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Mid Point Conference

Last week (30th April) we all had to troll down to the Royal Geographical Society in London, to present papers about our findings at the half -way point in the Waste of the World program. This was a lot of work. Here is mine, Anna and Joby’s conference presentation.











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Posted by on May 3, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Not progressing in a logical fashion.

First of all, I found this:

This is pure genius, especially from the point of view of studying coffee waste. I am not concentrating specifically on packaging, but even so, the idea of this fits in so nicely. Not only is it ‘green’ in that it’s infinitely reusable, you don’t look too odd carrying it about town (as I would if, for instance, I wandered round carrying my huge purple “I love Shoes” ceramic mug.) It is also very tempting to wander into Starbucks/Nero/Costa with that, casually ordering the baristas to ‘just fill it up’ and enjoying your coffee brand-free; you wouldn’t provide them the service of free advertising. Even better!

Another nice thing which deserves a mention on here: yesterday morning a small box was delivered to my door through the post, all the way from Texas. This turned out to be 1lb of hand-roasted Rwandan coffee beans, from Vincent at Addison Coffee Roasters. I ‘met ‘ him online on Barista Exchange, talked a lot about the merits of African coffee vs Latino (I’m a latino fan, should you not have guessed) and he jokingly, I assumed, offered to send me some he’d roasted himself, to try and convert me. He was not joking, and a posh looking bag of beans and very friendly note addressed to “Lady Townsend” appeared exactly as he said. The coffee is exceptionally good, quite ‘earthy’, fragrant and light-bodied. I think the coffee-term for that is ‘clean’. Grinding it up this morning filled my kitchen with heavenly scents of fresh coffee, and this cheered me up no end.

And I am in need of cheering up…

University is suddenly feeling like Hard Work, or rather, like actual work rather than my pet obsession. Last week I had the dreaded interview for my upgrade, like a mini viva. My upgrade document is basically a research proposal:exactly what I intend to do, why I want to do it, how I’m going to get the information I need, what I am going to do with that information, and then the even more irritatingly bureaucratic bits like timescale, costings, and even risk assessment forms. This took me a frustratingly long time to write and by the time I handed it in, I never wanted to see the bloody thing again. However, this was not the end of it. My upgrade panel then had a week to read it, and then ‘interview’ me about it, getting me to defend what I’d written. I can appreciate that given the time/money/resources at stake at university, they need to be sure that not only can the project be done, but also that it is worth doing. As it is, I now have to do corrections and resubmit the damn thing.

The interview was extremely intimidating; not because the three panel members were particularly scary, but because there was very little I could do to prepare for this, not knowing what I was going to be asked. They asked me a great deal about my methodology, which was fair enough. In hindsight, even I can see that my methodology was just not good enough, and far too vague. They wanted to know exactly how many interviews I intend to do, and who with etc. I had avoided being this specific simply because I don’t know who is going to be available to interview, and won’t do until I actually get to my field work sites and see who is there…. but that overly pragmatic point aside, this ‘correction’ is not unmanageable.

The other big issue was far more ego bruising, and right now, seems impossible to ‘correct’. They want me to spell out the ‘original academic contribution’ of this project, what does it add to knowledge about coffee/waste/quality, in other words, what is the point of studying this?

Good question.

I actually don’t know. I was completely unable to answer that in the interview. I waffled a little about wastage being a topical issue especially at the moment with so many environmental concerns and rising global food prices and speciality coffee being an industry which didn’t exist twenty years ago… but even at the time, I knew what I was saying was utter rubbish (if you’ll excuse the pun).

In truth, I don’t think this project actually has much in the way of practical applications. Even my mother complains about not being able to explain what her darling daughter actually does at uni, and her telling me that feels so supportive, ahem. Sure, it would be wonderful to discover a way of eradicating waste in the coffee industry entirely, sharing this new-found knowledge throughout the industry and making the whole global coffee trade more efficient as well as entirely ethical. But that is not going to happen as a result of my one little project. As for academic contributions, the only real ‘contribution’ is just that it adds to the already existing body of knowledge about waste and quality; and for that matter, about commodity chains and globalisation, and agro-food businesses or networks, and about coffee itself. This project has not been done before; there are academic works about all the different areas I’ve just mentioned, but to my knowledge, nothing has yet brought them all together.
So far, so convincing, perhaps, but that doesn’t actually answer the question of why that knowledge needs to be contributed in the first place. My only real justification is just that I personally find it extremely interesting. I would love that to be enough.

I don’t think I am alone in finding this interesting, however. Unfortunately the people who share my passions do not tend to be academics. Last week, Stephen Morrisey from Ireland won the World Barista Championships in Copenhagen. When interviewed afterwards, he said he only had one message for the ‘coffee community’:

Let’s just keep staying in touch… let’s talk and keep the community going,…establishing the connections between the coffee farmers, roasters and baristas, and let’s keep making better coffee…

Obviously this bloke has read this blog minutes before competing… ahem. It is these connections that hold the industry together, and also that I find most interesting. I really really hope that this idea is enough to satisfy the panel that the project is worth doing!

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Posted by on June 29, 2008 in Uncategorized


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What’s a girl to do?

This is an odd sensation.
I have nothing to do.

(A voice in my head has just spouted: “Oh yes you do! You can vacuum or take the ferrets for a walk or start making dinner or clear up all the elegant ‘floor stacking’ of uni papers currently taking over the front room!”)
It is true, there are plenty of things I *could* do. I am not restrained in an empty room devoid of any stimulation. However, I don’t actually have any university work to do, and as such, nothing that I should feel guilty about not doing. Being a procrastinator is central to my identity, to my very Being almost – if I have nothing to put off doing, do I cease to exist?

Yesterday, after an inordinately long length of time spent preparing for this thing, I finally handed in my full upgrade proposal, complete with questions I received when doing my upgrade seminar a few weeks ago, and more eloquent, written responses to them, and full bibliography, and ethics sheet and risk assessment form. Gah.This then gets looked over by a Panel of The Powers That Be, and then at the end of the month, I get interviewed about it all, and asked to defend it. This is all based on my project proposal – exactly what I want to study, why I want to study it, how I am going to actually do the research, how it is relevant to the rest of the programme, and perhaps more importantly from the university’s point of view, how much is it all going to cost? Hopefully, assuming I haven’t done anything spectacularly stupid (Can I please have £3000 to go watch coffee grow in Nicaragua for four months? Pleeeease?) then they should ‘upgrade’ me from a lowly MPhil student to PhD.

However, until they have upgraded me officially, technically speaking I shouldn’t actually be doing any practical research. Reading things is fine, sorting out preliminary contacts and fieldwork locations is fine. Actually investigating anything specific is not. I went to the Caffe Culture exhibition hall at London’s Olympia last month. I had an excellent time, met a load of useful people, learned so much stuff (even how to roast coffee!) and managed to source a great deal of information which can all be relevant to my project. I wrote up a short report for my supervisors about it all, and they said: “That’s a great piece of not-research!”. Not-research seems to be what we are required to do whilst in this strange limbo situation awaiting our upgrades…. It is frustrating to say the least.

Still, I must make the most of this – I would say ‘this holiday’ but that is too much of an active word – this brief period of unproductivity. I am going to make curry and watch Neighbours.
Ye Gads. Help me.

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Posted by on June 13, 2008 in Uncategorized


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My Dark Love Affair

I have a headache. I moan to Carl about this, but he is not impressed.”I don’t believe such a thing exists.” he says. This is because I have a caffeine headache, or rather, a lack of caffeine headache. I didn’t sleep particularly well last night, and this morning I had to get up unhealthily early for me, rush round trying to pack everything up for the weekend, and then leg it to the station to catch a (late) train at 8.14. I did not get time to make coffee. Further more, as a conscientious, perma-broke student and ex-Nero employee, I flatly refuse to spend £2.25 for coffee from Costa at the station. My body cannot cope with this.

My addiction may well be psychological, but the effects are very physical. My head hurts, there is some serious pressure on the top of my skull. I have little energy, I am pale (in fact, I am reliably informed that I look dead) and I am very irritable.
This never used to be the case. My parents drank tea by the bucketful and when I was a baby, they used to give me a luke warm bottle of milky tea every day. Possibly as a result of this, I have never touched the stuff since. But I never drank much coffee either. I spent most of my teenage years being healthy and guzzling herbal teas and water. I probably should have stuck to that! However, at age 17, I got the second most boring job in the universe -data entry. An entirely sedentary life style, parked in front of a black screen with green text, typing endless addresses in over and over again, eight hours a day. The most interesting thing to do all day was to get up and wander over to the monstrosity in he corner, press a series of buttons and receive a plastic cup full of brown powder with metallic tasting hot water poured on top.
Sometimes the powder still floated, or clumped at the bottom until poked by an enthusiastic plastic stick. And woe betide anyone who dared request ‘milk’ – more powder, onl sort of off-white in colour, and seemingly even less soluble than the brown stuff. This was, apparently, coffee. Nescafe instant vendor machine coffee to be precise. It was foul. But it was hot, it had caffeine in it, it required moving from my desk occasionally, and as such, it was the only thing that stopped me turning in to a brain dead corporate zombie, gradually losing form and melting into the chair, just becoming a giant pair of fingers welded to the keyboard….

I left that job after six months, having put on a lot of weight, got repetitive strain injury from the keyboard, and the beginnings of a caffeine addiction. However, I also had enough money to go to Peru for the rest of the year. Peru produces a small amount of truly excellent, high altitude arabica coffee, but such are the ironies of global capitalism, they export all of it, and getting hold of coffee in Peru is difficult and expensive. Nestle produce something called Ecco, which is ground, roasted wheat and chicory. When brewed, it is brown and looks like coffee. It has no actual coffee in it, no caffeine content, but if you ask for ‘cafe’ in Peru, this is generally what you get.In short, I went cold turkey.

On my return from Peru, I started university. I did a lot of different activities outside classes including various theatrical endeavours. ‘Show weeks’ were notoriously hectic and doing 16 hour days playing with lighting meant a lot of coffee was consumed. Meeting friends in coffee shops became almost ritualistic, and anyone who has ever endured lectures on cranio-facial morphology of early hominids and phylogeny of various primates, or even quantitative methods for social scientists will know that at some points, major caffeine boosts are a medical necessity.

After graduating with no other ideas about what to do with myself, I started working in cafes and coffee shops. It was from these that I started to really learn about coffee. I initially thought that working with the stuff, day in, day out would put me off, but this has never been the case! All the different strains and varieties, all the subtleties of flavour that can be produced, all the different methods of brewing, filtering or extracting, all is fascinating to me. I am by no means a world class barista, but I am at least relatively skilled in the art, and I intend to continue learning.

So I am now doing my Phd about coffee, about the links between quality and wastage about the political effects of such a globalised industry. I’ve learned so much about its ‘dark history’ that I am s self-confessed coffee geek.

Coffee increases blood pressure, can lead to hypertension and anxiety attacks, has been linked to colon cancer and now apparently doubles the chance of miscarriage. However, it also protects against cirrhosis and other liver diseases, is a good source of fibre,keeps you alert and stimulated and kick starts your metabolism. It is the second largest legally traded in the commodity in the world, and the industry as a whole, from farmers to baristas, employs a hundred million people all over the world. For me, its a welcome addiction, an obsession, a career and a wonderfully dark love affair.


Posted by on June 1, 2008 in Uncategorized


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Suenos de Arroz y Frijoles

Mi vida esta confusanda.

Life is bloody complicated at the minute. I’ve been doing some real proper research in the real world, involving talking to real actual alive people, (as opposed to reading and regurgitating, or emailing). It’s HARD. And the more I learn, the more complicated it seems to get.
One real, actual alive person was helpful – Paul/Pablo from Caffe Nero head quarters. Unfortunately, what he told me has totally and utterly confused things even more. Maybe I was naiive to think it wasn’t that complicated. Tracing the origins of coffee is an immense task at the best of times, but when the only source of information I can get hold of at the moment is trying hard to protect the positive image adopted by their brand marketing, what I get is not exactly deep – or even that accurate.

It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Nero’s coffee does not come
rom the award winning co-operative in Brazil that they promoted on their website. Well, some of it does, but not the stuff they make into cappuccinos behind the bar every day. Instead, 600 tons of the stuff, comprised of seven different strains of coffee, is imported for Nero every year, coming from “Central and South America”. By the time it reaches Nero, it has been through the hands of the farmers, the co-operatives, the commercial exporters, the roasters and the distributors, not to mention all the regulatory bodies, and anyone in charge of overseas import tariffs and customs….. Far from buying “direct from the producers”, at least six different companies are involved in the industry from beans to mug.

And I’ve got to go through the whole bloody lot, looking for any opportunity in this vast network for coffee to be wasted. This may take a while. Not only is this a lot of work to get my head round, it also ladders my proverbial fishnets (instead of being a linear commodity chain, I’ve decided it’s now a complex mesh of a network – hence, commodity fishnets). There is a big hole in the proceedings now, and its quite embarrassing.

I had a plan… up until last week. That was, to go to Fazenda Cachoeira (Waterfall Farm) in Brazil, to find out the extent of wastage from a plantation that directly supplies Caffe Nero. This gave me something to concentrate on, prepare for; I would need to learn Portuguese for instance. It also gave me a time frame – I’d go in the harvest season, which is between March and September, 2009.

Now, it doesn’t matter if I go to Brazil, or any other coffee-producing country in Latin America. Going to a Spanish speaking country would be far more sensible… but then, when to go? And indeed, where? I need to find out the different harvest seasons…

For anyone who knows anything of my non-university plans at present, the timing of this is highly important. I don’t know which Plan should take priority, whether I should just let Que Sera, Sera, and rethink depending on what happens, or whether I should take assertive action, decide for definite that I am going to, say, Costa Rica in May 2009, and fit everything else around that. That might be the easy option.

Basically, I HATE planning when everything is a variable. I hate making important decisions that I might regret. I would far rather have life Just Happen to me, as it usually does. Or, I bury myself in trivialities, or wild fantasies which even I know are totally impractical – because even hampered with a short attention span and over-ambitious nature, those plans are always far more fun than the ones I actually need to focus on.

Jo is filling my fragile, wanton little mind with ideas of the RASC cafe – that is, my dream of my own coffee shop called Doctor Coffee’s, only promoted as an arts venture, so that we don’t have to worry about it actually making any money. It would be a social enterprise project, providing a space for the RASC writers to go create in. She was even on about hosting it in a caravan at one point so we don’t have to pay lease rates…. And all the while, I am sitting in Caffe Nero for days on end, studying coffee shops, when actually all I want to do is run one myself! This does not a productive Bel make.

fAnd then, there are other dreams… Latin America. Again. It is no longer really a case of wanting to go back there, it’s almost a sense of inevitability – I know I will someday, for whatever reason. I am sorely tempted to just say ‘screw Nero’, go visit Donna in Nicaragua or El Porvenir in El Salvador, and just pretend they supply a big chain… but that would not constitute good research practice, would it? I would love to catch up with Donna and Diego and all the chavalos and payasos again out there, I still feel like I have ‘unfinished business’ in Nicaragua somehow, I was rushed away all too quick last time. Or I could go next door to Costa Rica or Honduras and see bits I am less familiar with… For that matter, I would love to catch up with mi familia en Peru…

Siempre yo siento como estoy malgasto mi vida, mi tiempo en este paid, cuando yo podría alli viviendo la vida en vez de lo estudiando. Soy demasiado impaciente. Tengo suenos de arroz y frijoles, y de aventuritas en climas lejos, quiero mas, siempre mas que este. Quiero una cambia.Yo me confundo con relaciones diferentes, los amores diferentes y entonces yo siempre siento que la necesidad de escaparse cuando todo falla. Yo no puedo ver lo que tiene razón bajo la nariz, que lo que quiero es ya aquí. Mi marido, mi niño, y todo que yo ya he creado aquí.

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Posted by on June 1, 2008 in Uncategorized


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What the hell I think I’m doing

Even the words terrify me now. “Upgrade Proposal”. I have to write exactly what I want to do with this project, 4000 words, and then a panel interview to defend The Plan. I’ve still got a couple of months, but it is now becoming obvious that before I can convince other people that this is a good, plausible idea, I need to figure out once and for all what that idea actually is.

I’ve been faffing. Farting around with vaguely academic concepts and seeing how they could possibly be applied to my main obsession of the moment: coffee. I am employed to work on the Waste of the World project, which incorporates a lot of different themes, but focuses on reexamining what we think of as ‘waste’ in social terms. Our “team” – that is, Joby, Anna and I, are charged with research the concept of Food Waste. To me, this meant Coffee Waste.

There are a lot of different forms of ‘waste’ in the coffee industry. Physical waste on the plantations – what happens to coffee that doesn’t sell? What happens if the crops are diseased? What happens if the roaster screws up somehow? And then at the retailers – what about all the crap espressos trainee baristas make that cannot be served? Then there is all the branded packaging – most of it can be recycled, but generally isn’t.And even if you throw away your branded cup, is it somehow worth it if you have become slightly more aware of that brand? Storage packaging: if you don’t store it right, the coffee goes stale and you have to throw it. If you do store it well, you can’t recycle the foil bags…

And then there is the idea of waste of knowledge. An infinite and complex array of skills go in to this industry, everything from grading green beans, roasting to perfection, to baristas drawing rosettas as latte art on the top of our drink.. Does all the effort that’s gone in to making the coffee get wasted if the bored barista screws it up in the shop? And even if she gets it perfect, is all that expertise wasted on customers who come in for their venti, 1-shot decaf syruped-to-hell soy crappyfrappemockacino and then go home and drink instant?

Most significantly though, is trying to find whether or not all this waste, physical and conceptual, is actually necessary. If there is a demonstrable demand for high quality, speciality coffees in the UK, and if these specialty coffees inevitably create more waste to produce, then the waste is justified. However, if in the UK we are still clinging to our teapots and drinking Nescafe instant, or perhaps, going to Caffe Nero or Starbucks for the ‘lifestyle’ – buying in to the brand, for instance rather than the coffee itself, then the waste involved in this industry becomes meaningless.

How do I go about answering all these questions? The anthropologist in me is bouncing up and down going “Participant Observation!” “Multi-site ethnography!” I don’t know if human-geographers have other methods, but good ol’ PO sounds appealing to me. With emphasis on the PARTICPANT bit. I WANT to see what it’s like to pick coffee: I am going to a tiny co-op farm in Nicaragua, and a big commercial farm in Costa Rica. I would love to learn how to roast coffee professionally, so I am going to try and find an independent roaster and the one that supplies a big chain like Caffe Nero. Finally, I want to see if my own barista experience is ‘typical’ of the industry, and so I intend to compare the goings on in an independent cafe (hopefully, Gusto Italiano in Sheffield) and at a branch of Caffe Nero. Constantly comparing big and small, independent and commercial will, I hope, give a better all-round view of the industry…

So, I’ve got a lot of Ideas, and when I get really into this, I buzz… it’s exciting, I want to get on with it!! But, first, I’ve just got to translate all of the above into formal academic speak, then add in references and inteliigent sounding theory, and then timescales and costings and … aaaaaaaargh. Bureaucracy and academic prostitution!! aaaargh indeed! Sometimes, the fact that I have a certain responsibility to the uni to produce intensive, innovative, accessible and practical research is enough to crush any creativity and enthusiasm. I am Lost in Caffienation, again.

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Posted by on June 1, 2008 in Uncategorized


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The Concept of Wastage in the Coffee Industry


The coffee industry is a truly global trade, encompassing everything from bean plantations in parts of the developing world, to brand awareness and huge corporations in the developed world. The process from coffee bean to gourmet espresso is very long and complex, and ‘wastage’ in many forms is apparent throughout.

Waste in this sense can include anything from the fact that in some Single Estate coffee plantations, only around 40% of beans grown are actually used and roasted, to the way Baristas in chain coffee shops are taught to discard any coffee deemed less than perfect, or the way freshly ground coffee is given a shelf life of a mere twenty minutes. This is all without mentioning the inorganic and material waste of brand-embellished packaging that is thrown away every day.

Coffee in Western culture at least, is extremely fashionable; coffee culture is evident and actively encouraged in the UK, shown by the sheer number of both large chains and independent coffee shops which have opened in this country in the last three decades.. It can be argued, however, that the expertise that goes in to producing gourmet coffees – that is, selecting quality beans, roasting them to perfection and then producing the finished espresso, is wasted on the consumer, who may not be aware of the difference to the taste that the varying techniques can make.

Background and Theory:

Growing premium coffee beans is an inefficient process. In many Single Estate, Fairtrade or organic plantations, the beans are cherry-picked, that is, the beans deemed suitable quality are selected and picked by hand. This is inefficient in the sense that the process is very slow, requires significant human labour, is expensive and inevitably means that a large proportion of the beans grown are not used. However, it does ensure that the coffee is of the highest quality and best taste.

A more efficient method is to harvest the coffee plants by machine, ensuring that every single bean is collected. This mechanisation of the process does increase efficiency, decreases waste and lowers the cost of the coffee, but it also decreases employment prospects on coffee plantations, and lowers the quality of the finished product.

Therefore, if the demand for the highest quality and best tasting coffee is to be fulfilled, a certain amount of wastage – both at the growing stage and the brewing stage – is inevitable and unavoidable. In this sense, the waste cannot be seen as a negative aspect to the industry, but as an integral part of the process.

However, this argument is only convincing if it can be demonstrated that there is a strong demand for very high quality coffee. Many large coffee companies, (including those who sell ground coffee for personal use, such as CafeDirect, Nescafe, Kenco and the larger supermarkets, and also chain coffee shops such as Caffe Nero, Starbucks, AMT and Costa Coffee) create a brand image suggesting good quality, and use facts about the origins of their products in their marketing strategies. It is these companies that create the demand for good quality. This does not necessarily mean, however, that their customers and consumers actually appreciate, or are even aware of, the coffee’s quality.

This is not to say coffee consumers in this country are completely blind to the coffee producing industry; but what denotes ‘high quality’ is very subjective and a matter of personal taste and opinion. If the demand for high quality coffee is not actually present among the consumers, the issues of inefficiency and wastage within the industry become far more significant.

Aims and Objectives

– To establish the extent of wastage in the coffee industry, including both the growing and harvesting of coffee, and the brewing of espresso in coffee shops.
– To analyse contributing factors in quality coffee, to find what makes it ‘good’.
– To examine in depth the actual demand for coffee from the point of view of consumers; and to find whether coffee companies are supplying this demand or creating it.
– Overall, to find if ‘wastage’ in the industry is an inevitable part of the process, or whether steps could be taken to make the process more efficient.


In order to fulfil the aims of the project, several different areas of research need to be undertaken. Background research into the coffee production process, both on practical and theoretical level is essential to create understanding of the main concepts of manufacture and waste.

The first phase would be to study the initial coffee harvest. A plantation that supplies one of the main coffee shops and brands in the UK would be the most useful; for example, Intertech, in the Mogiana region of Brazil, which supplies Caffe Nero. ( Intertech also uses both manual (cherry picking) and mechanical methods of harvesting, which would give a good insight into the volume of waste each method produces. Statistics would be collected about the variety of beans, conditions of growth, average volume grown per season, and the percentage used and ‘wasted’. These figures should also be collected from other plantations, perhaps even in different countries, in order to create a model of average wastage per plantation. Observing the harvesting process first hand would provide a valuable insight into the scale of perceived wastage. The plantation managers could also be interviewed to gain their views on wastage within their own business, and to find which harvesting method is preferred and why.

If the plantation supplies more than one company, it would need to be established which company buys what quantity, and what variety of beans, and at what cost. This is essential to analyse the ‘quality’ of coffee that the company sells to its consumers. It would also be useful to find why the company chooses that variety of coffee – if their customers expect or demand it, or whether it is the most cost-effective from their point of view, for instance. Using this information, it would also be possible to infer whether or not the different methods of coffee production have any correlation with the prices of the finished espresso in the coffee shops.

The second phase takes place in those coffee shops. For the purposes of this research, a branch of one of the larger chain stops would be most appropriate. Larger chains would be buying in coffee beans in extremely large quantities on a very regular basis, and so the extent of wastage they create would be easier to ascertain. Data would need to be collected on the average volume of waste the branch produces over a certain period of time; if for example, the coffee is delivered on a monthly basis, it would be logical to measure the amount of waste produced within that month, allowing the researcher to calculate the proportion of coffee wasted at the brewing stage. In order to calculate averages, this information should also be collected from several stores in the same chain so that the results are not skewed by an anomalous store.

Analysis of this data would also show how and why this waste is produced. Caffe Nero is keen to promote the fact that each staff member undergoes intensive Barista training, in order to brew the perfect espresso and maintain the company’s high standard. The equivalent training is also provided in other chain shops. Experiencing and participating in this training would be very beneficial to this project in that it would allow the researcher to appreciate exactly why wastage is produced at this stage of the process.

Thorough analysis of the data collected in the first two phases is required to form an overview of the manufacturing process. This will need to be completed before phase three begins. Phase three would use more qualitative methods, as it deals with the subjective topic of consumer preference. A core sample of ‘average’ coffee consumers would need to be found; (in this sense, who the average consumer actually is would also need to be determined beforehand, although this could be achieved through asking for volunteers from people who already frequent coffee shops regularly) Surveys, focus groups and other forms of social research, even including tasting panels for instance, can then be employed to examine consumer preferences for coffee and create a model of the UK coffee market and demand. This could also involve blind sampling; to see if average coffee consumers can tell the difference – and prefer – high quality coffee in comparison with lower grade espresso.

In terms of time scale, data collection should take around eighteen months, with analysis and writing up the research taking another eighteen months. Due to the three phases of the project however, data collection and analysis would occasionally overlap.

Results and Recommendations

If it is found that coffee consumers in this country cannot tell the difference between high and average quality espresso, or if they actually prefer lower grade coffee, then this would have far reaching implications for the entire coffee industry. Plantations would not have to waste so many substandard beans and could use more efficient harvesting methods. Coffee shops would not have to waste so much badly made espresso, or waste time and resources on training their staff so rigorously. Consumers may not have to waste money on overpriced luxury drinks. Wastage in the industry would become a major concern as it could be demonstrated how inefficient the process is.

However, if the opposite is found, that consumers do actually notice the difference and prefer higher quality coffee, then the wastage of the inferior products becomes necessary. A large proportion of raw coffee beans, and a significant amount of brewed espresso can justifiably be rejected and disposed of as a by-product of high quality, gourmet coffee producing process. This by product is not ‘waste’ as such; it is an inevitable, and unavoidable part of the industry.


Caffe Nero, 2007 The Art Of Espresso
(further information from Caffe Nero Barista training programme, June 2007)
Intertech Coffee Plantations, 2006
Harford, T., 2006 The Undercover Economist Abacus: London
Pumphreys Coffee
(further information from Pumphreys Coffee Barista Training Course, January 2007)

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Posted by on June 29, 2007 in brazil, caffe nero, coffee, PhD, pumphreys, wastage


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