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Did George Howell Shade Counter Culture? Turns Out...

Did George Howell Shade Counter Culture? Turns Out Nope

This is a David Brent-level stitch-up.

In a recent article in Quartz, which is like The Atlantic’s millennial blog, writer Keenan Steiner explores Cuban coffee and its potential for growth in America’s new post-embargo landscape. It’s been over 50 years since coffee from the island nation has (legally) been brought into the states, and there’s a bit of a mad dash to be the first company to do so. Spoiler alert: it’s Nespresso.

Coffee from a new origin making its way to America is pretty newsworthy, even if the first incarnation of Cuban coffee seen stateside in over half a century will have all the origin characteristics roasted (and podded) out beyond recognition. But there was something peculiar about a specific passage in the article that caught our eye here at the Sprudge Wire news bunker. See if you can spot it:

Gourmet brands like Dean & DeLuca would seem to be the right marketers for Cuban coffee, though the fanciest brands, such as Stumptown and Intelligentsia, are less likely to be interested. The relatively low altitudes of Cuba’s mountains don’t make for the very best coffee, according to George Howell, a coffee quality expert. He cited a slightly cheaper roaster, like Counter Culture, or importers like Sustainable Harvest and Equal Exchange, as potential suitors.

“A slightly cheaper roaster” like Counter Culture? Et tu, George? The shade of it all! I mean, I’m no coffee quality expert. I drink my orange mocha Frappuccinos one leg at a time like the rest of the world, but describing Counter Culture’s coffees as “cheap” to a reporter seems rude and inaccurate.

And it appears George strongly agrees! We reached out to Mr. Howell for comment on the seeming slight in the quoted passage—the only mention of his name throughout the entire 1200-word article—and the clarification he offered was well-reasoned and unsexy and definitely won’t drive readership. But we will bring it to you regardless because #journalism

During our phone chat, Howell explained that he was contacted by the Quartz, but since he wasn’t planning on importing any Cuban coffee he didn’t believe he would be of much help. Instead, he gave the reporter a list of specialty roasters that might. He noted that roasters like Stumptown and Intelligentsia only buy “high-end coffees” so they may not be interested in Cuban coffees (yet), because none of these coffees are going to score very high (yet), though they could still provide valuable insight. But Counter Culture, a roaster Howell states not only carries a wider spread of coffees but often sources in a “socially-oriented” way, might have interest in bringing in the newly-available import, thus putting them on the top of the list of high-end, quality-focused specialty roasters to reach out to.

Throughout the entire conversation, Howell was nothing but complimentary towards Counter Culture, and in truth, it’s hard to imagine the G-Man playing Pokemon Go with the kids at Quartz or whatever and talking shit whilst catching Pidgeys. That’s because it didn’t happen.

So there you have it: the boring truth peppered with a little unsavory journalism. But no beef.

Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.

*top image via GeorgeHowellCoffee.com


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