Earlier this week, during a class titled ‘Markets and Consumption,’ our class had the opportunity to participate in a Focus Group. The purpose was to use a group discussion as a tool of research, accessing a diverse group of people to gain insight into various opinions and attitudes about Coffee.
Our group consisted of 17 people, and I volunteered, along with another gal from Guatemala, to lead the discussion. Our assignment was to create and select the questions to stir the conversation toward the broad target of understanding the attitudes of our classmates, regarding various aspects of coffee.
We wrote out our initial ideas, and decided on roughly five questions to use, before returning to our classmates. The discussion began, and while we explored several topics, there was one question in particular which became the focus of our conversation, and therefore is the one I’d like to highlight here.
“Which country has an exceptional - overall coffee culture?”
Immediately a few answers were called out, Italy, Japan, USA, Brazil, Colombia. Then, a few people started to ask questions, asking for more clarity, because, what exactly was meant by the word coffee culture. The more we discussed the need to clarify, the more we realized that it was difficult to answer, without dividing the question into categories.
Instead of asking about coffee culture as a whole, we chose to ask about the coffee culture of countries, as it related to the aspects of Agriculture, Consumption, and overall Knowledge. This made more sense to me, considering the fact that culture in itself is a broad term, encompassing many aspects, and to reduce it only to consumption, or agriculture would not be a balanced question.
The discussion continued, first about various countries where there was a culture of Coffee Agriculture, next discussing Consumption, and overall Knowledge of Coffee; most members of the group sharing his or her opinion; and challenging each others remarks, agreeing and disagreeing. People shared about the various rituals surrounding coffee in parts of Africa, about the school calendar being based around the coffee harvest, (as it is in El Salvador), the Italian scene and the incredible consistency from one bar to the next, the third-wave culture in various parts of the United States across the world, and the efficiency of machinery and crop development in Brazil.
In the end, we had learned a lot, but we had yet to consider a single country that perhaps did it best. Based on all three categories: Agriculture, Consumption, & Overall Knowledge, which country sets the bar for coffee culture? As I looked over my notes, I found one country that showed up in every category, Brazil.
Today, Brazil produces more than a third of the worlds coffee, this passed year estimated at nearly 55 million bags; and by 2015, some people estimate that Brazil will pass the United States for the highest coffee consumption in the world. These two aspects alone were quite substantial in my mind, and while I’ve considered the significance of Brazil’s role in the coffee industry, don’t know if I’ve ever done so in relation to the rest of the world.
I don’t call myself an expert on coffee culture, nor do I think a question about the best at anything is always a good idea, but every time I see Brazilian Universities and Institutions sited for the research we’re studying in class, hear discussions about the world market, or see photos of Pinhalense Depulpers installed at a washing station in Kenya, I wonder if there is any area of the industry that Brazil is not leading, or at least playing a substantial role. I have never been to Brazil, but I believe the country itself has grown in my mind, and from I’ve heard: has one of the best overall coffee cultures in the world.
Someday I’ll see for myself. Until then, hopefully we’ll hear some answers from our readers regarding the place they consider to have a great coffee culture?
I leave the question with you, as I will hopefully return to my studies. This coming Monday, we take our next exam on Agricultural Chemistry.
From Trieste, Cheers.