SCAA Symposium Video Asks: What’s Cool About Coffee?

What’s cool about coffee? Wrecking Ball Roaster’s Nick Cho leads a panel discussion with distinguished writers Oliver Strand, Julie Wolfson, and Melissa Allison to find out. The panel took place during last year’s Symposium and it was one of the many highlights of the two-day event. The SCAA Symposium will release this video in six parts.

Copy from SCAA:

How can specialty coffee craft a more compelling story and reach broad audiences? At Symposium 2012, we explored this question and examined what information is getting through, what’s getting lost, and what stories are yet to be told. With insights from several influential writers who each follow trends in specialty coffee, Nicholas Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters hosts as we explore trends, off-messages, and opportunities.

In this session, What’s Cool About Coffee: Media Perspectives on Engaging and Expanding Interest, we welcome Julie Wolfson, a Freelance Writer, Oliver Strand, Food Writer, and Melissa Allison, Business Reporter as panelists.

This video segment includes a preface from Cho along with video interviews conducted with the panelists prior to this event. Additional videos will be made available in the coming days with the on-site interviews conducted with the panel at Symposium 2012 in Portland, OR.

Erin Meister wrote about watching the panel live for Sprudge in April:

The tables were turned – and turned hard! – on a crowd of coffee people in a lunch coma the afternoon of Day 2, with a twofer of flipped philosophy on media and consumer perspectives of coffee, and a game-changing argument about improving and redefining the retail experience.

The first, a panel moderated by Wrecking Ball Roaster’s Nick Cho, comprised three prominent voices in the outside-coffee world: Seattle Times columnist Melissa Allison, Cool Hunting blogger Julie Wolfson, and the omni-contributive Oliver Strand. As writers at the mercy of cranky editors, rapid-fire deadlines, and superfickle consumer trends, what do these three media taste-makers think are the important stories to tell in coffee, from the angle of reader interest?

“The ‘artisinal food’ movement has taken hold of everybody,” Wolfson offered, speaking to Cool Hunting’s drive toward finding the hippest new spot, the most eye-catching new package, and the visual story behind the coffee and its place in a person’s individual design and lifestyle landscape. “More and more I hear people shifting their conversations from food and cocktails to ‘Where are you drinking coffee?’ and ‘Where is the best coffee?’”

Meanwhile, Allison spoke to the difficulties she faces as a business writer in a city that derives a significant amount of its economic health and growth from the coffee industry: “I’m used to writing for a business reader. When I write about Starbucks, I feel like the traditional business readers are getting what they want. But the independent coffeehouse customers and baristas… That’s a different story.”

“The coffee’s fun, but the coffee industry seems to be unhappy being told that coffee’s fun,” Strand said, laying a gentle smackdown on the sometimes blinding self-importance that specialty coffee industry insiders can exude when insisting that our “stories” be told in infinite, intimate detail.

“The [specialty coffee] industry has taken what is a very complicated product and made it more complicated. Most other industries take complicated products and make them simpler in terms of perception, in terms of understanding.”

Despite himself, Strand even drew comparisons between coffee and wine: “Wine is incredibly complicated, but it tastes great, and the story and narrative is very easy.” He would go on to say: “I think the wine analogy is a horrible idea and a terrible mistake [in coffee],” because of the imprecise use of a largely misappropriated vocabulary that it encourages. “The best wine is better than the best coffee, and you’re never going to match it. It’s never going to happen. So use your own words. Cheese isn’t trying to be like ‘cow wine,’ it has its own language.”

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