Golden Bean

December 8, 2014

Overall Winner – Uncle Joe’s Coffee

by Mark Leo of 3rd Crack Coffee Brokerage

What began as simple curiosity over a gold medal winning coffee turned into an all consuming quest to unlock the mysteries of the bean.
For me, my coffee journey began in late 2008, when I walked into a franchise chain coffee store. Prior to this I had never really been a coffee drinker, only ever going out for coffee once in a blue moon. I spotted inside their humidity controlled fridge, some golden shiny stickers, “Gold Medal” stickers. I picked a bag up and flipped it to discover an amazing story of where these golden beans had come from. Not being accustomed to the etiquette of ordering coffee, I proceeded to the counter with this award winning coffee.
I asked the barista, “Can I try this single origin gold medal winning coffee, please?”
“I’m sorry; I can only make what’s in the hopper,” he replied.
“But how will I know what it tastes like?”
“You’ll just have to take it home to try.”
“How do I make it?”
“Well, do you have an espresso machine?”
I think I was lucky, as the barista to his credit did a great job of putting up with my naivety.
“No I don’t; what do I need?” I asked.
“Well, if you want a mediocre job, get yourself a cheap espresso machine and grinder.”
“Mediocre!“ Puzzled and curious, I thought to myself, why would I want a mediocre job for this gold medal coffee?
“How much is mediocre going to cost?” I questioned.
“Well, a cheap machine is about $900 and a cheap grinder about $200.”
“$1,100! But I don’t want mediocre; I want to be able to make a coffee as good as you can here.”
“All right,” he continued; he was excited that one of his customers actually cared enough to ask about the taste of coffee. “Well, if you want the very best, you need to budget about $2,500 for your machine and $1,000 for your grinder”
“What … $3,500? What happens if and when I get home I actually don’t like this bag of coffee, will you refund my $9?”
This scenario really confused me. As a consumer, there was no way for me to be able to qualify and justify the “Gold Medal” status of this coffee without great expense and effort. Unlike the wine industry, where I could walk into a good wine brokerage, sample many different wines and make a decision on whether or not to buy the $40 bottle of wine as opposed to the $300 bottle. With wine, it was easy to compare price points and work out for myself whether or not the $300 bottle was worth the extra expense. Unfortunately at that time, the coffee industry offered no simple solution to this problem, other than what amounts to “it’s this price because we said so”.
The internet is an amazing tool; I found Coffeesnobs and joined in Dec 2008 as au_d2. My first post read:
“OK, not sure whether to thank you guys or curse you. Been an avid lurker on this site for the last month, slowly taking up the wealth of information. Problem is, now I have the little seed planted and can’t go back to “poor” quality coffees. I never knew coffee was so complex.
6th of Jan, 2009
A little seed planted indeed!
So I began a quest to solve this mystery and in turn work on a solution from the consumer perspective. The measure of success was simply “Care for another cup?”

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