Monday, January 30, 2017

The Ethics of Being an Artisan

I posed the following in an Instagram post, but I will explore it further here.

Fact: Ground coffee begins losing flavors and aromatics immediately after grinding and with every passing second.

So... what's the value of pre-ground coffee? Tick. Tick. Tick.

Let's think about this. If you are an artisan (craft, small-batch, third wave, progressive, high-end, etc.) coffee shop and you sell your coffee for $30 lb, you certainly can't charge the same for pre-ground coffee. [Now, of course this is hypothetical because we all know there aren't any high-end coffee shops that sell pre-ground coffee.]

The value of the pre-ground coffee would decline by the hour, by the minute, by the second. What are we looking at? Thirty hours? Thirty minutes? Thirty seconds until the relative value of that coffee is zero? Remember, the baseline is the whole bean, so you are not comparing it to other coffees, you are comparing it to itself. If you are selling single origin, small farm coffee for the reasons a coffee shop or roaster sells that quality of product, then by all measures, isn't the value approaching zero as soon as the bag lands on the shelf? Even if it were ground on the spot, the relative value would essentially be zero when it reached the customer's home.

It's your job as a seller of artisan goods to educate your customers, it's not on the customer to come to you already educated. Selling high-end ingredients assumes that you are not trying to sell to everyone, but rather you welcome everyone who is looking for something better.

The science is clear. It comes down to words many are afraid to use, and fewer actually embody. Ethics. Principles. Do you have them or not? Once you ask to be recognized as being at a higher standard, you have to operate at - and be held to - a higher standard. And as a practical matter, since everything you are brewing is by the cup, why would you have bulk grinders anyway?

I originally posted this article on LinkedIn