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I am Arabica

Posted on June 11, 2014 at 7:53 PM

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 crunch.

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 four 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 another level.

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 shop.

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!

Categories: Reflection

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