There's a mystery afoot in the city of Portland, Oregon.
A coffee mystery, you see, implying commercial grift most foul. It began in the most analog and innocent of ways: a letter in the post. An act laden with historical significance, today the daily mail is mostly the domain of bills and Super Shopper circulars, but the news we receive each day from the mail carrier still has the capacity to shock, delight, and even disturb.
So it was on an otherwise boring, sun-drenched summer Tuesday on the banks of the Willamette River, when local coffee roaster Zach Perkins went to check the mail at his place of employment, Roseline Coffee. He received a letter that day that would change his life forever.
It comes from a very real address in a non-descript apartment complex in Las Vegas, authored by one Daniel G. (last name withheld for legal reasons). The letter asserts the following:
2. That the letter writer attempted to brew said coffee.
3. Upon tasting said coffee, the writer found it to be “stale.” (No definition of the term stale is offered.)
4. A replacement bag of coffee and an “explanation how this happened” are summarily requested.
Here is a scan of the letter—we've edited out the sender's address and last name for privacy reasons:
“We thought it was a scam off the bat because we had no record of him within our system,” Perkins tells Sprudge. And so, in the chummy, familial vibe the Portland coffee scene somehow maintains despite the competition that undergirds all forms of late capitalism, Perkins reached out to a few fellow roasters directly, and posted copies of his letter to social media.
A maelstrom ensued.
It turns out that nigh-identical letters were received over the last calendar year by Heart Roasters, Nossa Familia, and Dapper & Wise Coffee Roasters. [Ed. note: this is a partial list of brands contacted and confirmed at press time.] A similar style of contact from the same name and address took place back in September of 2017, hitting Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Even more shocking, an in-person version of the “stale coffee complaint” was made by a guest at a company that shall remain nameless until we can attain formal verification.
Here's a copy of the nigh-identical letter received in 2017 by Heart:
“We keep tight records on all of our orders, and we had nothing for this name or address,” says Heart Roasters Director of Wholesale Ryan Cross. “It's a scam.”
A scam indeed! And so now let's throw open the flood gates to you, dear reader. Have you been contacted by a mysterious Daniel G. of Nevada, seeking recompense for allegedly “stale” coffee? Did he send you letters in the same oddly perfect, hand-written style? And WTF is stale coffee, anyway? Do they mean too far off roast (which is itself a point of significant disagreement)? Are they talking about the dreaded “baggy” term sometimes applied to green coffee that is imagined to be past crop, but is actually a set of flavor associations with broad possible diagnosis?
Moreover, did you send this person coffee in response to their query? Or did your scam senses tingle, like the above recipients? Did you take photos of these letters, and will you send them to us so that we may run more of them?
Perhaps most importantly: Are you Daniel G. reading this right now? Would you be willing to share your side of the story, and perhaps help define what “stale” means because we really aren't sure?