A Cup Fraught With Issues

Specialty Coffee Retailer, November 2001

“Issue” Coffee and “Sustainability” and our appreciation of it…

It’s well documented that our preconceptions of a gustatory product have a strong influence on our perceived appreciation of it (whether it be negative or positive).

Those preconceptions can be bundled in a variety of ways and can flow from many different streams. For example, if we believe that “French” wines are the best and we’re told the wine we’re about to taste IS French we’re likely to enjoy it more than if we were told that it was “Australian.”*

Similarly, many people can’t seem to comfortably drink a cup of coffee without knowing that by doing so they are solving some problem. Why these same people are often seen chowing down on GMO “French”** Fries and soft drinks is a puzzle but there it is: a puzzle.

Anyway, herewith is a PDF of an article I wrote at the turn of the century (as a curmudgeon I feel grateful to have been born at such a point in the last century such that I am now in a position to say an old farty thing like that…) WOW, anyway, this article, dating back to the turn of the century…is even more difficult to read than THIS lugubrious prose, but the points that it attempts to address are still timely…I encourage you to struggle through it…if you’ve read this far, you’re clearly up to it…

Cutting to the chase, though, two items of note:

1)  If coffee isn’t enjoyable and delicious, and people don’t love to drink it, so much that they buy it brewed or make it at home and drink lots of it — it ain’t sustainable;

2)  When we drink coffee, if it’s not decaf, there’s the caffeine thing going on, but we’re also consuming information — I’ve said this a lot before…so the information that comes with that coffee not only influences our experience, it’s PART and PARCEL to our experience, it is of the fabric of that moment, that sip, and it doesn’t even matter if the information is “true.” This is not cynicism, it’s a simple fact. After the fact, it’s nicer those facts were true, and you’re more likely to want to experience something that was in fact genuine, but the “genuine” part doesn’t seem to be the most important element. It’s the perception…and that weaves into the warp and woof of the thing we’re listening to, eating, and here, in the case of coffee, drinking/tasting/inhaling. MORE LATER ON this….

*I use quotation marks here because the name itself, the appellation, is more important than the origin of the wine itself, it is the associations that the word triggers, not the symbolic fact it represents.

** Just thought the use of the word “French” right after my comment above was ironic and I had to say something!


Download: A Cup Fraught with Issues (pdf; 1.7mb)

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