All the way back in August I wrote about how odd it is that the normal way to order a coffee is just that — “Can I have a coffee?” Meanwhile, our siblings in the beer and wine industries benefit from significantly heightened consumer awareness and, as a result, care. I went on to express: “It’s selling short an entire industry, an entire tasting experience that has started months and years ago in a different country. It’s a problem facing all of speciality coffee, not just our circles in Davidson and Asheville.”
We aimed to talk about coffee differently, starting with our daily interactions in our cafés. And while that’s elevated awareness and discourse a moderate amount, we needed a stronger “Nudge,” as authors Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler would contend. So, this week, we’re introducing that very nudge — price variable drip coffee.
To keep drawing on the beer or wine metaphor, it’s common to look at a menu and see varied pricing. Some year-round beers might cost half as much as the seasonal sour — and consumers not only understand that, but value it. As of Monday, that’s how we are selling coffee at Summit.
Everyday, in each of our cafés, we serve Basecamp alongside at least one other more seasonal, fresh single-origin offering. The transparent truth is that while Basecamp is certified organic, our most popular coffee, and sourced responsibly from some kick-ass women cooperatives, it’s one of our least expensive offerings. Often it’s alongside a coffee like Jairo Quiñones’ microlot, for which we’ve traveled twice to Colombia and managed a direct supply chain since 2016. Not surprisingly, Jairo’s coffee costs Summit more than Basecamp does — not only the cost of the coffee, but the travel, the R&D we do each year his coffee comes into our lab, etc.
The price disparity doesn’t make Jairo’s coffee better than Basecamp. As I mentioned, Basecamp is our most popular, always. But trying to price our coffee offerings based on what Basecamp costs has, until now, somewhat dissuaded us from featuring some fun, more expensive coffees in our cafés. And if we couldn’t justify selling these coffees in the three Summits, then how could we expect anyone else to buy them from our roastery? Why are we taking multiple flights to Colombia, or eight-hour van rides through Peru, or hiking steep slopes in El Salvador, if we aren’t going to share that experience, that story, that coffee with our most loyal customers?
Price variable coffee allows us to offer anything — from Basecamp, to Maria Julia’s $19.60/pound coffee — and know that customers will pay for what they want. We know Basecamp will still outpace all other coffees, but we’re hopeful that noticing the price variation will instigate even the slightest pause for our coffee drinkers. Why does Koke Washed cost more than Basecamp? Why can I only get this for a few weeks, but I can get Basecamp every day?
The other thing featuring specific coffees allows is better storytelling. Andrew and Donovan, our COO and Director of Coffee, respectively, ventured to Copan, Honduras, this fall to spend days walking coffee producer Katia Duke’s farm, Finca San Isidro. Now, that coffee is in Davidson and roasted, ready for you to enjoy. But how can we tell that story, of what Andrew and Donovan learned on Katia’s farm, if we’re grouping our coffees together and treating them like the commodity they are not, and not the meticulously sourced agricultural product that they are?
We couldn’t, turns out, and this is our answer.
For November, you can enjoy Basecamp, or you can try a coffee from our longtime partners at the Koke Cooperative in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. If you’re at Basecamp or our Asheville store, you can even try the last few bits of Finca Las Marias!
For December, we’re excited to bring to you Finca San Isidro, from Katia’s farm where she’s constantly had to prove herself in an industry, and country, dominated by her male peers. We’ll also have Alpine, our holiday blend, on hand for you to try.
What we hope is that, when you visit our cafés, you’ll encounter an opportunity to learn. Summit is committed not only to responsible sourcing, and bringing the best coffee back to NC, but also to increasing awareness and passion among our communities. When we talk about coffee, let’s approach it with curiosity. You may be surprised what you come away with.