Sunday, August 13, 2006

two are better than one

sorry no updates lately. i was hoping one of my next posts was going to be the second in my fledgling interview series. but soon enough we'll get back to that.

i've been reading a bunch of unbelievably cool posts over at the forum which shall not be named. one of the suggestions that has come up recently is the formation of a serious but informal "study group" comprised of members of said forum. each volunteer would select a topic of interest to them relating in some way to the industry. at first this seemed like a fascinating idea, but not one i would be very interested in participating in, as my knowledge tree is pretty much a shrub compared to some of the giants who roam that forum.

but then it hit me one day perusing the recent posts. someone was talking about the lack of universal definitions in the industry and i got to thinking that this was indeed a topic worthy of further research. i decided to toss my hat into the ring as well with a working title of "toward common definitions of coffee processing methods" (a true white paper title, eh?) the idea is simple, if gargantuan. around the world exist many varied methods of processing coffee and myriad more variations on some of the more well known methodologies. no one has undertaken a catalogueing of these methods, let alone standardizing their definitions.

immediately i realized a couple things. one, i'm stupid for choosing this topic. it's HUGE and complex and mind numbingly detailed, and did i mention HUGE? second, i'm potentially not stupid for choosing this topic. it's a little looked at corner of the industry that perhaps only a handful of people have ever considered tidying up. it could be a way to benefit our industry. third, i'm a genius for choosing this topic. if it goes over halfway as well as i halfway expect, it will be twice as beneficial to the industry as well as to farmers and, ultimately, to consumers. the potential could be massive--we could finally see the emergence of a foundation for the long-awaited appelation system of coffee that so successfully gelled the wine industry decades ago and helped propel it to worldwide recognition.

originally, my idea for a paper was to define where we are, what the main methods being practiced are, with major variations, all broken down generally by geography. the next thrust would be to use those definitions to help serve for a suggested standard appelation system that could be floated around for comment and possibly adoption at some point way down the road. after soliciting feedback from a few colleagues (and getting a pile of unsolicited but excited feedback from others!) i am realizing that i probably need to split this topic into two white papers. the first will cover definitions by geography. set everything in concrete. the second, to be constructed...who knows when, hopefully shortly thereafter...will aim toward overcoming obstacles to adopting such a universal standardization of processing names and definitions, a true appelation system for specialty coffee.

original deadline was set for october. thank goodness it has been pushed to december. i will need all that time to research, build a skeleton and then start adding meat to the bones and hopefully breathe life into it.

wish me luck. and feel free to chime in to tell me i'm stupid.


At Monday, 14 August, 2006, Anonymous James Hoffmann said...

I don't think you're crazy, and I think it would be a great paper to write as long as you feel comfortable that you could finish it.

Perhaps break it down into subsections and do one subsection per round of papers?


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