My wife stopped by the a farmer’s market yesterday and saw a man selling coffee for five bucks. Since it wasn’t a crippling financial commitment, she picked me up an eight-ounce bag of what was called an ‘espresso’ blend. Interestingly enough, it was pre-ground with no roast date on it. She also asked the roaster where he got his beans from. “California,” was his reply. Being a sarcastic turd at times, I figured I’d share what I learned from drinking his coffee.
The Roast. There was no roast date and no mention whether these were Arabica or Robusta beans. The beans were roasted dark as a traditional espresso should be. But they were roasted too long and stunk something fierce when I brewed them as a pour over. The seller said he roasted them himself at home. But far from getting the feeling that I was embarking on a special journey prepared just for me, I really got the feeling that it was done as cheaply as possible without much care and attention. It was more than just the price. Everything about the coffee made me think it was of lesser quality than I typically want.
The Grind. It was ground very coarse like you’d prepare a french press. I tried it in mine, but it didn’t make it any better than when I tried it as a pour over. It still stunk and still didn’t taste the way it smelled. This was good news because it really didn’t taste half bad. As a pour over, using the coarse grind made me pour a little slower and with more deliberate intent. It was also kind of fun. It was like stirring a bucket full of ice water around. I had a strangely satisfying sensation as I chased big chunks of coffee around the filter with the water.
The Business. I guess the business model was to buy cheap coffee, roast it without much plan or thought, and sell it cheap. I wasn’t hating on the seller. Instead, I felt compelled to see where he was already ahead of us from a selling standpoint and to learn what steps to take to ensure we’re communicating our brand identity properly. For now, Mike roasts our coffee in individual batches. Does telling people that come across as cheap or as a carefully crafted, individual experience?
I think it could probably go either way, depending on how the product is delivered. If the bag looks like no great care was taken to fill it, seal it, brand it, and sell it, then I think it comes across as cheap. If the bag looks like great care was taken to fill it, seal it, brand it, package it, and sell it, then I think it comes across as custom and individual. Thinking back to my Speckled Ax experience, I think that was one of the disappointing aspects of that purchase. The bag showed up at my door beat to hell in a cheap looking cardboard envelope. That coffee wasn’t cheap or of poor quality, which redeemed the buy. I think coffee sellers could do both. Have great coffee and great delivery.