why speciality coffee isn’t that special

ok it is, speciality coffee tastes amazing

but… the challenges in presenting speciality coffee to customers, in pitching a different style to the usually offered and expected, aren’t so unique we can’t learn from other people in different but related niches

close to my heart, craft bakers selling sourdough leavened loaves are selling something that is at once comparable and completely incomparable to the bread most people are buying and selling – they’re confronted with the challenge of communicating their differences, overcoming the barrier of what’s ‘normal’ and of differing flavour goals (including acidity)

there is also the challenge of customers receiving many messages of why the product is ‘better’ – better ingredient, artisan craftsmanship, slow food, and hard labour, independant business and being local all being reasons that a customer might choose to buy without considering the rest

craft style breweries sell a different product from more commercial breweries, both nice and nasty commercial ones, but using the same names – IPA neither means the same things to brewers nor to all beer drinkers even though it has a fairly rigid criteria – they often have their products sold side by side with something marked similarly but from a completely different understanding of what those markings mean

food comparisons are lazy too – every industry that sells things has layers of stratification, of quality, of geekery – specialist bookshops focussing on rare books aren’t the norm, but they exist in most cities satisfying a mixed tribe of collectors, historians, readers

in a less specialised industry – geekery and nichedom abounds on both sides of the counter – visiting a garden centre you’ll find highly complicated PH testing equipment sat next to the trowels and a hundred varieties of apple treeĀ in multiple genders, requiring assistance from informed, passionate staff who really care that their customers learn from, enjoy and understand what’s on offer

we can learn so much from other industries if we focus on what makes the conversations we’re having challenging rather than laying all those challenges at the foot of our chosen products ‘unique’ position

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