The Blue Collar Breakdown Effects Coffee

My last two posts were about the external issue and the internal issue we are trying to solve. This is a path that we have followed from most basic to most complex. The deep philosophical issue that results in this frustration and continues into bitter coffee and knit-caps is the break down of the craftsman.

I’m not going to go all Amish on you here, but since the industrial revolution, we have used technology to make things better and faster. That’s good in principal. The issue is that we are a huge consuming culture. Businesses need to produce in mass to get uniformity and meet consumer expectations. This process reduces the individual who use to love and care for a piece of furniture all the way through the process of construction and into the home of a customer to a person on an assembly line sticking the same two pieces of wood together over and over. As you mass produce something, it becomes cheaper to manufacture. That is leverage that companies use to draw in consumers…low prices and sales galore!

The response to this mass production of goods and driving down of prices is the rise of the “artisan.” Once we all felt the lifelessness of mass production and sameness among everyone, we started to crave things that separated us from the rest of the sheep. So, we would go to artisans (who are just fancy craftsman) to make us something super unique. This is how we get all the stupid looking chairs in post-modern offices that no one is comfortable sitting in. Another way that artisans separated their work from that of the mass produced is through price. So, not only is that chair stupid looking and uncomfortable, it was really expensive too. (Well, it must be good then!)

That leaves a gap in the middle there. A class of people who traditionally depended on high skill levels and incredible work ethics to achieve results; a middle class if you will (oh, you saw that coming on the first line, I did too, but I couldn’t help it). Coffee suffers just as every other market does. It needs those blue collar folks who love the work of their hands. They know the material, be it wood, steel, or coffee, inside and out, not because they graduated from Harvard, but because they have been living it and working it themselves. They bring people in, mentor them, and teach them real skills they can use in their lives. We need the richness of traditions and heritage passed down from master to apprentice. We need the flaws that make things beautiful.

Coffee has lost the blue collar craftsman and we all feel it. We go to the mass produced chains and the quality has suffered because they mass produce. The artisan coffee shops are unrelatable and too expensive for the common value oriented working person.

The good thing is that I think Arizona is the prime place for us. As I’ve said before, the craft beer scene is growing, but it isn’t snooty high end shops. They are all blue collar folks who work really hard at their craft. I hope this trend continues and moves over into the world of coffee, where we are waiting with a hand crafted cup and a meaningful conversation.

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