For “Wet Mill”
I have a pretty different take on this subject.
Early in the Twitter conversation, Peter G asked “So, since variety is better than country for purposes of predicting flavor, why do we say “The El Salvador” or “The Colombian” all the time?” Peter also challenged the notion of “taste of place.”
All of this could turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Asking these questions will very likely lead to some internet-savvy coffee roaster (likely also small and scrappy) to plunge in and respond to this entire conversation and do what Peter proposes, namely putting variety first, before country or farm. Whether or not this spreads as a trend in the industry will depend on how quickly the proverbial tipping-point is reached, which in this case is the point at which variety-first coffee labeling and recognition catches on with the consumer base. With third-wave coffee being the fast-growing trend as it is, it’s entirely plausible if not likely that the consumer base would play along.
Peter argues that there’s no such thing as “taste of place,” and that coffee flavor is not tied to the geography or growing conditions, but more the variety. But there are regional trends in variety, harvesting, processing, etc. Those regional trends create what “taste of place” is. But if we develop the specialty coffee industry into one where variety comes first, you’ll guarantee that any vestiges of “taste of place” are wiped from the earth. I believe that “taste of place” exists. It is indeed a social construct of sorts, but it comes from some level of tradition. There ARE classic flavor profiles from certain places, which third-wave coffee folks have wholly ignored. It’d be a shame to see them disappear. However, I will concede that some of what I’m stating above are debatable points.
This leads me to another thought entirely.
Leading with the country-name is not merely a device to help differentiate coffees from each other. They’re also an acknowledgement that these coffees come from peoples of certain nations. I’m going to resist the temptation to write-out a super-long manifesto on this subject, but suffice it to say, the idea of diminishing the value of the names of the nations that produce the coffees we buy and sell, inadvertently or not, shows how little we actually value those nations. Further flexing our first-world consumer muscles by knocking country-name down the coffee nomenclature heirarchy in an economy where we already exert near-complete dominance is beyond insult to injury. It would send the message that we come for the Bourbon, the Pacamara, and the Geisha, and we don’t care who produces it or in which third-world country, so long as it’s fucking delicious.
Obviously this is not what anyone here means to promote. But be careful what you wish for… that’s all I’m saying.