The term “coffee community” gets thrown around a lot, mostly when talking about the quality of a city’s coffee scene or about the fraternal nature of its coffee professionals. While these usages aren't incorrect, there is a sense of the phrase that gets more to the heart of what the terms really means, and it is one that times of disaster often pulls into focus. It’s the idea of a community, not really in the geographical sense, but within the notion that its members look out for one another, particularly by the sharing of resources.
We’ve seen this quite a bit in the days of COVID-19 and in a variety of ways. It could be as simple as buying coffee or merch from a beloved roaster to help keep them afloat when most all wholesale outlets are out of commission. It could be creating a list of virtual tip jars a la GoFundBean to help these individuals tap into a larger network and hopefully a larger pool of donors. Or it could a gesture on a grander scale, like that of Melitta who we reported last week were donating all the profits from online pour-over sales to virtual tip jars.
Adding to that list of grand gestures is Seattle Coffee Gear, who have recently committed giving $150,000 to baristas, cafes, roasters, and coffee techs across the country.
Those funds come in two waves. The first of which, a $20,000 donation quietly made to the Washington Barista Relief Fund (as quietly as a donation greater than the goal amount can be anyway) will be distributed by Coffee at Large along with the Chain Collaborative, the creators of the campaign, to coffee professionals from around the state who signed up on the tipjardatabase.com. “We wanted to give back to all categories in specialty coffee, baristas, roasters/cafes, and techs. So, since we're based in the state of Washington, we decided that helping the local baristas through the Washington Barista Relief Fund was where we wanted to focus those funds,” Seattle Coffee Gear CEO Mike Atkinson tells Sprudge.
With the remaining $130,000, the online coffee equipment retailer will be casting a much wider net. Along with roasters and cafes from across the country with virtual tip jars on GoFundBean who will be receiving grants, Seattle Coffee Gear will be pitching it to help out techs and roasters cafes with whom they already have a relationship as well as reaching out to suppliers and “people very connected in specialty coffee” for suggestions on other coffee businesses that could use assistance.
Craft roasters, baristas, and technicians are the backbone of the specialty coffee industry. Since the onset of the Stay at Home orders, it has been top of mind on how we can help the people within the coffee industry that have been hit so hard by this awful pandemic. The survival of these small businesses and baristas is vital to the future of specialty coffee. This was a heartfelt effort by the team at Seattle Coffee Gear to put this campaign together and give back to our coffee community, that in turn, has given so much to us.
In times of turmoil you get to see the best and worst of a person, of a company, a community, and time and time again the specialty coffee world proves it is willing to step up to the challenge, to lend a helping hand where one is desperately needed. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that a company with the means to help out fully embraces the meaning of “community” and their place within it. It is nonetheless nice to see and worth celebrating, even if the small ray of sunshine is mostly obscured by the giant, ominous grey cloud. But it provides a bit of hope, hope that if we all pull in the same direction, we may just get through this together.