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What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
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coffee_wine_ismylife
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Posted Wed Aug 31, 2005, 8:19pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

There is very little appreciation & knowledge about wine in the good old USofA.  The top selling wine is Beringer white zin (if one can call it wine that is?!?).  And, junk like Charles Shaw is not too far behind white zin as far as sales go.

But, there is even less appreciation & knowledge about coffee.

You all make good points.

Nice article!
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HAL9000
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HAL9000
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 294
Location: Connecticut
Posted Thu Sep 1, 2005, 7:28pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

coffee_wine_ismylife Said:

There is very little appreciation & knowledge about wine in the good old USofA.  The top selling wine is Beringer white zin (if one can call it wine that is?!?).  And, junk like Charles Shaw is not too far behind white zin as far as sales go.

Posted August 31, 2005 link

I agree.  And to think about all of the money and effort that is spent making each vintage of white zin taste exactly the same as all of the others, and yet the price of these wines is relatively cheap, and stable from year to year.  I suppose it is the random nature of the fine vintages of the popular varietals (plus some marketing...) that makes those wines so much more expensive.

Makes me wonder how the cost of producing a cheap white zin compares to the cost of producing a good espresso. I'd bet the zin is more expensive by a big margin.

But anyway, a lot of people apparently like white zin (even given the vast opinion literature out there that would recommend something "better"), and even more people like plain old deli coffee in the morning. Who are we to say they are wrong? I used to love deli coffee - in fact, if it weren't for that I would have abandoned coffee long ago and would probably be drinking tea (shudder) today.

More, I still love plain old deli coffee with two eggs on a hard roll with bacon and cheese in the morning.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one, even on this board.
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short_black
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short_black
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Posted Wed Sep 7, 2005, 6:04am
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

rbh1515 Said:

Wine is just more accessible: find the right wine (from anywhere in the world), open the bottle, drink.
. . . .

Posted August 31, 2005 link

Agree, especially when you live in South West Western Australia.

There is also another big difference and that is food pairing. Apart from Coffee Geeks, how many serious coffees will the average even gourmet Joe have at any one meal/sitting. My guess is one, maybe 2, maximum 3? When one has time to linger over a meal maybe you start with a wine or a beer, then switch to wine y for first course and then maybe have a couple of wine z's with main course and even something different again with desert. Coffee's you have one at the end (with a dose of Grappa if you are from the old country).

The separation becomes even wider in the domestic scene because, as others have already said, good coffee requires much more personal commitment and involvement than good wine. One of my feelthy rich relatives genuinely believes he is a true coffee geek with his $3000 fully auto machines in which he uses supermarket stale beans and froths his milk with a hand frother. On the other hand you do get to drink really good wine at his place because he can afford to pay for wine advice and he takes it seriously but he doesn't need to commit as much time as good coffee does.

Where wine can learn from coffe is that I believe that taking coffee seriously has really improved my tasting & appreciation of both wine and beer. The subtle and (yes I will say it) "narrow" palate, aroma and flavour dimensions of good coffee means you have to work hard to reproduce, detect and understand what it is all about. This is considerably less challenging to do with wine and beer.
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slidingmike
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Posted Fri Sep 9, 2005, 2:20pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

I agree that the similarities are many on the production side of the equation, but there is still more we can learn from wine on the consumption side of the equation.

When I drink wine, I consider the food I'll be having it with, the weather outside, my mood, the tastes of my friends, my connection with the terrior/wine region/vineyard/maker, the moment in time when it was grown -- and the price of the bottle.  And hopefully at that instant I'll have many options from which to choose.  (One downside, though, is that I have to consider whether I'll be driving later.)

With coffee, we tend to have it on its own, after a meal.  So the choices come down to mood, tastes, and maybe our connection with the terrior.  But here the combination of equipment and freshness requirements really let us down.   We rarely have the ability to choose from multiple options unless we're at a great cafe running multiple grinders.  

I don't agree that we should declare it impossible to make the process simpler.  I am still holding out hope that advances in grinders (multiple hoppers, self-cleaning) could make choice, even for the home barista, more likely.  Not sure if I want to see advances in bean freshness retention though...
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jim_schulman
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Posted Fri Sep 9, 2005, 6:55pm
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

The coffee/wine analogy strikes just about everyone who has a really great cup of coffee; "for a wine this good, I'd have to mortgage my grandmother." It's one of the reasons I got into home roasting; for sheer taste complexity, good coffee is the biggest bang for the buck out there.

Also, I actually think there's a larger public out there for top flight coffees. The very few roasters here that buy Cup of Excellence coffees (Intelligentsia, Oren's, the Roasterie, and a handful of others), as well as the roasters who go out of there way to source "ultra-specialty" coffee have built up a loyal clientele. I keep missing Intelly's COE coffees since they sell out so quick, even at around $20 per half pound.

Obviously the people buying these coffees don't expect to find them in restaurants, and most restaurateurs have no clue they exist. The market is still only in the thousands, but it is there, and probably ready to expand in a big way.

The coffees that can be sold to them aren't missing either. While top flight Cup of Excellence and other auction coffees only amount to a few thousand bags a year; there's probably twice to five times as much coffee out there equal to top-flight COE standards. If a roaster who people trust for high quality. like George  Howell, picks them up, they can sell at a small premium, since people trust the roaster. But they go for nowhere near the COE prices. Then there's virtually unsung cups: this year's Oromia Yrgacheffe and Rwanda Karaba come to mind; they are selling for the same price as your local Starbucks charcoal. Mesa de los Santos, mentioned in the article, has put out a fantastic Reserve Coffee, picked ripe, culled carefully, and lovingly processed. It sells for a few cents more a pound than their regular offering, although there's a mesa of quality difference between the two.

So where's the gap? My guess is that the hype, or more politely, the marketing, of coffee is in the wrong place. Let's go back to wine. Nobody will mistake Gallo "Hearty Brugundy" for Burgundy -- they can and do say what they like, people dismiss it as hype. Go into a winestore and ask about a nice $10-$15, 88 point rated Pinot, and the seller isn't going to rave -- "it's a nice wine, drink it with your next prime rib" They'll rave about a 90 point wine out of nowhere going for under $10; but otherwise, they'll reserve their real praises for top wines, expensive wines, wines that don't "go with food."

Even the roasters I've mentioned don't do that. All their coffees are "great," and "one of kind," and whatever.  If that's what they are saying for the 85 to 89 everyday specialty coffees, there's no "wind" left to hype the real finds. Obviously, the talk is rather different at the cupping table, where the 90 plus coffees blow everything else on the table away. But this talk doesn't make it to the storefront.

The article talked about needing a rating system. There is a 100 point rating system. It's been around since specialty coffee got started, maybe even earlier. The need is for the ratings to be shown to the public by the roasters, and for them to charge commensurately. The ultimate sign of quality is selling price. If you charge more for tourist coffees, but not for the really good ones, why should people believe coffee can be as good as wine?

In fairness, wine's battle with Hearty Burgundy is long won, whereas coffee's battle with Folgers isn't. Even the everyday specialty coffees need talking up. But roasters should reserve the drumrolls and fanfares for coffees that deserve it. They should have the courage to charge a noticeable premium for coffees that cup great. Who knows? Maybe then the idea of ultra-specialty coffees will catch on.

 
Jim Schulman
www.coffeecuppers.com
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BuzzedLightyear
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Posted Tue Oct 25, 2005, 9:52am
Subject: Re: What Specialty Coffee can learn from Wine, The Cafe Stage
 

I think the other problem is that most wine geeks talk about the "taste" of different wines most of the times where coffee geeks do not. Just look at the forums on this website most people are talking about machines,grinders, techniques, latte art, etc etc etc........... Unless we start talking more about the "taste" of different coffees we can never elevate to the level where wine is.

 
Don
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