Our Valued Sponsor
OpinionsConsumer ReviewsGuides and How TosCoffeeGeek ReviewsResourcesForums
Articles: CoffeeGeek Columnist Feedback
The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
Commercial Equipment
Nuova Simonelli, La Marzocco, Rancilio. Nationwide installation. Instant financing options.
www.seattlecoffeegear.com
 
Not Logged in: Log In to Postlog in
New Topics updated topics   New Posts new posts   Unanswered Posts new unanswered  
Search Discussion Board search   Discussion Board FAQ faq   Signup sign up  
Discussions > Articles > Columnist... > The Cup of...  
view previous topic | view next topic | view all topics
showing page 1 of 2 last page next page
Author Messages
MarkPrince
Moderator
MarkPrince
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 5,523
Location: Vancouver, BC
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: KvdW Speedster
Grinder: Compak K10 WBC
Vac Pot: A bit too many
Drip: Clive Coffee Drip Stand
Roaster: Hario Glass Retro Roaster
Posted Fri Aug 18, 2006, 12:00am
Subject: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

The Cup of Excellence and the NCA
Professionally Speaking article by Susie Spindler

Susie Spindler, the Executive Director of ACE, the overseeing body for Cup of Excellence, speaks out about the recent ACE / NCA Alliance, and gives some history about the CoE and how it started.
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
MarkPrince
Moderator
MarkPrince
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 5,523
Location: Vancouver, BC
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: KvdW Speedster
Grinder: Compak K10 WBC
Vac Pot: A bit too many
Drip: Clive Coffee Drip Stand
Roaster: Hario Glass Retro Roaster
Posted Fri Aug 18, 2006, 10:13pm
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

My own comments on this:

It's truly a shame that the SCAA and ACE can't seem to work more cooperatively. Here's how I see it.

There's egos and history on both sides. But the SCAA has also shown a desire to "control" (ie, own) everything it is involved in. They've shown this with the Q Auction, with the the Barista Guild, with the Roaster's Guild, with the WBC and other things.

I'm not saying that control is good or bad. It can be good when done right. It can also be bad when mismanaged.

Right now, I believe the SCAA needs to get its own house in order before trying to control or run anything else. I also believe the organization will be much stronger if, once their own house is in order, start thinking in terms of alliances instead of ownership. Just as an example: I never agreed with the concept of the SCAA owning the BGA, and was warning against it from the beginning when Dismas Smith first told me about the idea. A lot of the stuff I warned about came to fruition (little more than verbal support, no money, no built infastructure - at least until recently), and if anything, the Roasters' Guild has even more issues, even though it has more visible events and status. The WBC? Well, you've seen my words on the WBC. ;)

This is purely my opinion, but there seems an overriding desire within the SCAA management and board over the years to "own" things in the specialty coffee realm. I really think this is flawed. There's plenty of talented people and brilliant ideas out there that would probably come to better fruition and execution if they were simply allied with the SCAA but ran their own show. ACE is a prime example of this - it works, and is a helluva bigger success story than any of the mentioned subsets of the SCAA. It's got problems for sure, but you never hear the kind of criticism lobbed against FT or even the BGA or RG - you never hear this lobbed towards CoE.

What is truly a shame is that personal desires, egos (on both sides - Susie fully admits her role in this) and just plain stubbornness has seemed, at least on some parts, to have overlooked the real reason for why CoE exists and how it could even be much better: the farmers. Recognition for their work. A fair wage for what they do. Getting more quality coffee into the hands of the consumers. Instead, petty fights over things like cupping forms (I kid you not) amongst other things took centre stage to preventing a wider scope and grand alliance between CoE and the SCAA. At the very least, Susie and the ACE board have just moved beyond the SCAA and found an alliance elsewhere that hopefully will benefit many more farmers and their families.

Most people who know about the Q auction believe it's a failed experiment. I don't know where the Q stands today - I hear rumbles about it coming back, but I don't honestly know. eCafe is happening now (Ethiopian auctions), and I'm not sure what the SCAA's involvement is, beyond licensing their auction software to the non-profit - but who knows - maybe the SCAA owns that too, maybe they don't (does anyone know?).

So now ACE is working with NCA. Something personally I'm not thrilled with, but you know what? If the farmers benefit, I'm all for it. I just wished it was the SCAA doing it instead. But instead of that, we have future SCAA board presidents on record (or at least online) being critical of the CoE and making statements like the one quoted in the article - which shows they don't know the history between the two organizations.

I think all parties involved - today, next year, in 2008 (and yes, I'm talking about future Presidents of the Board too) have to look outside their own sphere and desires and political slants and even biases and start thinking about specialty coffee - from seed to cup - and how sometimes, you have to do things you may not want to do, in order to benifit many others. Once the SCAA does (hopefully) get its house back in order, maybe it's time to start thinking alliances instead of ownership.

Mark

 
CoffeeGeek Senior Editor
www.twitter.com/coffeegeek www.flickr.com/coffeegeek, www.instagram.com/coffeegeek (you get the picture)
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
jim_schulman
Senior Member
jim_schulman
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,772
Location: Chicago
Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Sat Aug 19, 2006, 12:29am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

I do not know the rules for a farmer submitting to the COE or the other prize auctions. I have, however, cupped my way through a few of the complete sample sets.

My impression is that these coffees are on a very steep pyramid indeed. Of around 30 samples, the top 3 or so will be spectacular, the next 5 or 6 will be as good as the premium priced relationship coffees the good roasters are now getting, and the other 20 or so are run of the mill specialty coffees, no different from an average lot imported by Royal and sold to home roasters.

If these auctions are really attracting all the best coffee grown, then we are in a very sad situation -- the great, 90 point plus, specialty coffees amount to at most 100 bags per year from each of maybe 15 countries. That's just about enough great coffee to supply the CG forums and no more!

Obviously, something is very wrong with this math. The simple fact is that I get as many 90+ cups from plain vanilla Royal imports  than from COEs or other auction lots. In other words, the coffee industry as a whole has been doing a fairly miserable job identifying and highlighting the great coffees of the year.

How does one solve this problem?

Geoff Watts, who would know this,  is on record saying that he believes relationship coffees have a better chance of highlighting the great coffees than do auctions. He may have a point. But I think Intelligentsia and other roasters in this class have done more by putting the superspecialty coffees in their own category and charging premium prices for them. This creates a public awareness that there are great coffees out there, and it is the demand that will ultimately create the supply.

So how does the NCA fit in? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If they start selling average coffees as "submitted to the COE" or some such; they are, in effect, bringing about a far larger market change. They would be abandoning their old party line, that coffee is a commodity where the only issues are price and convenience, and conceding that they are, on the whole selling low end coffees, and that one can do a lot better.

It's fairly certain they will exploit their COE connections in this manner to sell swill as specialty; and it's fairly certain we'll all be wringing our hands over it. But this is actually a good thing: "hypocrisy is the complement evil pays to good." By selling bogus specialty, companies like Maxwell House will be conceding that their regular stuff is not good. It's a message the mass market buyer will hear more clearly than anything we can say.

 
Jim Schulman
www.coffeecuppers.com
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
MarkPrince
Moderator
MarkPrince
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 5,523
Location: Vancouver, BC
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: KvdW Speedster
Grinder: Compak K10 WBC
Vac Pot: A bit too many
Drip: Clive Coffee Drip Stand
Roaster: Hario Glass Retro Roaster
Posted Sat Aug 19, 2006, 8:04pm
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

jim_schulman Said:

It's fairly certain they will exploit their COE connections in this manner to sell swill as specialty; and it's fairly certain we'll all be wringing our hands over it. But this is actually a good thing: "hypocrisy is the complement evil pays to good." By selling bogus specialty, companies like Maxwell House will be conceding that their regular stuff is not good. It's a message the mass market buyer will hear more clearly than anything we can say.

Posted August 19, 2006 link

Interesting viewpoint !

My concern, something I talked to Susie about on the phone quite a bit, was envisioning the day when you would see a can of Maxwell House, still containing the robusta-laden swill inside, but outside branded as a "supporter of the Cup of Excellence" or some other wording. Susie says that this is not possible and that ACE has a firm control over the branding and logo - only CoE coffees can have the CoE logo; however, just like on the front page of CoffeeGeek we say a supporter of the CoE, Nestle or P&G or their breathren could start putting the same thing on their stationary, on their annual reports, on their marketing material. But there's very clear rules about putting it on products.

Also, this article has not gone over well with at least one person - I had a phone convo with Nick today, who was, well, very passionate in his talk with me, and supposedly this is going to be the prime discussion fodder for the PF podcast they're recording tonight. My main worry as expressed to Nick on the phone is that I worry he's only going to focus on a few paragraphs from Susie's article; I told him and I'll tell anyone to do that is to do kinda what both SCAA and ACE were doing five years ago - forgetting the bigger picture and just focusing on ridiculous, minor things. This article covers a helluva lot more than some minor fighting between people in the SCAA and ACE.

The big picture? The farmers. The next biggest picture? Getting the public to think of coffee as culinary. ACE truly believes this alliance will benefit many, many farmers, and after getting the inside scoop and reading this article myself, I believe that to be true.

Anything else read between the lines in this article is just chest beating and protecting personal interests, imo.

Mark

 
CoffeeGeek Senior Editor
www.twitter.com/coffeegeek www.flickr.com/coffeegeek, www.instagram.com/coffeegeek (you get the picture)
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
ChrisChan
Senior Member


Joined: 20 Aug 2006
Posts: 1
Location: Tulsa
Expertise: Pro Roaster

Espresso: Rancilio Classe 10
Grinder: Mazzer Super Jolly
Vac Pot: Would like one
Drip: American Metalware
Roaster: Probat
Posted Sun Aug 20, 2006, 3:25am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

Thanks for posting this.

This is my first post so I should probably introduce myself. I am not sure if I am an average coffeegeeker but I have been a long time lurker and this is my first time calling. I just want to say that I was reading this site 4 years ago and it is what got me interested in coffee beyond just making a good cup in the morning. In fact, at the age of 30, I changed my profession completely. I left behid a career I went to college for and got involved in coffee. Now I am a roaster and partner in a small venture in my city. I owe it all to coffeegeek and the people that I got to know on the website, not the least of which Mark Prince and his help to me in emails a couple of years ago (I don't know if you remember Mark but you got me in touch with really good people in this part of the US and I owe you a lot for that). I am writing this to give some background about the impact this website has had on my life and how happy my new trade is making me. I am also writing because I finished listening to the latest portafilter podcast where Nick and Jay were absolutely brutal towards someone who I think is supposed to be a friend of theirs...... this same Mark Prince. Brutal might be too kind! They said things I would not consider sayng about my worst enemy. It was like listening to a person stab his brother in the back repeatedly. I can't imagine how Mark feels about this. This article is the reason why Nick is so upset at Mark. He says it has no place here on this site. I beg to differ. As someone new to this profession I really appreciate that this website does talk about professional issues and consumer ones. It gave me insight and history into cup of excellence and let me know that something I was concerned with (I am on the mailing list for the press releases) is something that I should not be so concerned with. It has a place here.

I am a picturebook lurker..... that dictionary definition kind. I read a lot of coffee related websites and blogs but try to stay under the radar but I felt strongly enough about this and owe so much to this website and Mark personally that I needed to speak up on this so I signed up for a account. Nick said on the podcast that he lost respect for Mark and that coffeegeek's time has come and gone. I was a big fan of the portafilter podcast and have been listening and downloading since the first episode but to me, Nick lost my respect with this unbelievable rant he had against Mark and this article. Nick: I know from reading this forum I am not alone in my situation. Mark was a great help to me two years ago when he didn't have to do a thing. This site has been a benefit for me and my personal enjoyment of coffee and my start in this business. I know others have the same experiences because they write in the forums about it. I recall reading them and thinking 'thats my story too!!!!!' The way you talked about this site and Mark who I thought was a friend was a shame.

Sincerely,

Chris
back to top
 View Profile Link to this post
Fireweed
Senior Member


Joined: 30 Jul 2004
Posts: 21
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Aug 20, 2006, 11:00am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

I have had an opinion about Nick and Jay for some time now based on their participation in cgland, and how they come across on other boards and their podcast, but it was always tempered by an impression that Mark always felt highly of them. What they have done just solidified what I feel about these guys. I'll probably get censored out, but they are xxxxxxxx. (edited by moderator)

Rick.
back to top
 View Profile Link to this post
MarkPrince
Moderator
MarkPrince
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 5,523
Location: Vancouver, BC
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: KvdW Speedster
Grinder: Compak K10 WBC
Vac Pot: A bit too many
Drip: Clive Coffee Drip Stand
Roaster: Hario Glass Retro Roaster
Posted Sun Aug 20, 2006, 11:58am
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

Guys, I really appreciate the support; but could we keep this thread more on topic about the article, and less about what was said somewhere else about me by a couple of guys late at night.

I'd be interested to hear any thoughts about how you feel the NCA / ACE alliance might shake out. As an example, NCA is huge, massive, and how do you think that will play into where the CoE goes - do you think that, all nice words by Susie aside, the NCA may try to leverage things completely to their advantage in a few years or do you think that they will play by the rules and just end up being a big benefit to the CoE program?

Mark

PS - Chris, I do remember you, and it's really cool to hear that your business is going well. fire off an update to me via email, if you can! Love to try your coffee too!

 
CoffeeGeek Senior Editor
www.twitter.com/coffeegeek www.flickr.com/coffeegeek, www.instagram.com/coffeegeek (you get the picture)
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
jim_schulman
Senior Member
jim_schulman
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,772
Location: Chicago
Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Sun Aug 20, 2006, 1:37pm
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

I've been around the specialty coffee world for a while now. As in every other world, politics is unavoidable. People have different opinions about matters they believe are vital, and this leads to fights. Sometimes, like probably in this case, the fights result in public spats that people will regret later on.

There is, however, an overarching theme to most of these fights; the nature of the SCAA.  As a trade organization including importers, roasters, and cafes from tiny to quite large,  along with the professionals working in these areas, they are an umbrella organization for diverse groups with completely different, and frequently conflicting, interests.  This will make them anything but proactive when it comes to new developments; especially the new developments during the last five to ten years.

If I had to summarize these developments, I would use the slogan "specialty from bean to cup" That is, that every step of the process is professionally done, at the highest quality grade, transparent to consumers, and providing decent livelihoods for people, sustainability for resources. The internet revolution makes this process technologically feasible; while a high level of consumer acceptance makes it an attractive buisines opportunity.

But an attractive opportunity for whom? For many SCAA members, it simply means their equipment, stock, training, and business relationships are devalued as they get blindsided by a new wave of competition. These members pay their dues too, and have a right to object if the SCAA starts passing out shovels at their funerals.

There are also legal barriers to the SCAA becoming a standard setting body. In continental Europe, with its mercantilist business traditons, such a transformation of the SCAA would be less of a problem. There, trade organizations can become quasi-governmental institions that can create standards, certify them, and enforce them. Short of the SCAA getting folded into the FDA, this is not something a US trade organization could do, even of it wanted too. Moreover, the viability of continental style mercantilism is far from clear in a global economy

The alternative is for organizations like the COE, or even the Barista Guild, to imitate organizations like Fair Trade or the Rain Forest Alliance. They should raise their profile with consumers, then sell their certifications to interested merchants. I can see such voluntary certifications proliferating, and filling the information and quality gap left by the collapse or absence of national level standard setting bodies.

In this endeavor, they can expect no more than a friendly pat on the back by SCAA. Getting upset by its refusal to do more seems to me a waste of time. Nevertheless, it remains a useful organization precisely because it is the umbrella of the very dysfunctional specialty coffee family. Without it, discussion and acceptance of these initiatives would move much more slowly.

 
Jim Schulman
www.coffeecuppers.com
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
onocoffee
Senior Member
onocoffee
Joined: 5 Sep 2002
Posts: 733
Location: Towson, Maryland
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: La Marzocco Linea 2AV, 3AV &...
Grinder: 4 Mazzer Major Autos, Compak...
Vac Pot: That crazy Bodum eSantos
Drip: Bunn CWT Twin, Bunn Water...
Roaster: Petroncini The Crumb
Posted Sun Aug 20, 2006, 6:57pm
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

jim_schulman Said:

The alternative is for organizations like the COE, or even the Barista Guild, to imitate organizations like Fair Trade or the Rain Forest Alliance. They should raise their profile with consumers, then sell their certifications to interested merchants. I can see such voluntary certifications proliferating, and filling the information and quality gap left by the collapse or absence of national level standard setting bodies.

Posted August 20, 2006 link


I'll leave the brickbatting for other people to throw about in another forum and another time.

Jim touches on what I think is the central problem to all of this:  the SCAA.  There are those who "defend the faith" and there are those who have either given up, or are on the verge of giving up, a lost cause.

There's always a lot of discussion about positioning the SCAA as a standard setting body, but to what means?  Currently, SCAA "certification" means nothing in the minds of the average consumer - which the core market of the typical coffee retailer.  I see it on a daily basis.  What does "Gold Cup Certification" mean to my customer who thinks coffee is best served with a double-shot of hazelnut syrup and a healthy dose of half-half cream?  It's meaningless.

The only thing that gives these SCAA certifications any semblance of meaning are the retailers who have gone through the process and now spend time, effort and money promoting it themselves.

The SCAA is basically invisible to the public eye.  

If we take the Gold Cup Certification as an example, the SCAA would serve it's interests and those of it's members by creating a national campaign promoting the certification.  A "Got Gold Cup?" campaign, if you will.  Create awareness and "a buzz" about the certification and make it chic and de rigeur to the general consumer who will then expect and "demand" it - just like Transfair has achieved with Fair Trade.

Many in forums that I read question the alliance between CoE and NCA because they think the SCAA would have been the better partner, but is this so?  Is the SCAA, an organization that has demonstrated time and time again a reluctance/resistance to promote a serious national campaign, the right organization to promote CoE?  Is the SCAA the right organization when much confidence, faith and trust has been lost, especially during the past year?

Maybe that's the question people should be asking.
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Contact via AOL Instant Messenger Link to this post
HasBeanSteve
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Jun 2003
Posts: 55
Location: Stafford
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: La Spaziale 2grp Spazio
Grinder: La Spaziale Lusso
Vac Pot: Cona B, C ,D
Drip: Bravilor
Roaster: Ambex YM 2kg, 5kg and 15kg
Posted Tue Aug 22, 2006, 1:19pm
Subject: Re: The Cup of Excellence and the NCA, Professionally Speaking
 

I donít believe this is the place for this article, and should be directed at members of the Cup of excellence, purchasers and farmers and not consumers. Politics should be behind the scenes and not on show, this can only create confusion and potentially damage COE (although I sincerely hope not).

Forget the politics just taste it in the cup.
back to top
 View Profile Visit website Link to this post
showing page 1 of 2 last page next page
view previous topic | view next topic | view all topics
Discussions > Articles > Columnist... > The Cup of...  
New Topics updated topics   New Posts new posts   Unanswered Posts new unanswered     Search Discussion Board search   Discussion Board FAQ faq   Signup sign up  
Not Logged in: Log In to Postlog in
Discussions Quick Jump:
Symbols: New Posts= New Posts since your last visit      No New Posts= No New Posts since last visit     Go to most recent post= Newest post
Forum Rules:
No profanity, illegal acts or personal attacks will be tolerated in these discussion boards.
No commercial posting of any nature will be tolerated; only private sales by private individuals, in the "Buy and Sell" forum.
No SEO style postings will be tolerated. SEO related posts will result in immediate ban from CoffeeGeek.
No cross posting allowed - do not post your topic to more than one forum, nor repost a topic to the same forum.
Who Can Read The Forum? Anyone can read posts in these discussion boards.
Who Can Post New Topics? Any registered CoffeeGeek member can post new topics.
Who Can Post Replies? Any registered CoffeeGeek member can post replies.
Can Photos be posted? Anyone can post photos in their new topics or replies.
Who can change or delete posts? Any CoffeeGeek member can edit their own posts. Only moderators can delete posts.
Probationary Period: If you are a new signup for CoffeeGeek, you cannot promote, endorse, criticise or otherwise post an unsolicited endorsement for any company, product or service in your first five postings.
Espresso Makers
Premium stovetop espresso makers, electric moka pots, machines & accessories.
www.espressozone.com
Home | Opinions | Consumer Reviews | Guides & How Tos | CoffeeGeek Reviews | Resources | Forums | Contact Us
CoffeeGeek.com, CoffeeGeek, and Coffee Geek, along with all associated content & images are copyright ©2000-2014 by Mark Prince, all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. Content, code, and images may not be reused without permission. Usage of this website signifies agreement with our Terms and Conditions. (0.360156059265)
Privacy Policy | Copyright Info | Terms and Conditions | CoffeeGeek Advertisers | RSS | Find us on Google+