You can not overestimate the pleasure we get from delivering coffee on our bikes. Running a small start-up business will suck you in to a hectic stress laden pace without you even noticing. Our bicycle delivery duties force us to slow down in the middle of each week, interact with our customers, take in some views of Long Beach's cityscape, and really enjoy the bitter/sweet sea-saw of doing a business we believe in. Even the headaches we sort of love deep down... sort of... maybe.
But none of this even begins to touch on the big plans we have for continuing to merge bicycle culture with a home-brewer's version of coffee culture.
One of the greatest challenges to getting high end coffee into the hands of home brewers is the trouble of distribution. Commercial shipping is such an inefficient behemoth that it can add as much as 40% to the overall cost of buying a bag of the highest end coffee. That's ridiculous. Grocery store shelves are not a great alternative for two reasons: First, grocery store coffee faces long delays just to get onto the shelf, and then long delays before being bought off the shelf. By the time the coffee makes it into the hands of a home-brewer, it is long past that optimal window for getting all the complexity and nuance that high end coffee can offer. Second, grocery stores add another middle man, and therefore another mark-up to the coffee price without any direct benefit to the quality of the coffee.
These issues are a large part of what makes coffee shops so appealing. You can get better coffee than what you get from grocery store beans brewed at home, and it's convenient.
But places like Starbucks have to charge such a big mark-up on their product (to cover leasing a store space, and all the marketing, buying commercial espresso machines... etc) that they are constantly looking for ways to bring their costs down. Unfortunately this cost cutting almost always results in cuts to the quality of the coffee being brewed. Starbucks is a great example. They roast dark, not just because their are those who prefer that roasted, bitter flavor in their coffee, but because a dark roast covers up the imperfections that exist in the caliber of coffee they source.
Enter bicycle delivery.
When we began Rose Park Roasters we were looking for a way to get our coffee into the hands of home-brewers directly, without having to build a brick and mortar location with all the extra overhead expense that would incur, and without having to spend as much on commercial shipping charges as we were spending on the high end green coffees we were sourcing.
It first came up as a sort of crazy idea thrown around on a late night, probably after a few beers at Joe Jost's or some such spot. But as we mulled the idea over, it slowly began to make a lot of sense to us. And then it began to make A LOT of sense. We realized that bicycle delivery could be handled in such a way that the cost would be far less than commercial shipping. Plus it would allow us to get our coffee into the hands of home-brewers the day after it was roasted. Plus we would get to ride bikes as part of our jobs!
We now believe that if could magically snap our fingers and convert everyone's coffee buying to local roasters who delivered that coffee by bicycle, a whole host of the coffee industries darker tendencies for sacrificing product quality, incurring inefficient distribution habits, and even those tendencies toward social injustice in developing nations would instantly be hugely improved.
We, and I mean all of us, have to find ways to create a coffee industry driven by quality and caring, rather than mass volume and cost cutting. Do you think that's possible to make happen on a large scale? Bicycle delivery has allowed us to gain some ground toward living out that transformation in ways we've not often seen throughout the coffee roasting community. It's a small thing so far. But let's make it big. What do you think?