A Retrospective on the Business of Moving Coffee
By Andi Trindle Mersch, Atlantic Specialty Coffee
“A short article covering 30 years of trading coffee in a world that has changed so much is challenging, to say the least!” noted one of my first mentors in the green coffee trade business, Janis Cutler, Vice President of Amcafe, NY, in her response to my request for input.
My own experience in green coffee trading goes back to late 1993 when I first started with Amcafe’s sister office at the time, West Coast Specialty Coffee. I reached out to Janis and a current colleague, Steve Colten at Atlantic USA – both of whom have another ten plus years of industry experience on me – to meet the challenge of encapsulating 30 years of changes in green coffee in relatively few words(1). I’m glad I asked for some second opinions. My first instinct (after mentioning substantial improvements in quality)(2) was to write almost exclusively about the impact of direct, traceable, and transparent business models – all activities I’m heavily involved in now that were assuredly not as substantial a piece of the green trade as recently as a decade ago, and certainly were not another 20 years before that. These newer trading models surely epitomize the most observable difference for the first and last hands holding physical green coffee – the farmers and roasters – and we’ll give them their due shortly. First, however, there’s really one word that comes to mind as the most influential factor driving change in green coffee trade over the years. Indeed, it’s responsible for everything possible in direct, traceable, and transparent business models. Ideas? I’m presuming in a Chronicle issue devoted to an industry-wide retrospective, every article will include it somewhere. Indeed, credit is needed where credit is due. So, accepting the redundancy and stating the obvious, I’ll say it: Technology.