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Unmasking Coffee Buzzwords

Unmasking Coffee Buzzwords

The coffee industry is full of buzzwords, marketing jargon, that are supposed to aid in sales and maybe tug at consumers heartstrings. Some of the oldest and overused coffee buzzwords that are supposed to help customers identify superb quality are “premium,” “gourmet,” “rich,” and “fresh.” 

The world of specialty coffee has changed the use of those archaic marketing descriptors and has provided a fresh new batch that resonates with consumers looking to curate a beautiful experience and make them feel good about their purchase, “sustainable practices,” “sourced responsibly,” and the current  favorite: “direct trade.” 

But how true are these words?

Fact checking the classic buzzwords is fairly easy. You can brew and taste the coffee and determine its freshness quickly. Words like “premium" and "gourmet” are somewhat subjective, however specialty coffee folks could determine the quality of the coffee by running it through a grading process called cupping. Nonetheless they’re only words that hold no real value beyond what an individual gives them.

Fact checking the new school words is not as easy. If you hop over to most coffee company websites without a doubt you will see “sustainable practices” and “sourced responsibly” as a major tagline. You may even find pictures of the latest group sourcing trip experience, but this guarantees nothing, only that they picked coffee for pictures and gave away company swag to farmers and pickers. The point is “sustainability” is open for interpretation and you can pick and choose how “sustainable” one wants to be. “We have a recycling program and all of our nut milks are made in house.” 

“Sourced responsibly” is a rough one. Most coffee roasters buy their green coffee from the same 7 major coffee traders, whose job is to source the coffee and turn a profit based on a market controlled by people that are not from coffee growing countries. 

Coffee farm and coffee producers

Is it direct trade if you never took the time to meet the people you are engaging in trade with? 

“Direct trade” is my favorite term that is overused. Many claim to have direct connections to their coffee and those who produce it. Direct trade can be checked off a box with a few emails back and forth and a wire transfer, but a meaningful relationship should encompass more than a transaction. The reality is there are few that actually form and cultivate a relationship that is holistic, promotes partnership, and is built for longevity. 

At Mayorga, one of the things that I am most proud of is our human connection and the relationships we hold with our coffee growing partners. The relationships we have developed are ones built on trust, mutual respect, and understanding. We take pride in connecting with them in person and through WhatsApp, about family, personal well being, farm, and operations. Being able to visit them and discuss their vision, goals, and pain points holds a lasting impact and promotes growth. 

To engage in a direct trade relationship you should be boots on the ground, getting to know who you work with, understanding needs, and advocating for your trade partners. I don’t know about you, but it's hard to claim “direct trade,” when you’re buying coffee from a middleman. 


Coffee farm in Costa Rica

How much value should terms that are used so loosely have? 

If the idea of premium coffee and direct trade stimulate your interest, seek more information, reach out to your favorite companies and ask questions. If they tell it like it is and are living their truth then there is nothing to hide, chances are you will get a response right away. Look beyond the smoke and mirrors and cut past through the marketing jargon. Seek companies that create value and produce a quality product, not just a pretty picture. 

There is no denying that social media plays a huge role in the lives of most people. It has quickly become a tool for companies to connect with potential customers. Some companies dedicate whole teams to their social media experience and spend top dollar to curate consumable content. 

Look for those who instead of creating content, are documenting their process, brands that are doing the right thing don’t have to create something from nothing. 

It's hard to tell the customer to do their research before buying, but truly is the best way to buy products from companies that actually create a positive impact. Actions will always speak louder than words. 

This article is an opinion piece by Eduardo Choza - Director of Coffee at Mayorga Coffee y si no les gusta you know where to find me.

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