A few weeks ago I was introduced
to a fantastic book by a good friend. In his book ‘Onward’, Howard Schultz gave
his account of how he steered Starbucks through a challenging era of the company
which also coincided with the global recession brought about by the credit
Among other things, Howard gave a
vivid explanation of the journey of the coffee from the soil to the cup; a
story I find most fascinating, especially the extent the company goes to ensure
the quality of its coffee, the experience of its partners culminating in the
ultimate satisfaction of its customers.
One aspect of Howard’s narration seems
to resonate with me. It had to do with the quality of the coffee bean itself. According
to Mr Schultz, coffee beans vary in constituents and flavour depending on where
it’s been grown, how it’s been roasted. These two factors, among others, seem
to determine the final quality of the coffee in the cup.
Introduced to me by my coffee
drinking mum, I guess I tasted my first coffee nearly 4 decades ago and was
instantly hooked on the Nescafe’s instant coffee, however reading through
Howard Schultz’s account; my taste for coffee was refined and elevated to
Apparently, the best coffee beans
called Arabica grow under some sort of intense conditions such as high
altitude, intense temperature or prolonged dryness. While these conditions will
reduce the yield per tree, they are the same conditions that appear to enrich
the bean with so much character, separating it from its Robusta counterparts
which are grown under a more predictable climate. The yield in this instance is
higher per tree but the quality of the beans is poor. Howard likened it to the
taste you get from sucking on pencil eraser.
Full of flavour and
assertiveness, the Arabica beans cost a lot more and only around 3% of the
world’s best Arabica beans make it into Starbucks’ shops.
Another factor affecting the
final quality of the coffee is the processes the coffee beans go through after harvesting;
drying or fermenting, roasting as well as the final grinding and brewing in the
If we were to apply the same
philosophy to human as coffee, it stands to reason that the best of humans have
also come through various tough and sometimes intense experiences to bring out
the various flavours which make them different from the pack and outstanding.
If you’ve been rained on,
windblown, weather beaten but still standing, if you have mastered the art of
surviving the daily heat of this furnace called life, you have learned to roll
with the punches, knocked down but not out, you must be full of flavour.
Taking a cue from a writing from
the Bible, Paul the author of the book of Romans said in chapter 5 ‘…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering
produces perseverance; perseverance,
character; and character, hope.’
If you’re of the
coffee drinking genre, the next time you hold that perfect cup, smile a thanks
to the barista, walk away with your head held high and as you sip that bold
brew, say to yourself, I’m worth my weight in gold, I am Arabica!