Archive for the 'Coffee' Category

I Want a New Drug

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

When Huey Lewis released that catchy song back in 1984, people didn’t take him seriously. I think it’s time to take a long hard look at the idea. The United States Government professes to be in the middle of a War on Drugs. The enemies in this war are drugs that cause citizens to act in ways that have a negative impact on society and, by extension, the government.

Some drugs are considered allies. Caffeine is a drug and I can only imagine that it gets to sit in on strategy sessions at the White House. I have a favorite anecdote that involves the King of England shutting down coffee houses for a while back in the 1700s. The stimulating effect of this drug was making people think a lot and they were meeting in the places where it was prepared and discussing a lot of ideas that ran counter to the interests of the King. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think people gather together in crack houses to share revolutionary ideas.

Caffeine catalyzed the industrial revolution. I feel like we need some other kind of revolution at this point and maybe part of the process could be help with a new drug of choice for society. I don’t know what it should do and I don’t know how it would do it. It just seems to me that the people who ruin themselves and their surroundings because of a drug are using the wrong one.


Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Seth Godin was riffing on the concept of expertise and passion today. He was basically making the argument that some positions in an organization do not have to be filled by people who are driven by a passion for the product that is being produced. I concur with that and I have a personal story to support it.

Several years ago, I left my soul sucking job at a huge sawmill for a job as the roaster at a fair trade coffee cooperative. I have some enthusiasm for coffee (the tangible product) and also for social justice (the intangible product), but I wasn’t extremely PASSIONATE about either. My skills were developing efficient systems, performing repetitive tasks efficiently and implementing quality control.

The man and wife founders are PASSIONATE about their products. When their baby of a company outgrew mom and pop style management, one of them bit the bullet and went to school to learn how to be a general manager. I was with the company during a period of major growth. When I recently checked on its progress I was pleased to see that it appears to be thriving in ways that I couldn’t have predicted three years ago.

I can’t think of any instances where slightly mismatched worldviews caused problems between me and my coffee-making coworkers. When the entire production crew was given the day off to support and participate in an anti-Bush demonstration, I chose to stay at the roastery and perform some maintenance. For the record, I am not a fan of GWB. I just chose not to protest a foreign leader who was on an official visit to my country. That, and it was time to sweep the chimneys.

McDonalds Versus Starbucks

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

I have blogged about McCafe before as if it was an anomaly in the marketplace. Things change fast in the fast food business…

McDonald’s, whose U.S. coffee sales increased 39 percent during the first nine months of 2007, plans to add espresso counters at as many as 14,000 locations.

I had the theory that McDonalds were sticking to areas with little or no Starbucks presence for their cafe add-ons. It turns out that they are now going head to head in many markets. Starbucks has 15,000 locations in 43 countries.

I used to be a professional coffee roaster. I found out during the course of my thousands of coffee tastings that my sense of taste is less keen than a lot of experts. Using my average palate, I have decided that McCafe coffee is just as good as Starbucks. Starbucks does have a wider variety of specialty coffees and coffee drinks. The quality of espresso is somewhat dependent on how well the equipment is maintained and operated.

Source: Bloomberg