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The real question remaining is whether the success of this experience can be duplicated? The cost of this grand experiment was enormous. There were seven non-profit or governmental organizations involved along with hundreds of volunteer hours. Steve Colten, a juror in Lavras and a successful bidder, expands this concern: ”The time, money, and effort is of colossal importance. People have to understand, especially the sellers, that future operations like this won’t have the resources thrown at them like the first go around. We have to understand that creating a framework to first find and then ensure the best qualities will not come easily nor cheaply.”

Alf Kramer, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe and a Lavras juror sees another side of the future: “Through this process and the results we have been given new vision, new opportunities, and now momentum for coffee quality. It is now the time to use the wisdom, increase the momentum, and create even more winners in our battle for quality. The responsibility is on our shoulders. The good and excellent coffees are obviously there. If we buy them and use them, there will be more.”

The specialty farmers in Brazil agree. Marcelo Vieira of the BSCA promises that these results have brought about a renewed and enthusiastic commitment to the quest for quality. He feels “these results demonstrate that for truly outstanding coffee the price levels set by the C contract are irrelevant.”

Joaquim Leite, export director for Cooxupe-Santos adds to these thoughts: “An initiative such as this can motivate our producers to improve even more the quality they produce. We have already included the auction in our internal newspaper, which reaches at least 7,000 farmers. Our hope is that Americans will start paying more attention to our finest quality which are well appreciated in Germany, Finland, Norway, Italy, and Japan.”

The SCAA sees the auction as a beginning for future innovations within the industry. As Ted Lingle, executive director of the Specialty Association of America explains, “I think we can claim success in the execution of the Brazil Auction not principally from the results - although they were indeed in line with our original aspirations - but from the extraordinarily valuable lessons learned and the very exciting prospects gained through conducting the auction.”

The resources available to isolate and present high quality coffee, to plan and execute the myriad logistical requirements of the auction, and to utilize the technical infrastructure will determine whether this success can be duplicated. But maybe the real story lies in the exciting realization that the future for truly unique coffees may not look anything like the past.

When the Wright brothers flew for the first time, there were only a handful of curious onlookers - some believers, and some skeptics. In the end, their short bounce off the ground wasn’t a success because the airplane flew very far, but because suddenly everyone believed in the possibilities.

Brazil Internet Auction Commitees

Auction Planning: Don Holly, administrative director, SCAA; George Howell, quality consultant, Gourmet Project; Marcelo Vieira, president, BSCA/Brazil national director, Gourmet Project; and Susie Spindler, marketing consultant, Gourmet Project.

Support Team: Alf Kramer, executive director, SCAE; Jan van Hilten, senior project consultant, Gourmet Project; Hidetaka Hayashi, Japan marketing consultant, Gourmet Project/owner, Hayashi Coffee Institute; Silvio Leite, quality consultant, Gourmet Project, Brazil; Malcolm Stone, Web Master, SCAA; and Stuart Adelson, legal council, SCAA.

“Best of Brazil”: Edi Bieker, Sandalj; Steve Colten, Atlantic Specialty Coffee; Robert Datalla, Caribou Coffee Co.; Kenneth Davids, Coffee Review; Martin Diedrich, Diedrich Coffee; Hidetaka Hayashi, Hayashi Coffee Institute; George Howell, Gourmet Project, Brazil; Alf Kramer, Specialty Coffee Association of Europe; Silvio Leite, Gourmet Project, Brazil; Ted Lingle, Specialty Coffee Association of America; Alan Neitlisbach, Holland Coffee; Jim Reynolds, Peet’s Coffee and Tea; Vinko Sandalj, Sandalj Trading; and Jose Luis Toledo, Brazil Coffee Roasters Association.

Susie Newman Spindler is marketing consultant for The Gourmet Project. Her coffee experience began with the Coffee Development Group where she managed many of its programs. Her experience includes marketing and strategic planning for a wide variety of companies. She is knowledgeable about land use and sustainability issues, having also worked with the wildlife sector in Montana.

Her company, SNS Communications is located in Missoula, Montana and she can be reached either by telephone (406) 542-3509 or e-mail at: susie@montana.com. She claims “I am not the only Susie in Montana and, yes, I find bears in my backyard.”

Tea & Coffee - February/March 2000


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