Coffee’s Social Trend

When Starbucks officially became the ‘new home office’; the independent coffee bars latinized themselves introducing americans to the standing coffee-bar-habit. The excuse was to be social. OK then. I really don’t like Starbucks. And for several reasons, from capitalism to moral to plain taste. But I confess they get it so right at times, it’s amazing. On the day of presidential elections, coffee was free…. Hear Music has always been a fabulous label with the coolest compilations, and one of the first stores where consumers could create their own CDs….  Then the smart consumer gimmick,  and “working from home”  became synonymous with “working from my neighborhood Starbucks”.  Trendsetter they are.

Independent coffee stores, on the other hand,  are upgrading their design schemes to facilitate social interaction. As noted by the NYT, Stumptown Coffee Roasters in NYC’s Ace Hotel, Café Grumpy’s new Park Slope outpost, and Intelligentsia in Venice Beach have all found success in this shift away from coffee bar-cum-workspace culture. Maybe it’s that Italian thing (and the recently opened Eataly is their best representation so far), the latinization of habits (um cafezinho….)  Anyway, comfy chairs are out, and standing room-only bars are in. The purpose is to make one move away from behind the laptop, stand side by side a fellow customer…..and get social.

coffee media tour

Last week I took part of a media tour to a coffee farm in Brazil. Loads of fun. From New York to Pedregulho (!), we were 13 journalists armed with digital cameras and laptops, embarking into an interesting journey of coffee harvesting – very serious business — and a glimpse of life in São Paulo. I had a blast just watching my colleagues.  Brazil is bountiful and beautiful and the people are warm, the coffee is good, the fruit is to die for. The all-american crew was in awe.

We were guests of Café Octavio, a family-owned century business, producing high quality coffee, highly ranked in the International Coffee Organization. Coffee is gold currency for Octavio, and  going into the award-winning Café in the city feels like entering a coffee temple. We just couldn’t get enough….the variety of beverages, tastes, to the friendliness of the champion baristas…. I should be drinking it on my knees!

They photographed by the second, trying to desperately grasp something we brazilians have in our DNA: savoir vivre. How to capture the perfect snap of the smell of the espresso, sunset, fruit, laughing children, churrasco? It was funny to watch. Everything so “interesting” to the eyes of the foreigner. I wonder why.

But Café Octavio means business.  They recently acquired the equally family owned Dallis Coffee, a Queens-based roaster and supplier, and plans to have a Café in NYC somewhere on Madison Avenue.  Meanwhile in Brazil, their training program has the champion baristas who coach students from all over the country. The coffee picking is tedious, precise and done by more than 300 workers every day. Then it’s processed, and tested, and roasted. It’s an art. assortment of flavors and mixes is fabulous. The company thrives in quality control and coffee blend development. I will never drink a cup of coffee the same way again.