Quality coffee is reaching a whole new level of mainstream awareness, and the journalism that surrounds it is at a turning point. The idea that you could do a serious, in-depth coffee magazine and have it be targeted at anything but the most hardcore of industry people might have seemed laughable even a few years ago. We’ve witnessed that landscape changing rapidly online; and in print, newspapers are starting to take coffee writers as seriously as they take their wine or food writers. Now the quality coffee world has its own printed magazine, and it’s called Longberry.
James Hoffmann, cofounder of Square Mile Coffee and 2007 World Barista Champion, has announced the release of Longberry, an “occasional journal of coffee” available in print and e-book. The project is a collaboration between Hoffmann, Ben Szobody, “a longtime political journalist now in coffee-related development projects,” and Jacob Forrest, “a graphic designer and coffee hobbyist.” In a post announcing the project, Hoffmann makes a particular point of highlighting the facts that Longberry will not have ads, but will pay all of their contributors for content. Based on the first issue they’ve announced, it looks like they’ve found quite an interesting and wide-ranging set of authors to work with.
Sprudge.com spoke with Mr. Hoffmann, and asked him to shed some light on the project.
Sprudge: First, how did you get involved Ben Szobody and Jacob Forrest?
James Hoffmann: It’s a strange beginning. I met Ben Szobody back in 2008. I knew about him from his blog– www.chemicallyimbalanced.org –and while road-tripping with Counter Culture we ended up stopping by his house, hanging out, and chatting. We stayed in touch and more recently Ben came to the UK to study. Ben spent a long time as a political journalist in South Carolina–he’s the one with the background in writing. Jake–the designer–is a good friend of Ben’s.
When did the idea come about and how long did it take to produce the magazine from concept to printed document?
It has taken a very long time. At least a couple of years. The challenge is that we all have busy lives, and no one involved does this for a living.
As for the idea, I am sure we are not alone in finding coffee fascinating, full of stories that deserve exploration and sharing. However, very few of those stories leak outside of our small industry bubble. Most of the writing in coffee is for the trade press–but we wanted something that was interesting to anyone and everyone who finds the world interesting and worth learning more about.
Paying authors is something we’re big believers in, and it’s also a bullet point on your blog post announcing the magazine. Can you expand on how paying authors is important for Longberry?
I think the trend of asking people to write for free in order to “build a portfolio” or “gain exposure” is unfair and exploitative. I think great work deserves rewards, and I think you just have to build it into the model of the thing you create.
Are you at work on the next issue?
Yes, but slowly at this stage. The priority is to share the thing we’ve made. Going in, the three of us agreed that even if this is the only issue we ever produce–we’re proud and happy to have done it. We obviously hope there will be a lot more!
What do you envision the future of Longberry looking like?
We’d love to grow the physical copy side of things – though the challenges of physical media being sustainable are substantial. Distribution worldwide is tricky, but we think can be done. We don’t want or expect to be huge. If it could grow to the size where it could employ someone full time that would also be great.
More than that, we’d love to be part of more people discovering the depth and breadth of coffee.
Your website says: “Despite coffee’s enormous global influence and endlessly fascinating stories, the bulk of this wealth has rarely been published in an interesting, engaging way.” Hey, is that a dig on us?
No–it’s not a dig at Sprudge–the point is not that no one is trying, the point is that the ocean is vast. You are amongst the rare folk doing it. I didn’t say no one is doing it!
You say you want to tell “the stories we have to the interested members of the coffee drinking public.” What sorts of stories specifically do you think the coffee drinking public wants to/should hear?
That’s a great question. I think they’ve generally been exposed to the stories of coffee from the roaster and retail perspective. We’re not only looking for interesting stories, about anything in coffee, but also authors who see what we see in a completely different way. There’s a world of people in academia thinking and writing about coffee that we’re not really exposed to. We’d love to see a little bit of that leak out into the world, too!
Longberry is available for pre-order here. The articles “Pulp Natural” by Merry White and “Terroirism” by Stephen Wade are both available online to read right now. Follow Longberry Press on Facebook and Twitter.