Thursday, August 21, 2014

You've gotta be sh$%!*ng me

Thanks to long-time reader of this blog Patrick Booth for sharing this story from NPR, about an entrepreneur who's decided that the way to improve Kopi Luwak (the notorious "recycled" coffee made by collecting beans that have been eaten and shat out by the palm civet) is to supersize things by feeding coffee to elephants and collecting what comes out the other end.

Kopi Luwak was perhaps excusable when it was a rare novelty made from beans found in the forests of Indonesia, but it has long since morphed into a hideous (on many levels) enterprise involving keeping the hapless civets in captivity. It was - and is - in George Howell's incomparably precise and concise summation, "coffee from assholes for assholes."

I wish I could come up with an equally witty summary for this new project, but "Enema & Ivory" sung to the old Michael Jackson tune just doesn't cut it. Perhaps what's needed is an insistence from consumers that, in the interests of animal welfare, they'll only buy elephant shit coffee from free range pachyderms. Then at least there's a fair chance of these noble beasts flattening their handlers-cum-bean-collectors into the ground, thereby putting an end to the enterprise and vindicating Darwin once again.


  1. Hi Kevin. This doesn't relate to your elephant coffee post but wanted to pass on some news to you. As you know, the Keurig 2.0 was recently released. It essentially locks out third party coffee pod makers. Well, the lock has been broken:

  2. Thanks Jordon. You're right, that didn't take long. As it happens, I commented about the 2.0 in response to this recent article:

  3. Your comment from the above article: " let’s start with a pie chart of where the extra ~$8-10 a pound being charged by leading Third Wave roaster-retailers vs. the big second wave players actually goes, ’cause it sure as hell isn’t mostly going to farmers."

    I'd love to see this pie chart. I mean a lot of these roasters portray themselves like they are charity to the farmers. Well, like most charities they have pie charts to show where the money is going. My guess where that extra $10 per pound is going in creasing order: Marketing, Travel, Deep Pockets.

  4. Hi Patrick,

    It seems to me that the answer to the "where's the extra $10 going?" question are pretty complex and obviously vary with the firm in question. For me the biggest issue is that the customer's interest in value for money spent never seem to even be a factor, meaning that unnecessary costs are passed on without much thought.

    Without a doubt, unncecessary travel to origin spread over relatively few pounds of volume (vs., say, Illycaffe or Peets or Allegro) is one major area for waste. Another big one is operating multiple roasting plants in muiltiple markets instead of building one good one and investing in packaging that can actually keep your coffee fresh. Not to be overlooked is overpaying for "microlots" and, in general, overpaying for coffee - which again is part of the model of bilking the consumer in order to subsidize the roaster and, to a much lesser extent, the producer, rather than looking to create a sustainable model that honors the customer as much as any other stakeholder. As I've said on several occasions, the narcissism of the Third Wave model is its most obvious feature, and disguising it as altruism doesn't make stale, under-roasted 12 oz. bags of coffee selling for full pound+ prices any more attractive.