Sunday, May 16, 2010

Unstated obligations

I've been grappling with the ideas behind this post for two weeks now and find that I still cannot frame the ideas as well as I would like. I took two semesters of sociology (20 years ago) and find that this brief introduction is totally inadequate to even provide some basic guidance as to where to take this for a more structured discussion (all advice welcome!) - but here goes anyway.

It seems to me that an unstated obligation can exist between a person, or persons (entity A) who create something or advance ideas and those who benefit from that creation or idea (entity B). The obligation is not a situation of debt as such - in fact almost always explicitly not, but more likely requiring acknowledgement that the obligation exists and that an expression of thanks is appropriate.

The situation I am specifically considering is that of coffee roasting in Western Australia. It has been suggested that Perth is in a 'golden age' of coffee, which might seem like hyperbole but we have not had such choice before so in that respect I agree that 'we have never had it so good'.

A lot of this is due to the fantastic local roasters (and we have a good number now) that promote good coffee in Perth. While standing at the the deli counter of the Leederville Re store last week I was looking at the montage above the counter that showed some historical images of the Re and Ferrari families. In one photo, a shop window bore the words "Good Coffee is Fresh Coffee" and I was reminded once again that these families have been roasting coffee in Perth for nearly 80 years. I suspect that at times they may have been the ONLY local roaster in Perth.

They still continue today and I know they have kept roasting logs for decades - a wealth of knowledge and a source of learning for new generations of roasters. They also have a collection of equipment and a record of coffee purchases that would provide a wonderful track of coffee consumption in Perth's cafes.

The family remains involved in Perth's coffee scene and Catherine Natale (Winner of the Australian Cupping Championship) and her brother John Ferrari were judges at last year's WA Barista Championships and backed the effort with the resources of their company, European Foods.

In a very real sense the European Foods family have been a consistent presence in Perth coffee and have helped keep the idea and practice of local roasting alive in Perth long enough for it to diversify and gain in popularity and professionalism. In that sense I think I can acknowledge the unstated obligation that I as a coffee hobbiest have to the Ferrari and Re families and I would like to thank them for their generations of effort in making coffee available to Western Australians and to contributing to the development of Perth's coffee scene.

I know I have other 'unstated obligations' as far as coffee is concerned to a great number of people across the Perth coffee scene who have taught me a lot about coffee - most of them are roasters or baristas who I have met, but a lot are also just coffee lovers rather than coffee professionals. As I run into them over the next few months I am going to try and remember to say thank you - because sometimes obligations may be unstated, but should be acknowledged.


  1. Grendel, I share your feelings for this. I still remember fondly my childhood years where a trip to the RE store was a favoured event. How we developed a love for the romance of fine Italian roasted coffee, which we excitedly took turns at grinding in the store.

    I have no doubt that the coffee we absorbed through the smells and our touch over all those is a big part of our love of it today.

  2. I love the Re store and the fact that it is still a family business and that seems to pick quality and passion over straight out profit. . .plus my kids are fond of the complementary fredo frogs when I buy my wine and smallgoods!

    I think though we should all thank the influx of Italians that allowed something like the Re store and coffee and food to be nourished and then finally flourish when the rest of the population finally caught up.