March 21, 2014 Nathan

Is following the coffee industry like following sport?

I follow the ins and outs of the coffee industry – especially in Queensland – pretty closely (so congrats to the team at Dandelion and Driftwood for taking out every podium spot at the Queensland Barista Championships last weekend), I found this little piece from Jason Kottke pretty interesting. I think you could take the analogy to different places based on familiarity with what you’re talking about (Kottke is a self-confessed non-coffee drinker). Specialty Coffee is like the Champions League, pod coffee is like the hackers league I play in on a Saturday.

“Coffee, like almost everything else these days, is a sport. Everyone has a favorite team (or coffee making method or political affiliation or design style or TV drama or rapper or comic book), discusses techniques and relives great moments with other likeminded fans, and argues with fans of other teams. The proliferation and diversification of media over the past 35 years created thousands of new sports and billions of new teams. These people turned hard-to-find nail polish into a sport. Thesepeople support Apple in their battle against Microsoft and Samsung. This guy scouts fashion phenoms on city streets. Finding the best bowl of ramen in NYC is a sport. Design is a sport. Even hating sports is a sport; people compete for the funniest “what time is the sportsball match today? har har people who like sports are dumb jocks” joke on Twitter. Let people have their sports, I say. Liking coffee can’t be any worse than liking the Yankees, can it?”

In the top leagues focusing on really small improvements that give you an advantage does make a big difference. Where the analogy breaks down though is that in coffee, in my observation, it’s more like the whole specialty industry playing together against the whole pod coffee industry – people work together, share intelligence, and are typically pretty friendly to each other. Maybe in the sphere of fandom and ‘customer loyalty’ there’s a little bit of competition…


About the Author

Nathan Nathan is a coffee lover, home roaster, amateur barista and coffee tinkerer. He's married, has two kids, one turtle, and for a day job works for Creek Road Presbyterian Church. He previously worked in PR. This blog is his attempt to make coffee tax deductible.