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From the Publisher

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History is an assembly of events and personal experiences woven together to make a story.

Like the elusive Babe Ruth rookie card or the Peace Beanie Baby, nobody owns an entire collection of those events and experiences. Even in the modern Google Age, in which all information is cataloged, history can be lost, as a computer cannot tie bits of information into a cohesive story.

For example, who’s to say when direct trade really started? Don Schoenholt can remember flying with his father on Pan Am (talk about history) for his first trip to origin in 1955. Paul Katzeff can tell you countless stories about traveling to origin in the 1970s. Both began developing relationships directly with farmers that long ago.

Recently, a report by the Centre for Sustainability Studies at Sweden’s Lund University stated that the coffee companies Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Counter Culture were the pioneers of direct trade. It’s not that the authors of the report were trying to revise history; it’s just that the threads of these stories run longer than we can individually track. That Katzeff and Schoenholt were traveling to origin, talking with farmers and setting up direct trade in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s—long before the aforementioned companies were founded—is a testament to the fact that there is always a story before the story. Like the Babe Ruth rookie card, we will never own all the stories, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to collect them.

Our “A Life in Coffee” column, which we began publishing in our January/February 2017 issue, is one way we are trying to capture not only the events but the stories that have established and, we hope, will preserve the history of the coffee industry. The column is intended to showcase the pioneers of our industry. This issue’s subject is the perfect example of someone who can tell a story or two about the coffee industry: Susie Spindler from the Alliance for Coffee Excellence. (Read the interview beginning on page 74.) I’m not sure there are many people who have fought harder than she has for the sustainability of the coffee farmer, and it was my great pleasure and honor to interview her.

Newcomers to specialty coffee, please remember there were many people who came before you who helped shape the specialty coffee industry as we know it today. Take the time to learn their names. Take the time to learn about their contributions, and give them credit for all the things they did to create and nurture this amazing industry. Then go out, stand on the shoulders of those who came before you and make your own history. Maybe someday the history collectors will seek out your stories, too.

Warmest regards,

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