreign aid program "Faircrack" that has been delivering on its promise of assisting coffee growers in the developing world and so far has purchased milling and other equipment to help growers improve the price they get for their coffee.

It struck me this morning that most of the people that I know are people who are passionate about coffee - not everyone, but most of them, and that includes the people I work with (not in the coffee industry). I have observed what appears to be an increasing trend towards better coffee and in the last three years in my office there has been a proliferation of plungers, pour overs and even grinders and consumption from the the big bad brown tin of doom has decreased considerably.

I've also noticed a fantastic range of coffee being selected, mostly from local roasters of specialty coffee rather than the big supermarket brands. Is this shift towards selecting specialty coffee a general trend? or are my observations a form of confirmation bias? Am I just noticing it more because I am looking for it, in the same way as you start seeing a certain model of car everywhere once you buy one or think about buying one?


  1. Or will it eventually shift inwards again A LA like what Dan Murphy's has done for the wine industry?

  2. I find the possibility that you may be correct quite disturbing.