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The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
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MarkPrince
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Posted Tue Aug 22, 2006, 4:40pm
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

Given that some 22% of our readership is in the professional realm, including roasters, retailers, baristas, manufacturers and "other" (see the May 3, 2004 poll, and if anything that number has increased), I would beg to differ.

I have a really good sense of who the audience is on this website, more than anyone else. The vast majority is consumers / enthusiasts (around 70%), but given that our daily visit count is around 10 to 15 thousand a day in the summer, and 15 to 20 thousand a day in the winter, as many as 4,000 of them a day are in the professional business of coffee, and that's the audience for this article primarily. As I said in the latest podcast, I also think consumers can benefit from the article, because, beyond the political stuff, it gives a lot of insight into CoE and where its going, and the last half of the article focuses on farmer issues, micro lot issues and more.

Mark

 
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hopkin
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Posted Wed Aug 23, 2006, 1:54am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

I believe that Cup of Excellence is one of the greatest and most exciting organizations in in coffee.  The integrity of its brand is extremely important to its future success.

No matter how good the intentions of this article, it is just plain bad public relations for the Cup of Excellence brand.  There was no need to respond to an obscure forum of coffee buyers & roasters by publishing an article on the front page of the world's most popular coffee website.

My analogy is this: you have an argument with your spouse and the next day everyone in the office somehow knows that you've had an argument, and when you go to the lunch room there is a notice posted to say how you've had a big argument with your spouse - in detail!  It was just a discussion, but now everyone knows, and now the integrity of your relationship is seriously injured.

For consumers (70% of your readership) who may not have even heard of CoE, the integrity of the Cup of Excellence is suddenly in question.  They have been told that there is a "ruckus in the blogosphere" about Cup of Excellence.

I would sincerely suggest that a follow up article about CoE be published on Coffeegeek very soon.  A consumer introduction to Cup of Excellence would be great - what its all about, how to buy it, and why it is so great for coffee farmers, roasters, consumers, everyone.

There are so many positives!

Alistair Durie
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timW
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Posted Wed Aug 23, 2006, 2:57am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

Hello.
I personally liked the article and I also don't think it is damaging for the COE to post it on the site. In fact, I think it is a good idea to promote the COE with such an in depth article so that the coffee consumers not only get the glory-story of the various coffeehouse marketing campaigns for the COE.
I would much rather have an openness about these issues rather than having a roumor based discussion on forums that actually is also open to the public readers.  Isn't  the COE about transparency ?

The best thing that can happen is that more people will get cuious about the COE and they might want to try out the COE coffees. Worst case scenario is that this article is forgotten in a couple of weeks and everything is back to normal.

Just my thoughts before my first cup of java in the morning.
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hopkin
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Posted Wed Aug 23, 2006, 3:23am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

timW Said:

The best thing that can happen is that more people will get cuious about the COE and they might want to try out the COE coffees. Worst case scenario is that this article is forgotten in a couple of weeks and everything is back to normal.

Posted August 23, 2006 link

You're right, I agree, the best thing that can happen is more people will get curious about CoE.  Yet there are a thousand better ways to get people curiously excited about trying the coffee's, not curiously wondering what this whole "ruckus" is about and what it all means.

Transparancy is great where it counts, and so is good public relations.  This website is high profile - the article content is not.  Nor, as the author admits, is it even well prepared.

Again, I'd like to see a retake: publish a "you've got to taste this coffee" article about Cup of Excellence.

Alistair Durie
Elysian Coffee
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timW
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Posted Wed Aug 23, 2006, 4:07am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

Again, I'd like to see a retake: publish a "you've got to taste this coffee" article about Cup of Excellence.

I agree this would be an interesting article and a good tool for the baristi all over the world to refer to to their customers when selling COE coffees. Let us "dare" Mark "the coffee" Prince to post such an article out on the front page.

I still believe that some are being a bit dramatic about this whole thing.

COE is a fantastic programme and I doubt that an article like this will have any influence on its future. It sure gets a lot of attention on this forum and other forums....
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BMFW
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Posted Wed Aug 23, 2006, 4:46am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

I do believe that this is the right place for the article.  As a consumer I am interested in all aspects of coffee & had it not been for this article it is unlikely that I would have heard or understood the issues.  I have bought CoE coffee & I appreciate what the CoE programme is trying to achieve, so if I can get more information on Coffeegeek then I welcome it.

I am pretty shocked by what I see as an over-reaction by some to the use of Coffeegeek for the publication of this article.  We are all grown-ups here.  We can make up our own minds on any article that is published.  If Mark wants to push any agenda then we can agree or disagree.  I don't believe that Coffeegeek does have an agenda and I certainly don't think that by publishing this, or any other article, Coffeegeek has "become a tabloid".

"Others" would do well to tone down the melodrama!  I think the vitriol directed towards Mark on Portafilter was far more inappropriate than his publishing of this article.
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Posted Thu Aug 24, 2006, 2:15am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

MarkPrince Said:

The Cup of Excellence and the NCA
Professionally Speaking article by Susie Spindler

Susie Spindler, the Executive Director of ACE, the overseeing body for Cup of Excellence, speaks out about the recent ACE / NCA Alliance, and gives some history about the CoE and how it started.

Posted August 18, 2006 link


I just had a rough idea about this article.

For me, it is strange to do something about farmers and consumers together.  If something can be done and benefit both of farmers and consumers, that is good.  but, it is not good to do something benefit to the farmers and some other things to benefit consumers, seperately.

Is anything about the baristas?  If yes, that is something more.  And if yes, I would be interested in it.  For its international, China can be involved and I am interested in it.

 
Peter in Beijing
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I am looking for the way and the place to extend our trainning courses.
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MikeFerguson
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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2006, 6:33pm
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

What follows is only my opinion and does not necessarily represent the view of or an official statement by the SCAA.  I may also post elsewhere and if it is bad form to do so, I apologize to Mark and the CoffeeGeek community.

The SCAA was conceived in opposition. Like all opposition parties, the alliances within were tenuous, fragile, and often in conflict. Then, as now, the individuals involved found it difficult to agree on definitions of and assessment practices for quality. These were and are strong, independent, entrepreneurial personalities. They were never short on opinions and they argued a lot. In 1983, the SCAA’s first year  as a chartered organization, a governance policy dispute among the founding board members led to a vote among the membership that in effect removed Ted Lingle from that first board. These are the conditions in the foundry where audacious ideas are given form and brought to life.

But the impassioned diversity of ideas among SCAA’s founders converged into a unity of voice when they spoke of who they were not. They were not the NCA. Some of the history that led to this vehement opposition has been recorded in various places, though never in great enough detail for me. To my mind, it can be traced all the way back to the first world war, or further for those truly fascinated by the threads in history. But that work is for another time and place. I only mention it here to establish the context.

In my opinion, to understand the intensity and variety of reactions to the alliance between ACE and NCA, one must understand this: the SCAA was conceived in opposition. And in fact, few people understand this as well as Susie Spindler.

In the 1980’s Susie worked for the Coffee Development Group (CDG). The CDG was arguably one precursor to the SCAA and, indeed, partnerships between the two organizations were discussed as SCAA was being founded. Funded by the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the CDG was charged with increasing coffee consumption in the U.S. through marketing and education, and the idea of quality coffee was a component of these programs. In a very real sense, the CDG bridged the gap between the world of the NCA and the world of the emerging SCAA.  Despite opinions to the contrary at the time, the CDG was neither fully immersed in coffees “old guard,” nor was it a knee-jerk member of the opposition. These are Susie Spindler’s roots in coffee and, in my opinion, allow for a balanced, diplomatic, and realistic view of the coffee industry as a whole.  

In politics, policy is driven by the fringe and tempered by the center. It is just silly to imagine that politics could be absent, or should be absent, in any industry. We are an industry with a long supply chain and multiple stake holders with competing interests. Politics are pervasive. Those who lament politics in any organization or industry cannot be excused their intentional naiveté anymore than a congressman lobbing the same accusation across the aisle can be excused his insincerity.  

Those who can function, or at least communicate, on both sides of the aisle without compromising their principles tend to be the people who get real work done, the people who convert the barking from the fringe into functional programs. I consider Susie Spindler one of these people. Those who imagine Susie would allow CoE to be compromised by an alliance with any organization simply do not know Susie, her history with CoE, or her history within the coffee industry. I can think of only a handful of people as well suited for “missionary work” in the commodity world.  I would say the same for the ACE board.

As an association, the NCA has openly recognized the vitality and, I would say, their dependency on the specialty sector and the quality coffee imperative.  Though we represent only 15% of the volume of coffee, roughly speaking, within the entire U.S. coffee industry, we represent 40% of the total value. The NCA asks “gourmet coffee” questions in their annual consumer survey. They have steadily added specialty coffee topics to their various educational program curriculum. And now, they have not only endorsed the concept of an alternative market structures,  but essentially acknowledged the true value range for green coffee.  

It hardly matters whether you see this as the glass half empty or half full. Have we influenced their segment of the industry or have they infected ours? The fact is that there is no longer an “us” and a “them.” The “two party system” within the coffee industry disappeared some time ago. The “opposition” is unidentifiable because the coffee industry, like coffee itself, exists on a continuum. Most people interested in coffee can readily identify companies at both ends of the spectrum and they are light years apart. On one end are the companies we admire and the coffees we crave. We can all name them. These companies, passionate coffee consumers, many SCAA programs, and ACE/CoE define “true north.” Without them, our compass will fail. You can judge them by the company they keep if you want to, but in my experience, it is their passion that rubs off on those around them, and not the other way around.

As for the obsession with “personality conflicts,” well, of course there have been conflicts and disagreements, and some of them have been petty. Susie and I had one disagreement a few years ago that I think I handled poorly. But I think the point at which a disagreement in principle can be dismissed as a “personality conflict” is difficult to judge if you were not in the room, and even then it might be hard to tell. To me it is a pointless exercise. The outcome, whether the result of a stubborn unwillingness to compromise or an intellectually honest disagreement over standards, structure, or process, was an unfortunate distancing between two likeminded and complimentary industry groups. This should be remedied. But at the same time, the CoE alliance with NCA should be celebrated.

Mike Ferguson
Chief of Staff
SCAA
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skadttam
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Posted Sun Sep 17, 2006, 7:13pm
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

first timere here.

one of the things that i love so much abpout tthe specialty coffee world is that it is a grass roots, very mom & pop industry that is right there on the verge of being huge.  the first roaster i worked for was experiencing these very same growing problems.  it was a single retail outlet that roasted and sold it coffee through the retail, wholesale to other local coffee shops and through a website.  It was quickly changing from the lil neighborhood shop to a million dollar business.  this growth can be painful, can be frightening and in the end requires taking a leap of faith; holding on to the idea that those in charge will remain committed to the passion which brought them to the industry and will grow responsibly.  tat said this leap of faith is absolutely neccessary in order to prevent stagnation and subsequently regression.
it seems that the CoE is experiencing the same issues.  i feel fortunate enough to have tasted some of the CoE coffees and am excited about the possibilities of more of these suprememly superb coffees reaching "the masses".  i think we just have to hold on to the faith that susie will remain dedicated to the passion for the highest quality coffee and commitment to the source and stand strong in the company of giants.
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