We see a lot of promotional videos for coffee companies, and to be perfectly blunt, they often fall flat. There are only so many times a consumer can hear claims of “the finest green coffee roasted to perfection” as they see the ubiquitous shot of beans circulating in a cooling tray.
Unfortunately, these videos recall neighborhood restaurants that trumpet things like a “world famous meatball sub” or the “world’s best hummus.” Probably not true and certainly not groundbreaking, these claims are merely missed opportunities to connect in any meaningful way to the hungry.
So in a specialty coffee world where dozens, if not hundreds, of independent players are truly passionate about sourcing, roasting and brewing coffees, how does one make a video that stands out? Former Irish Barista champion and Dublin’s 3FE Coffee founder Colin Harmon, for one, takes a good approach in this new 15-minute video. He makes it intensely personal, speaking with humility and frankness about his struggles in switching career paths from finance to coffee.
He recalls wanting to quit coffee after being ridiculed by six men in suits who nearly “pissed themselves laughing” inside 3FE’s retail shop after Harmon described to them the day’s coffees, then finding some perspective as the next customer — a repeat visitor — provided his biggest sales in months: Says Harmon, “All it takes is one person to realize you actually give a shit about what you do.”
He talks openly about his surprise at winning the Irish championship after only six months as a barista. While the event catapulted Harmon’s career and led to a fourth place finish at the World Barista Championships in Atlanta in 2009, he even questions the sanity of it all:
“I’ve walked onto stages in front of like 5,000 people and had MCs scream out for everybody to throw their hands together and cheer loud for Colin’s cappuccinos, and this hall goes insane,” Harmon says. “And you’re like, it’s a cup of coffee with some milk in it. You really have to step back sometimes and go, ‘This is absolutely bonkers.’ ”
Near the end of the video, Harmon explains that the currently 18-member team at 3FE is not currently focused on expanding the company’s retail presence, and is instead focused on developing wholesale accounts, on which he has some entertaining commentary:
They come on board and they say, ‘Oh yeah, we want to make great coffee!’ And they start off with this elation of, ‘Yeah, the coffee’s going to be great.’ Then it kind of gets better and better. And then after about three weeks, they just hit this huge depression: ‘This is awful, this is terrible, everything is going wrong.’
We can kind of see it coming and we talk them through it. Ignorance is bliss. You’re training them to spot problems and all of the sudden they’re seeing problems everywhere, where they never saw problems before. Then they think what they’re doing is awful. And we’re like, ‘You’re actually doing much better than you were before; it’s just that now when something goes wrong you can see it, whereas before you didn’t care.’