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jimseven"jimseven" - 5 new articles

  1. Introducing Coffee Jobs Board
  2. The price of espresso in London 2014
  3. Hipsters, coffee and authenticity
  4. Learning Project: An update and the next topic
  5. An admission of failure
  6. More Recent Articles
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  8. Prior Mailing Archive

Introducing Coffee Jobs Board

About 5 years ago I set up a website for coffee jobs in London. Today I’m launching both a redesign of that, as well as a global jobs board hub. If you want to skip the explanations and ideas behind then feel free to explore the site here:

COFFEE JOBS BOARD

History

I originally created a site because I’d get a lot of emails from baristas looking for work, and lots of emails from shops looking for staff. I felt like my inbox probably wasn’t the best place to connect people. So I built a simple site, and left it be. It covered its costs, and slowly grew.

People seemed very happy with it, the biggest complaint being people outside of London who wanted something similar. A while ago I decided to start saving up to do something bigger and this is the result.

How the site works

I wanted to build a site full of little hubs, so people could see jobs relevant to them and not worry about what was happening elsewhere (the way craigslist works was a source of inspiration). For each country or city there is a board that you can bookmark, a twitter account you can follow and an email sign up for alerts. I didn’t want to build lots of individual sites, but if there is just one then there’s the problem of when you’re looking for a job in Paris, but a job in Portland isn’t really of interest. You can apply for jobs through the site, and look at employer’s profiles to find out more about them.

I’ve tried to make sure as much of the site as possible has been translated into other languages, though there are some technical constraints I don’t have the budget to overcome –  I hope to improve it in the future.

Advertising jobs

There are three different jobs categories available: city-wide, country-wide and worldwide. For the rest of the month city and country jobs will be free to post. (I don’t want to make worldwide free in case people abuse it and boards get littered with jobs from other countries). In the future the pricing will be:

City – £10. This will appear in that city board, and also the country board. (i.e. London and the UK)

Country – £15. This will appear in the country board, and every city board in that country too.

Worldwide – £100. This will appear in every single job board. It is priced high to discourage use, because I think very few companies need to advertise worldwide.

I wanted to keep it pretty accessibly priced to post – the people part of coffee is hard enough.

London Coffee Jobs

Hopefully most of the existing site has migrated across – including logins etc, so if you’ve posted there in the past you should have an existing account on the new site. If you don’t then I’d recommend signing up again, as it would be great if employers could add a little more detail to their profiles. If there are issues then drop a line to the support email.

Unfortunately if you posted a job in the last couple of days it won’t be allocated to your login, and any changes will have to be done manually by me – just drop a line to support.

Where’s my city/country?!

It wasn’t possible to launch with every part of the world covered, but I am open to requests. If there is sufficient demand then I can create a new board for people to use. Please bear with me if translation is required. You can request a board by emailing request@coffeejobsboard.com

Help me spread the word?

It would be great if people shared the site with friends who may be looking for work, or with business who may be looking for staff. I hope it becomes a useful and valuable hub for people in coffee. Again – it is free to use to post jobs on for the rest of the month.

And if you’ve made it all the way here and haven’t had a look yet – please check it out!

COFFEE JOBS BOARD

    


The price of espresso in London 2014

A little less than a year ago I wrote a short piece about the price of coffee in London. For that post I’d used the London Coffee Guide produced by a company called Allegra, (who do a lot of research) which launches at the London Coffee Festival which starts tomorrow.

Very kindly, and out of the blue, they forwarded me the data from this year’s book, and in a spreadsheet no less! (Meaning I didn’t have to put the prices in manually this time.) I thought I’d write about where things are now, what has changed and what hasn’t.

Espresso pricing

2013 Vs 2014
Year 2013 2014
Lowest Price £1.30 £1.50
Highest Price £2.60 £2.60
Average Price £1.89 £1.99
Mode Price £2.00 £2.00

A few small changes: those charging the lowest price for espresso have either increased pricing, or those businesses at the bottom end of pricing are no longer in business. At the top end there has been little to no change. However, the change in pricing distribution has moved the average and the mode to be essentially the same. Overall the price of espresso in London has increased, by around 5.3% which is above the rate of inflation (2.4-3.0%).

Pricing distribution looks very similar to last year except that the number of cafes charging £2.00 (the mode) has increased from 35% to 42% of the cafes listed in the guide. I should note at this point that prices for a double espresso were used when two prices were listed.

Price distribution by neighbourhood

 

One rather lovely addition to the data shared is that each cafe had been tagged with its neighbourhood in London. This allowed me to look at the distribution of price across London. Here it is with the average price for an espresso and a flat white, and where they rank from most expensive (1) to cheapest (11):

2013 Vs 2014
Region Espresso (£) Rank (11) Flat White (£) Rank (11)
East London £1.89 10 £2.51 9
Farringdon/Clerkenwell £2.07 4 £2.56 6
Holborn/Bloomsbury £2.09 3 £2.66 3
Inner East/Shoreditch £1.96 7 £2.63 4
North London £1.94 9 £2.50 10
Soho £2.11 2 £2.63 5
South East £1.79 11 £2.33 11
South West £2.02 6 £2.56 7
The City £1.96 8 £2.76 1
West End £2.17 1 £2.73 2
West London £2.03 5 £2.55 8

While this is interesting, it is hardly revelatory – but there are a few notables. The most expensive retail rent in London (the West End) comes with the most expensive coffee – I don’t think anyone is particularly surprised by this.  The South East is also considered a relatively cheap (in comparison to the rest of London) place to do business, but it is interesting to see how much cheaper coffee is down there.

I was surprised to see espresso in the City was cheaper than the average (even if it is just a little under). Amusingly milk drinks are the most expensive in London, so either bankers are buying bigger cups of coffee (I used the highest price for a flat white listed for each cafe) or the cafes are recouping their expensive rent costs with their most popular drinks. On principle they should probably be more expensive…

I’m not exactly sure why, but I was quite surprised to find the standard deviation across the prices to be so similar – 11p for espresso and 12p for flat whites. To me I would say that this indicates that cafes pay attention to each other’s pricing a lot (probably more than customers) – but I’m aware that I’m stating the obvious again…

I didn’t do the data analysis on milk drinks in 2013, so hopefully I can keep it up from this year onwards. This post is just a presentation of data, and has nothing to do with what I think cafes should be charging for espresso drinks – simply what they are charging right now.

    

Hipsters, coffee and authenticity

I don’t really like the word hipster, nor do I condone its usage (despite occasional indulgence), but I did spend some time recently trying to work out what it meant and what we mean when we use it.

It isn’t really a cultural label the way “goth” or “mod” were and are. I think the word has ended up being many things to many people, but I think when you use it there is, at its root, one key idea: you are saying “I don’t believe you.”

It is the label given to those who posture, whose cultural, sartorial or intellectual pretence is painful to see. This is why no one self identifies this way – we are believe we’re telling the truth, or at least getting away with looking like we do.

Hipster gets thrown at coffee a great deal too. Half the time to describe the people behind the counter, half the time to describe those patiently queuing to buy it. The aloof barista, with a carefully cultivated sense of ennui and the vaguely disguised disgust at the coarseness and ignorance of customers, is perhaps the arch trope of coffee today.

When we see such theatricality, perhaps we assume that every aspect is a performance. Caring about coffee, being interested in it and deeply involved in it, all of this must be part of the act. How can we, as a customer, tell which part is genuine and which some sort of pretence.

I read a piece on coffee consumption that brought me back to this Frank Bruni piece from a few years ago in the New York Times. This particular sentence was highlighted (emphasis mine):

“In these food-mad times, have the economically privileged among us gone too far in turning simple acts of nourishment into complicated rituals of self-congratulation?

Have we offered up coffee as a way to define who we are as customers? Is this something modern or is this simply the next step after coffee’s position as the epitome of the Fair Trade movement, the next step in the evolution of our relationship with a product thats complexity is slowly starting to seep into the public sphere.

While I don’t really see coffee in London, or the UK, being regularly used by consumer’s to really define themselves (outside of those for whom coffee is a passion) – I do see a great deal of inauthenticity within the industry.

Part of this, I think, is a byproduct of the homogeneity that can develop in a market or a result of tapping into the hive mind of the coffee industry online. London is home to what others have described as the “chain with no name”, independent cafes that look and feel very similar to each, offer very similar products at similar prices, with similar service experiences, but have no shared ownership. In a situation like this, it seems pretty obvious to anyone that each of these business is unlikely to be the honest expression of an individual, and can end up looking like bandwagon-jumping or an attempt to profiteer from a trend someone doesn’t truly understand. I understand that conformity offers safety, and I see that the industry doesn’t often encourage the kind of risk taking we want to see. This part, however, may in part be because we’ve struggled to work out how the risk/reward model could really offer something compelling.

Authenticity comes from honesty, from transparency. Cafes are great canvases, for the expression of ideas about service, about taste, about design, about community, and about coffee itself. All too rarely are they any, let alone all, of these things. When they are clearly the result of someone’s considered, and personal, vision I think they’re compelling, and I believe consumers can tell and respond strongly to it. My limited experience within my own market supports this.

The cafes around London, past and present, that I have formed the strongest bonds with all have a genuine identity, from their owners and founders, that I find strongly appealing. I deeply hope to see more of this in the future, because I believe it will make talking to people about why coffee is worth their attention, their money and their time so much easier.

    


Learning Project: An update and the next topic

Today I closed submissions to the January topic and I’ve updated the blog post to show a full list of further reading links you lovely people submitted. Some people’s submitted links didn’t work, and I haven’t had the time to work out what they meant to submit.

The voters have also chosen the next topic. In the next couple of weeks I will write and post:

An introduction to coffee roasting

This is going to be tricky, and I know that when I call for links to further reading that there isn’t a lot of stuff online. However, there is more than you think…

I just want to make clear that what I will write will be designed as an introduction. It won’t be too superficial (I hope) but I will be leaving out some of the fuzzy stuff that is full of half baked opinions, pseudo science and conjecture. It’s actually quite an intimidating topic to write an introduction for…

There’s some great reading to be had back in the acidity post – so I hope people enjoy getting stuck in!

    

An admission of failure

Maybe I set the bar too high in my own mind, maybe I wasn’t sufficiently clear and maybe (the most likely explanation) it just wasn’t that good of an idea to start with.

UPDATE: Twitter has informed me that the problem is my expectations, and that I should stop being churlish for what many would consider a good result. I have since reviewed my expectations for this – there’ll definitely be a part two… My expectations are likely skewed by the last two times I requested reader participation which each generated 500+ responses.

The idea behind the collaborative learning project was that if you gave a little you got something more in return. The first post on acidity has had 10k+ views, excluding the several thousand who subscribe to the RSS feed. I had hoped that even 1 in 100 page views might yield a submitted link, but for all the views and the thousand of people who read the post I’ve received (to date) 29 viable links on the subject of acidity. (Less than 1 per 400 views)

Let me be clear: I’m not really blaming anyone else but me for this, and I’m not really moaning about it either. This isn’t an “oh poor me!” blog post, I promise you. My predictions of how this would go were based more on my own hopes, rather than evidence or historical precedents.

I’m not yet sure if I am going to continue with the project, or certainly continue it in its current form. I will definitely update the existing blog post with the links submitted on acidity so far, but as for starting a new topic – I don’t think so. Failure is fine, it should be accepted, and sometimes it is ok to let things go and to move on to other projects. There are a few other ideas in the pipeline, so hopefully they’ll come to fruition soon!

    


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