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At about the words “20+ specialty roasters” I was already driving towards Silver Lake with an empty coffee cup in my hand. I think the only thing missing from Coffee-Con was a coffee-filled swimming pool, with attractive pool boys and pool girls circulating with sunscreen and adjusting the lounge chairs and umbrellas next to the Greatcoffeebrewers.com selection of machines. Maybe next year!
We dove right into a panel of experts discussing “The Future of Coffee.” It’s no secret that coffee is a popular commodity all over the world. For example, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the most popular online searches in the Netherlands are for a volautomatische koffiemachine! I digress… Klatch Coffee co-owner Heather Perry (described as the “Iron Chef” of baristas, and a world class champion) was there, along with Neil Day of Perfect Coffee, Joe Behm (inventor of the Brazen Coffee Brewer and home coffee roaster system), and Kenneth Davids (Author, nominated for a James Beard Award, his CoffeeReview.com rating guide is considered the gold standard.) These People Know Coffee.
The coffee industry is extremely volatile, and growing exponentially. This has inherent challenges and opportunities. Supply cannot keep up with demand, especially as the popularity of coffee grows in Asia, the Middle East and particularly China. Coffee is also literally volatile as a product, with a relatively short shelf life, and a window of opportunity wherein the raw coffee beans must be roasted for the best results. It is important that coffee roasters buy coffee beans of the highest quality if they want to impress customers. Maintaining and ethically growing the coffee bean supply chain to ensure broad accessibility in the long-term is of great concern.
Another challenge is how the coffee industry can bridge the gap between two very different groups of consumers. There are those who want quality, but also demand quick, efficient methods of getting their cup of coffee. You can imagine parents with three children, making breakfast and running out the door to work. Time is brief! There are also consumers who are serious enthusiasts, willing to invest financially for high-end equipment, and participating in the coffee community as one might who is a wine afficionado.
Joe Behm emphasized the importance giving the general public access to great coffee by cost conscious products and services, and the ability of people outside of a cafe to properly make coffee at home or work. But ultimately this can only work if accessibility to coffee beans is economically viable for an industry of mass production, but also for the small farmers who produce approximately 70% of the coffee beans. Within this dynamic is a seeming on-going crisis of supply, which in turn leads to inflated coffee prices that are not commensurate with quality. Add to this environmental obstacles, such as the coffee rust epidemic in South America, the historic drought in Brazil, and the hopes that production in Columbia and Africa will remain steady.
An exciting positive opportunity that is unique to coffee as a crop, is that it’s possible to connect the popularity of high quality coffee to the farmers and producers. This has the potential to raise the socio-economic level of whole communities, so that they are fairly sharing financially in this robust industry. Many coffee companies here in the U.S.A. are building sustainable relationships with farmers, which gives farmers the ability to experiment in growing and developing excellent crops. This in turn provides coffee companies a reliable high quality supply.
The future technology is coming, when you will have the ability to get various coffee recipes online, “tap” your cell phone, iPad or tablet, which will connect with your home coffee roaster/grinder/brewer device . . . and you’ll have the ability to easily explore the many variations and techniques of this complex drink! The fundamental goal is: How do we optimize the particular coffee bean that you have to its fullest taste potential?
And check out our delicious Coffee Sauce Recipe for the perfect breakfast or brunch!