I had a vague realisation recently, though don’t know if it actually means anything. I think there are two different ways that roasters think about the coffee they sell.
Some, typically speciality and smaller roasteries, tend to think of the coffee they sell as ingredient. Similar to any other ingredient that a chef might buy in, sourced based on a combination of its provenance, its flavour and its price.
I think many of us quite like this idea, of coffee as an ingredient that can be used skillfully – though as we’re quality focused we’re probably pleased there aren’t many techniques (like brining, for exmaple) that could be used to improve cheaper cuts.
Then there are coffee roasters, who we might think of as being much larger, more commodity, who don’t really sell coffee as ingredient. Instead they create products. They have research and development teams, product development budgets and protocols.
Both sell bags of roasted coffee. The mindset is vastly different, as is the methodology. It is pretty hard to find a way for R&D and product development thinking, if what you are selling is a simple ingredient.
Maybe there is nothing in this. Maybe I’m just wrong and simplifying everything to the point of meaninglessness. However, I think that if you want to innovate in coffee then it is important to look for different viewpoints and mindsets to see if they take you to new places.