THe Ethics of Being an Artisan

Mr.Peaberry

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Aug 7, 2013
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I think this is a valuable discussion in the current coffee culture. I also think an analogy could help. Imagine opening a steak house restaurant. There are so many places that serve cooked cow parts, and a broad spectrum of potential menu offerings...gourmet hamburgers to filet mignon. One can strive to be at the level of a Morton's, or be just a cut above a specialty hamburger joint. It all comes down to clientele, what they value, and what their budget allows. The more you wish to emulate a Morton's, the smaller the audience. I think this is where John P is coming from. To accept less in quality and service does not mean bad things in terms of appealing to a larger customer base, but where does the distinction "artisan coffee" begin and end? Is that phrase overused by some who don't even make a legitimate attempt to earn the distinction? Very good discussion indeed!
 
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John P

John P

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ensoluna,

Thanks again for your input.

Ideal would be never serving anything to go.

I don't do it because it's "ideal", I do it because it's the right thing to do.
 
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John P

John P

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Len,

Thank you for your thoughts.

As simplistic as it sounds, we've been educating our customers by the cup since day one. For us it was building trust. Everything is fresh by the cup. Everything is ground by the (shot) cup. We were the first in the city to do everything in this manner, not to mention using better coffee to start with. Our coffee tasted better. A lot better. People would observe that we were doing things others weren't and/or they would ask questions. A dialogue would happen.

We didn't start roasting and selling coffee until more than a year after we were open. By that time, our reputation was already sound, and because we had proven it in the cup, our customers trusted whatever I explained to them in matters of coffee. Also, I tend to be direct, but honest. It became apparent to most customers that if we did X as a practice, then it was a good thing. And if we did not do X, then it must be bad or compromise quality in some way.

As I mentioned, not everyone has a grinder, but I have sold ~200 grinders on the spot, just because I told them it was necessary. It can start with a "Do you own a pepper mill?" to a more science based answer depending on who it was.

If your customers don't trust you implicitly because both your skill and integrity are without question, then you might want to rethink things.
 
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John P

John P

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Mr. Peaberry,

Great response. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

It's not specifically about the word "artisan" because there are a whole lot of words you can interchange to make it sound good. And yes, there needs to be a distinction between convenience coffee and whatever that next level is. And within each paradigm there are still levels, but the fact is that most everyone claiming some artisan, quality, high-end, third-wave, etc. are nothing more than convenience coffee masquerading as "artisan".

"Whole bean only" should be a minimum standard for any "artisan" shop. And it's because we all (should) clearly understand how different whole bean is from pre-ground.
Having "better coffee" is meaningless without having the standards, principles, and ethics to match.
 
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John P

John P

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As Mr. Peaberry, noted, this is an important subject.. the entire idea of artisan, and taking that role seriously. And maintaining ethical standards, which honestly most out there are not.
Since my original post was on LinkedIn, I have had 130+ total "Likes" and 8 shares within 2 different forums.

Although the majority do not comment, here is some of the feedback, and I think it is a good sign that many professionals acknowledge there is a problem, but it is one we should address openly and take care of. Certainly there has been disagreement, but it's been minimal and reasonable. As a general consensus, the amount of positive feedback has been overwhelming.

Here is some of the positive feedback on the issue of the importance of ethics within the framework of "being an artisan"

Carla De Jesus- McGrath

BARISTA, BARISTA TRAINER AND ASSESSOR, CUSTOMER SERVICE SPECIALIST

So well Written.. Ethics and principles are imperative !!

Roman Vilanov

District Manager at Gloria Jean's coffees-Cyprus

Very well said! Ethics , Principles !

Ourania Voulgari

General Manager at AGOROS BAR & GRILL (LIAKOS INC)

Unfortunately I think the majority of people either they don't care or they don't know how to appreciate a good coffee. Instead of quality (sense,aroma,taste etc) they choose quantity; doesn't matter even if it is coffee at the end of the day or not. Then again trying to find GOOD coffee is not easy either. Consistent - quality ...and hope!

Bruno Lopez

Export & Development Department at CAFENTO

I think it is a fight worth fighting, and we are already experiencing an increase of consumption of high end coffee and of appreciation on the side of the consumer. Just as an example, in Spain the much used torrefacto coffee is going down every year, as consumers beccome more educated, so the transition is slow, but it is definitely happening.

Les Roka

Public Relations and Communications Consultant and Contractor

Precisely. What does it really mean to be an artisan:

'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?'

Lanai Cofee: It is surprising how many daily coffee drinkers are not aware of this
 

lizthorn

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Great question! Value is a strange thing... it's totally subjective. Some people want the freshest and the best, others are just using it for the effect of a 5-hour energy shot.

Different strokes for different folks. You'll never know what customers really value, that's for the free market to decide :coffee:
 

chast

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There is a shop in the Boston area that does not allow their coffee to be placed in a paper cup because they claim it will ruin the experience of their roast. They refuse to have any dairy or sweetener for the same reasons. Yes and they only sell whole bean. The local coffee snobs are there during the day and their is always room and if you gaze out the window the Starbucks and DD have lines out the door. With today's lifestyles it has a lot to do with time and convenience. How many Keurigs were sold in the USA I have a customer who purchased an espresso machine from Kees and he has an EK43 grinder. Not everyone has the room, time or free cash to install a proper grinder in their kitchen. Am I going dismiss a continuing sale because of coffee snob ethics? And the truth is as told to me by many customers, they can not recreate my coffee process system at home with their brewing process. My goal for customers is to give them great coffee the way they like it. Do you like your steak well done or rare? If the chef refused to cook your staek well done and came out and explained that it would ruin his/her expertise and values, would you order another way? doubt A dollar Hershey bar or an Artisan formed Taza bar for 6.00.
 

aroaster83

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Being from Boston, what shop is that? Feel free to PM me as to not call them out.

I've always been of the mindset that coffee is not just a beverage but an experience. I don't mean that in a very pretentious way, but what I mean is people equate it with their day and lives. "I can't start my day without espresso from X shop!" & "I had the best time in Costa Rica drinking coffee watching the sun rise!" Personally, my favorite coffee was a French Press I had at the Kona Café at Disney World when my wife and I got back from our respective war zones. Was it the best coffee taste wise? No. Was it the best coffee I've had experience wise? Yes. I remember everything about it.

You don't get that with many other items (beer, wine, and cigars can fall into this category). As such, whatever you want to do to enjoy it and have a nice day I'm fine with. If that's cream and sugar and it makes you happy and content with your life, fine. If that's black and only Geisha, rock on. There's never a need to be judgmental and it's a problem in third wave shops that bugs me.

Also, Taza, that is a name I have not heard in a long time. Nice people. Personally, stone ground chocolate just doesn't sit right with me. I love me some amazing chocolate, don't get me wrong, but stone ground just isn't my thing.
 
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John P

John P

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lizthorn,

The discussion is only relevant to "artisan" quality products. Different folks go to different types of establishments.
It is on the artisan (the actual artisan... not someone who claims to be one) to carry through craftsmanship, provenance, and quality from start to finish.
 

topher

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I guess I have wasted the last 28 years perfecting my "trade" Am I allowed to consider it my trade?
 
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Nugget

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just a different perspective....sometimes people don't come to a coffee shop to be a student of coffee. An "artisan" or purveyor of a luxury item, such as coffee, should maybe also brush up on social skills such as reading people and cues. If someone comes in with an open mind, then give them a dose of information. If you try to teach to someone that doesn't want to be your student, then you'll just end up talking at them. If it feeds the ego and enriches your soul, go for it---but don't think that you're enriching someone's experience or being "true" to your craft by interacting with people in this way. I agree about ground coffee tasting bad, completely, but I try to bring people along slowly, build trust, and relationships, and then they become willing and excited to learn about (what I think) is the "right" way. Patience is key. We were all noobs at one point. We have to be careful to not act like self-important knobs, or we lose that trust.
 

AndyP

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We should all be charging EXTRA for ground coffee. Namely: (cost of whole bean coffee) + $45.00 = (cost of ground coffee). By charging an excise tax roughly equivalent to the price of a hand crank grinder, we would gently dissuade customers from continuing their habit of purchasing ground coffee.
 

PinkRose

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We should all be charging EXTRA for ground coffee. Namely: (cost of whole bean coffee) + $45.00 = (cost of ground coffee). By charging an excise tax roughly equivalent to the price of a hand crank grinder, we would gently dissuade customers from continuing their habit of purchasing ground coffee.

Not sure that would work.

People want what they want.
Some states have tripled the tax on cigarettes, and that still hasn't slowed people down from buying them.

I think the same concept would apply to upping the price of ground coffee. If people want the ground coffee, they'll pay what you're asking for it, or they'll just go someplace where they can get it at a reasonable price and without having to endure a long-winded discussion about it.
 
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