An Association of café-fiends

June 2014

I like the flavour you get right at the end of a pour of a single shot, and it’s just not the same if it’s a double.

It’s fair to say that Jessica Godfrey is particular about her coffee. But then the development manager for the New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association (NZSCA) wouldn’t be much good at her job if she wasn’t.

“If I prepare my own espresso, I’ll only have a single, but I’ll make two of them. I like the flavour you get right at the end of a pour of a single shot, and it’s just not the same if it’s a double.” Who knew?

Well, as a former World Barista Championship competition judge (registration lapsed), she did. Jessica has worked in the coffee biz for 12 years. Having just been accepted to the Bar, she chose being a barista over a barrister and went to work for at Wellington coffee institution L’affare, where she ended up as marketing manager.

That was the early 2000s, when talk was already starting on forming an association to represent New Zealand’s coffee roasters and baristas. “There was some concern about competition but we don’t have to see each other as competitors. We’re all working for the same thing – improving the quality of the coffee New Zealanders drink. We needed to get people in the industry talking together, which they are now.”

The NZSCA, an association of 100 or so members, represents roasters, baristas and coffee industry suppliers. As well as working for the NZSCA, Jess is the marketing manager for Acme Cups and Prefab cafe in Wellington, so she knows how important it is for members to keep meeting up, talking, and learning more about their industry.

The NZSCA helps them keep talking by holding regular coffee-related events, both for the public and for members only – members that range from huge international packaging suppliers, such as Finland-based Huhtamaki, to tiny one-person roasters.

“These guys might be roasting in the morning then out in the delivery van in the afternoon. To travel to a conference means a week their business is closed, so we bring people from the industry over to talk to our guys. We also bring coffee growers over because it’s good for them to see how we drink coffee here. Our flat whites and long blacks are often very different to how they drink coffee back home, if they drink coffee at all because not all coffee-growing countries do,” Jess says.

Then there’s the events’ social side. “Again, because many of our members work solo, getting together with other coffee people is a great advantage of being a member of the Association, and our roasters or baristas guilds. Coffee people can be pretty geeky about their coffee so they love having the chance to get together and geek out!”

Jess says the Association’s members also appreciate having someone to speak for them as an industry. “There’s quite a bit of discomfort around talking about coffee issues in case people feel they’re trying to push their own roast brand or their own café.”

And there are issues to talk about – the price of our daily cup, for one. “It’s an on-going thing,” Jess says. “It’s hard to communicate that the price of your coffee is for more than just the beans. There’s the milk, the service, the café’s nice décor – it all comes at a cost. And the price of coffee is the same wherever you are, whether you’re in a country café or a premium Auckland location, despite the difference in overheads. There’s also a huge difference in coffee quality, just as there is for wine. But where people are happy to pay more for Central Otago pinot noir, they will only pay a certain amount for a cup of coffee.

“The wine industry has done a really good job of getting people to understand you need to pay for quality wine. I’d love to see New Zealanders understand it’s worth paying a little more for quality coffee.”

And with leaf rust, or roya – a fungus that is sweeping through coffee plantations in parts of Central and South America – putting the squeeze on supplies, that cost could be going up. But Jess isn’t issuing a price warning quite yet. “Leaf rust has been around for a while, the thing that’s changed is that it’s now at higher altitudes where the coffees we import are grown. We should be concerned about it but the growers are and the progressive farms are working on more resistant coffee species.”

So, we should still be able to get our hands on coffee, and if that doesn’t live up to our expectations, Jess has a message – tell the barista!  “A coffee is a handcrafted thing so we can’t get right 100% of the time. If it’s not what you wanted, tell the barista straight away and give us a chance to get it right. Don’t drink it and then tell us it was no good!”