Sometimes it's wild to me to think about this crazy industry we're all involved in. A few years ago I was working in a bar, partying hard and serving food. Then I decided to try and up my professionalism and make some more coin and got a job running a warehouse in Texas. It was valuable life experience but certainly not everything I had hoped it would be. Now I find myself working in coffee, surrounded by a bunch of people that for the most part don't always seem to fit together.
Sometimes I find myself wondering if I fit in; I'm pretty sure I was never more aware of that then when I was at the GLRBC two weekends ago. I don't think I would ever consider myself to be progressive or "hip" but then again I'm not even really sure what those words mean, at least as far as fashion and life goes. As I looked around at the sea of baristi, I found myself thinking that the competition seemed more about "cool" then coffee. That was a bit of a bummer to be honest, we work hard to find great coffees; we try and be down to earth and connected to the coffee and the competition is more about Flannel Shirts, Emo Jeans and Suit Vests. Is that really what a farmer in El Salvador wants their coffee represented by? Maybe? But then again maybe not?
This is a weird industry, so many moving pieces that are all supposed to fit together into a whole. So often it feels like there are just a bunch of fragments that randomly aligned and then break apart again for no apparent reason. It's strange. It's strange especially from the perspective that in most normal industries the best product is usually clearly evident to everyone, aside from the few in the minority that want to be "progressive", but normally the best product wins. In coffee I don't think that's always true. The best coffee may not get the best price at origin, may not sell the most in a cafe, may not win a blind cupping with random people on the streets. Nowadays maybe that's becoming less true but around here (Madison), that is still often the case. Cafe owners that think an Espresso Roast brewed coffee, served over-extracted and watered down is the best coffee or Joe-Six-Pack who believes their cafe owner who serves that coffee. Pretty much every day I try and figure out how to make sense of this, because frankly, my livelihood depends on it and so do a number of other peoples'. It's funny to me, only because if I don't laugh I'd probably have to go and put myself through our drum roaster and call it a day. Maybe then Espresso Roast Cafe owner or Joe-Six-Pack would like what I'm trying to sell. It's anyone's guess really.