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Big Thoughts Abound in ‘A Little Podcast About Price Transparency’


Two of the biggest minds around the specialty coffee industry have tackled one of coffee’s most complicated, misunderstood and timely topics in a new miniseries called “A Little Podcast About Price Transparency.”

The project resulted from a series of casual conversations between show producer, host and journalist Ever Meister and Chad Trewick of the consultancy Reciprocafé.

While Meister and Trewick each have long-running professional associations with the specialty coffee industry — the former currently with Cafe Imports and the latter once a large-volume coffee buyer, SCA board member and now consultant — the series is part of Meister’s personal “Discomfort Zone” podcast.

You can ignore the mini-ness of the series and the “Little” of its title; the recorded conversations between Meister and Trewick are colossal in scope.

Certain assumptions are involved. For example, the series seems to assume that everyone interested in pricing transparency is also interested in, or even professionally invested in, working towards a more sustainable coffee sector. There’s also the assumption that the specialty coffee market is, despite its best efforts to break away, somewhat hip-tied to the whims of the commodities market in an historically and fundamentally exploitative trading system.

Yet Meister and Trewick aren’t shouting from rooftops or clanging any pots and pans here. They’re exploring these issues with a rare sensitivity to the needs and motivations of all invested parties, from smallest producers up to the biggest-volume buyers.

As opposed to the “us vs. them” attitude that seems to so often dominate today’s discussions about price — and, particularly, the influence of large-volume buyers over how prices come to be — the “us” in this case is so inclusive that it removes the “them” altogether.

“I think the part about my conversation with Chad that I keep finding myself going back to is our exchange about the lack of trust in specialty coffee,” Meister told DCN after some reflection upon the series. “It seems to me like a lot of the tension has to do with individuals and companies looking outward at others as ‘the problem’ and there isn’t very much self-reflection, which prevents collaboration and can really forestall growth and progress. Consumers point at roaster-retailers and blame them, roasters blame importers, importers blame exporters… We need to break out of that mentality and I think we could all benefit from taking a serious look at what we do and how we can do better.”
But enough chat. Let’s get to it: