Hi. I’m on vacation this week so I was planning to phone-in this week’s blog post, but then I was checking out George Howell Coffee in Boston’s new Godfrey Hotel, and I found this:
Yes, that is a G.D. $80 bag of coffee beans. So this post is going to be about the La Esmeralda Mario Carnaval Panama beans because they are $80/bag, which seems crazy to me, so I wanted to know why. I mean, I’m sure this coffee is amazing – transformative even – but unless it literally makes itself and brings it to me… in bed… there is no coffee in the world I’m paying $100+ pound for. I don’t mean to offend anyone, least of all George, but that’s just the truth.
I asked Michael Bullock, head barista at George Howell Coffee, why $80? Why why why?! And Michael started to give me such a detailed, smart, legit-sounding answer that I asked him to start over so I could record it. This is what he said (yes I typed dictation for you): “The La Esmeralda from Mario Carnaval is from the La Esmeralda Farm down in Panama. In 2004, it blew up the coffee industry at the Cup of Excellence Competition because it had the character traits of an Ethiopian, but it was from Panama. It’s the Geisha variety, which has such a small yield; it does not yield nearly as much as the Bourbon variety does and such. It is so much more prized because of that and because of its subtleties and floral aspects. So because of its success at The Cup of Excellence, we have to buy it via auction, which drives up the price. And, because we pay so much for it and we have more at stake, we fly it in instead of having it shipped to us like most roasters do with their coffees. This gives us more control over the quality and allows us to process it more quickly, but, of course, both of these things add to the overall cost.”
So that’s why. Thanks, Michael. 🙂 I didn’t think to ask him why people wouldn’t just buy the Ethiopian-tasting beans from Ethiopia. Next time.
Who’s George Howell: According to my favorite source of factually accurate information – Wikipedia – “George Howell was one of the pioneers of the specialty-coffee movement in the United States in the early 1970s. He was the founder of The Coffee Connection, a high-end coffee retailer based in Boston, Massachusetts which was acquired by the Starbucks Corporation in 1994.” Since you asked, the reason that matters to me is because I moved to Boston from Los Angeles in 1995. This was the pre-Starbucks Boston… or there was one Starbucks, but it was in the suburbs so I never went. Because I really was into dark roast at the time, I did not like The Coffee Connection’s coffee… too light! I remember complaining about this to someone who knew coffee from both companies, and he told me “George Howell calls it ‘Charbucks.'” I remember rolling my eyes and thinking What a pretentious jerk… dark roast is the best!
Now I know better. Sorry, George. 😉
By the way, would you ever pay $80 for a bag of coffee beans?
City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.
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