Italian barista champion Francesco Sanapo recently starred in an advertising campaign for a new line of Green Mountain's Keurig K-Cups. If you click here, embedded cookies from the ad campaign will show up every time you check your OK Cupid profile. Brian W. Jones, a graphic designer whose viral twitter project developed into the blog “Dear Coffee, I Love You”, called him out in an op-ed blog post just a few days ago.
For a coffee culture that is continually discussed regarding their relevancy in the emerging progressive coffee scene, it’s sad to see the Italian Barista Champion being used in this way. The brand’s tagline, “Brew like a barista™” is insulting to Francesco’s accomplishments as well as every other barista who works passionately to serve great coffee every day.
It's very easy to take a knee-jerk reaction towards this sort of thing, and far more difficult to take a step back and view it a wider context. We find it curious, then, that Mr. Jones chose not to speak to Francesco directly, or even Google his name, before he authored his outsider's op-ed. Had he done so, he would have come across our recent profile of Francesco Sanapo while on assignment in Moscow (it is the top English-language Google result for his name).
“I start to study roasting first in Italy, and also in Denmark and Germany”, Francesco said, paying homage to the education and experience necessary to make the jump from barista to roaster. He’s planning to feature his roastworks prominently in the cafe space: “In Italy, if you want to show the difference, I think it is important to show. I want to have my roaster in the window. In Italy this is very unusual, but I want to show why my coffee, Francesco Sanapo Coffee, is very different”.
Francesco is currently in the process of financing a progressive venture to help elevate and advance specialty coffee in Italy. The difficulty of this undertaking – in the land of illy, in a coffee culture for whom “strong” and “dark” are the societal norms – is a gaping, unfathomably vast challenge, something that Sprudge.com is amazed, inspired and daunted by. It goes far, far beyond the comparatively simple endeavors of working in the American specialty coffee industry for a decade, or documenting its cultural foibles and morays on a website.
As an entity that represents the editorial voice of a passionate barista, one who has proudly worked for over a decade in the specialty coffee industry across America, we can say that we're not the least bit insulted by Francesco's involvement in Green Mountain's ad campaign.
So many, many facets of specialty coffee are funded on the back of compromise: our competitions, the vast majority of our media outlets, and most importantly, our cafes themselves. Many a barista champion has appeared in promotions for syrup companies, promoting a product that, on face value, is seemingly anathema to “every other barista who works passionately to serve great coffee every day”. High concept and high mindedness is fine when you're blogging, but it ignores the reality of what it takes to run a successful cafe, to fight the good fight in the trenches, and, if need-be, to endorse the best damn K-Cup you can find if it means you'll be opening a boutique roastery back home with the earnings.
These are realities we feel that Mr. Jones intentionally obfuscates in his editorial; they are realities that, while far from perfect, still exist on a day-to-day level in this industry. If you choose to criticize Mr. Sanapo for cross-branding with Green Mountain, and seek to maintain integrity in the aftermath, there is a bottomless list of specialty coffee paragons towards which your next op-ed should be directed. Start first with the humble mom and pop wholesale cafe, for whom busting ass and serving high quality coffee (and paying top dollar to partner with specialty roasters to do so) is part and parcel with the vanilla lattes that pay the rent.