I’d say 95% of the people surfing in the 90’s were on the wrong surfboard.
-Rob Machado (Fish: The Surfboard Documentary)
Just like most people were riding the wrong surfboards in the 90’s, most of us were also drinking the wrong coffee.
Like the twin fin surfboard which dates to the 60s, specialty coffee has always been there but was hiding behind what the big industry players were pushing on the public. Mass production and marketing pushed people onto the wrong boards and into the wrong cup of coffee to the detriment of the experience that everyone was actually seeking the whole time.
Remember, it was also in the 90s that Starbucks was just starting to hit its rapid growth curve, often becoming people’s entry point into a higher-quality cup of coffee at a higher price point. Once you had that freshly made cup, it also encouraged you to up your game at home – better coffee, better brewing techniques.
Out with the Folgers and Mr. Coffee. In with some beans, a grinder, and a French Press.
Out with that potato-chip thruster built for a 15 year old shredder. In with that glorious twin fin fish that actually helps you catch waves and make those soulful turns that previously existed only in your imagination.
Two fins changed my life.
-Mark Richards (Fish: The Surfboard Documentary)
The trend towards higher-quality specialty coffee changes lives and is having a dramatic effect on the coffee industry as a whole.
Not only does moving up the quality chain improve your personal experience with coffee, it actually improves the lives of those who make their living at the beginning of the production chain.
Specialty coffee brings higher prices that are less susceptible to the volatility of global markets for the farmer. It also opens the possibility that the flavor profile of a specific micro-lot can become a unique and highly sought-after product as opposed to just an interchangeable part of a mass-assembled blend. This leads to branding opportunities and pricing power at a national, regional, and local micro-lot level.
What started as Fair Trade and has even trended towards Direct Trade has brought transparency in pricing and a greater commitment to the well-being of suppliers.
Twin fins never go out of fashion. They just get reinterpreted and come back in.
-Matt Biolos (Fish: The Surfboard Documentary)
With new business models come new opportunities to interpret what it means to engage with the producing regions that support our addictions to surf and coffee.
The cup we enjoy first thing every morning often comes from the same place that produced the waves in our dreams from moments before – Indonesia, Brazil, Costa Rica.
Of course, when we visit these places, the coffee is silently growing up in the cool mountain clouds while we soak in the tropical heat of the coast. But these ecosystems, people, and experiences are connected.
The same forces threatening our oceans threaten coffee production. The same challenges affecting the farmers affect locals in the surf towns and coastal villages we seek and the waves that change our lives.
Solutions to one affect the other.
[Twin fins] changed my whole perspective on riding waves.
-Donavon Frankenreiter (Fish: The Surfboard Documentary)
Purchasing specialty coffee from a specific location that we are connected with inherently supports that country or region – it’s farmers, the economy of intermediaries along the way, and often schools, clinics and other support services that local coffee co-ops provide.
But we can go further.
We can also work to support the coastal communities that brought us to these places to begin with.
Coffee is often the largest component of the export economy of these producing countries, therefore the industry has the full attention of the government and international businesses to ensure its success.
That school in a surf town along the coast? That river that dumps trash into the ocean? That fish farm that threatens to pollute the water around a surf break?
Maybe not so much.
Twin Fin Coffee is looking to mix our addiction to amazing coffee and our love of the ocean and surf exploration to make a difference in the communities that have given us so much.
Much like our coffee suppliers have chosen to have a closer connection with the communities at the source of the coffee beans, we have chosen to have a closer connection with those people making a difference along the coasts – those people committed to improving access to education and keeping our oceans clean in the places we only temporarily call home, but permanently have etched in our minds.
Together we can make real change in these communities. One cup of coffee at a time.
Learn more about the history of the fish. Watch Fish: The Surfboard Documentary