Like many software developers, I'm fuelled by coffee. I really enjoy a good cup of coffee, and even a dodgy cup has enough of that coffee taste to bring some good thoughts to my mind. I'm happiest working on a hard problem with a cup of coffee in my hand.
I recently picked up a copy of Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture, from the library and had a nice light read,enjoying reading the history of Starbucks (I grew up travelling to Seattle, so know them from when their focus was selling beans).
The book is a good read, well written, telling the story of Starbucks from it’s beginnings to today. Love or hate Starbucks coffee (perhaps it is a little over-roasted), there is no denying that they brought expresso (Cappuccino and Late anyway)and a love of at least half decent coffee to the masses. Hearing the history of the company, and getting some insights into the good and bad of where they are today was particularly interesting.
There is also a good dose of coffee culture and the life-cycle of coffee, from farm to cup. Like many people, I’ve always been aware of the issues relating to ensuring that growers actually get paid something for their coffee crops. I’ve had a tendency towards Fair Trade, and organic coffee for a long time. What I didn’t realise was some of the issues and weaknesses with the Fair Trade movement. The book presents a strong argument for going with one’s selfish tendencies, and getting the best product available. By doing this you are going to influence the free market, and help farmers who produce good products get the best prices (if you want to learn about the free market, ask an MBA, or visit the Adam Smith Institute if you are afraid of being exploited by a money hungry business type).
A final area that I found particularly interesting was the discussion on Illy coffee. A pilot coffee drinking friend (he knows the best coffee shops in every airport in Australia) has it at home, so I was interested to read about it. I’ve always been a bit cynical of the possibilities of it comparing to local roasts out of concerns for freshness. How could an imported coffee be as good as fresh coffee just roasted around the corner. What I hadn’t realised was the impact of a chemist (Dr. Ernesto Illy, son of the founder) spending 50 years working on the process of making and distributing coffee. The work of quality at Illy, has resulted in the publication of Espresso Coffee, Second Edition: The Science of Quality edited by his son, Andrea Illy, the current CEO of Illy coffee.
I’d definitely recommend taking a read of Starbucked for all people interested in business or coffee. It makes for a good interesting read, covering coffee, coffee culture, and Starbucks.
footnote: when researching this article I was interested to see that Illy runs on IBM WCM, the latest company to OEM Ephox EditLive!