Post Date: August 28, 2014

Why Good Coffee Matters

Value can be assigned to any product in a number of ways. Most simply, we can attribute a commercial value—how much we’d be willing to spend on it. More complex, however, are the other values we place on these products—how far we would travel out of our way in order to acquire it or the perception of improved quality of life derived from the product.

I would argue that the value of a given product is not entirely based on its commodity status alone or on what amount of trouble we voluntarily endure to receive it. The value of the products we choose to consume is ultimately based on the inherent value of people—those who work hard to produce it as well as those of us who enjoy the end result.

In this instance, let’s consider coffee as the product. What value does coffee add to everyday life? What trouble would you endure to get your morning cup? How much are you willing to spend on a simple cup of coffee? Ultimately, why does coffee matter?

I have been preparing and delivering specialty coffee to customers in the Phoenix area for almost a decade, and for the majority of people I have served in that time, life would simply not be the same without coffee. That magical and certainly divinely created elixir is not only the motivation to get out of bed, but the driving force of productivity. While caffeine enables many of us to make better use of our morning hours, the value of coffee is not rooted in its energy-harnessing capabilities. In the way that a chef cooks not only to nourish the body, but to fill the soul, coffee’s value exists outside the limitations of its invigorating properties.

Often, people view the coffee they purchase as a commodity, because that is how it is presented. The choice of which brand of coffee you buy at the grocery store is probably determined by the lowest price or perhaps the most certification stickers that are used to make you feel good about your selection. The coffee shop you stop by on your morning commute is probably based on your route to work—causing the least inconvenience to your routine—and not about the product you will receive.

In our culture, we seem to value the peripherals more than the end product. How convenient is it? How cost effective is it? How fast can I get it? If these are our standards, then the product will have little value, and thusly, there is no reason to care for quality, because it has fallen to the bottom of the priority list.

Here in Phoenix, we have seen a burgeoning expansion of specialty coffee shops and roasters over the past 6 years. With well known roasters like Cartel Coffee Lab and Press Coffee Roasters, as well as beloved cafés like Tempe’s Crêpe Bar or Giant Coffee in downtown Phoenix, the metropolitan area has become a wellspring of the craft coffee movement. With a host of available sources like these, McDonald’s, Circle K, or your office’s Keurig machine are the last places you should turn for coffee.

As a specialty coffee buyer, you will not only be supporting your local economy, but will positively affect the entire supply chain of the coffee industry. While paying $4 for a simple cup of black coffee might initially sound unreasonable, think about the number of hands it had to go through before you are able to enjoy it: the grower, the importer, the roaster, and the barista. All of these individuals played an essential role in the process. The value of the coffee, derived from the objective quality of the beverage, is also firmly based on the value of those who produced it.

Good coffee matters because people matter. Good coffee matters because the producers deserve to be rewarded for their efforts and they bring joy to people all over the world. Good coffee matters because you deserve to drink good coffee and because you are worth it.

Image courtesy MistoBox Coffee

Seth Mills

Director of Coffee and Education for Mistobox Coffee. Husband to Erin and father of Emma and Noah. Lover of coffee, cocktails, and community.

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