We’ve recently been talking about the concept and importance of visibility. We are experiencing a lot of growth in our industry, and Denver is no exception. As this occurs we’ve been witness to the amazing opportunity for businesses to create visibility within their brand or, conversely, to mimic visibility while obscuring channels of sourcing coffee, tea, or other products. With a small growing coffee business, the current state of sourcing may not mirror your long-term sourcing goals. My worry is that some craft coffee companies may choose to mislead customers as to their involvement in farm to cup sourcing and imply, implicitly or explicitly, that they have direct sourcing when they do not.
I have told myself that this doesn’t matter, and if a business is being unethical in its communication to customers, it is their business. As I’ve thought more, I realize that this sort of misleading information hurts all of us. Our industry is built on trust. More times than I can count I’ve told consumers to look to the roaster or shop owner who is using roasters and importers to guide their coffee buying decisions instead of a Fair-Trade or Organic certification sticker. Buying from people who maintain open lines of sourcing is a far better way to positively impact the farmer than relying on vague market certifications acquired by large roasters.
This sort of trust relies on honesty within our craft community of shops, roasters, and importers. As soon as the specialty coffee customers in this city learn of a craft coffee professional misleading them in some way relating to their products, we all lose credibility. Whether we like this or not, we all are in the same boat; pushing for market share against big coffee producers. Consumers new to this market view us as one single group of companies. Everything we do reflects on each other. Be open with your customers on where and how you procure your products and goods. If your current state of affairs doesn’t reflect your long term goals, communicate this drive and direction. Being a company with long term goals is great; being a company who fakes it till they make it is not.