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Comments for 1993: Is the thrill gone?

Marketers know some things other mortals may not, for example that one can most certainly turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. There is no mystery to this--it is purely a matter of fancy dressing and snob-appeal imagery. Tea and coffee products are no strangers to such practices, which is why our industry is somewhat jaded with the concept of quality. "Quality" has been abused by us all to the point where it no longer has much meaning, it has been stolen by marketers. I miss the word, for it could once conjure up a concept in product character and integrity much as the word "gentleman" did in times gone by. Increasingly the concept of quality in coffee and tea selling is defined by the point were a highest-possible-price can be obtained without arousing the consumer's anger at what he actually drinks for his money.

To help fill the void left by "quality" we now have "specialty." As a result, the spectrum of specialty teas and coffees is becoming a zodiac, with the eye straining to take in a firmament of product styles, claims, and packagings. Given this crowded and jumbled and boom-town marketplace--there would seem to be little room or time left for a consideration of absolute standards, except--thanks be on high--for the enduring and sincere appreciation that superior coffees and teas illicit from amateurs and connoisseurs alike.

In my experience, there remains a veritable army of enthusiasts active in the business whose pride and joy is summed up in offering forth a remarkable cup of coffee or tea. This side of coffee and tea business proves that human beings do savor, study, and even revere their various pleasures (those of taste in drink among the many others) and too, even like to share them. We like communal eating and drinking...and enjoying. In these instances, surprisingly common in a jaded business like ours, the packaging of the product is a second thought although it may be an art in itself. In other words, after too many perhaps, we come to tea and coffee as sensual items that draw praise according to the pleasure they afford, and which are valued by some almost as in a cult.

All of this is not to forget that the purpose of the coffee and tea industries is to profitably serve a consumer audience numbering in the billions, with affordable coffee and tea drinks on a daily basis. Such a degree of mass marketing necessarily places mass purchasing, mass production and mass distribution interests first. My point at the beginning of 1993, as an industry observer and as a consumer, and to everyone involved--growers, exporters and importers, roasters and packers, sellers and servers--is "please don't forget the thrill of great tea and coffee, or the pleasure of sharing them."
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Title Annotation:on the continent with Jonathan Bell; tea and coffee products
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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Next Article:Napoletanos, coffee's most tasteful marketing tool.

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