Exemplar Coffee of Belfast: Sharing Knowledge and Coffee
Phil Magowan’s new project brings reliable coffee knowledge and tastings to consumers.
BY JORDAN BUCHANAN
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Featured photo by Emily Gamble
Specialty-coffee knowledge and consumption have both increased over the last few years. We read content such as that by Barista Magazine with a metaphorical thirst for knowledge while satiating our palates with high-quality coffees at home or in coffee bars.
As we become even more devoted coffee lovers, coffee consumption becomes a passionate hobby that leads us to pursue more knowledge so we can enjoy coffee even more. However, coffee knowledge and coffee products often do not come together in one package; there is a gap between the two. In July 2023, Phil Magowan launched a new coffee project in Belfast, Northern Ireland, that brings together both coffee knowledge and exquisite-tasting coffees: Exemplar Coffee.
The two key principles of this coffee project are being a hub for sharing knowledge about coffee and providing coffees that exemplify new trends in coffee production. In the first issue of Exemplar, Phil Magowan writes that “despite consumers’ piqued interests in learning about their morning coffee, information remains fragmented, elusive, and in many cases—unchecked.” Exemplar shares outstanding coffees with consumers who are on that incessant quest for the perfect cup. It also facilitates consumers learning about the coffees they are drinking. Instead of browsing online for information about their cup from a general perspective, the specific information about their cup comes printed on an aesthetically pleasing and finger-comforting print magazine (and later onto their website’s research archive).
The coffee media community has done a great job in exposing more information and trends in the coffee world. However, companies selling coffee often share information loaded with errors and generic narratives that lack insight into their coffees. The classic throwaway cards that accompany many coffee deliveries typify this pattern.
Exemplar Coffee supports the coffee media industry in sharing more detailed knowledge of their specific coffees. Instead of rewriting blurbs of a coffee farm on a card, Exemplar showcases analysis and perspective of the coffees by incorporating the voices of baristas, industry experts, producers, and coffee scholars. Knowledge on the coffee’s production and origin culture as well as the brewing process and experience are detailed in the different articles.
Unique to Exemplar is the goal of bringing academics in to complement this coffee-knowledge culture for consumers. Academics may often be stereotyped as remaining aloof from society (and many reaffirm that stereotype), but their knowledge is invaluable for us consumers. And with contributions from both the scientific and humanities bodies of coffee research, Exemplar is creating a space for us to gain that insight and celebrate such esoteric knowledge. Scholars such as Jonathan Morris are using Exemplar as another platform to share their expertise with the public. Jonathan already has done important work in knowledge sharing with his podcast, “A History of Coffee.“ By the presence of Exemplar as another pro-academic platform, experts like Jonathan can find space to contribute more to the coffee industry. Overall, Exemplar complements the already extant research and knowledge dissemination on coffee, with a unique angle of connecting coffee supply with knowledge supply.
Increasing Consumers’ Knowledge in Equity
Holistically, increasing our knowledge of coffee is a crucial activity for building a more caring and considerate society. Exemplar is just one of many organizations that strives to achieve this goal. The coffee economy is infamous for exploitation. Specialty coffee has not overhauled that situation, but it has supported some valuable changes to the coffee economy. Now, with the coffee-consuming culture demanding more equity within the trade, consumers are supporting positive change. Knowledge and understanding of the trade have been vital in leading to these demands and expectations.
As we know more about the pay that farmers receive, the culture from where our coffee comes, the people involved in making our cups, the intense labor of farmers and baristas, and the effort from many others along the coffee chain, we expect better treatment of the humans who bring us our daily delight of coffee. To live with the awareness of others is indispensable in a complicated world. When we confine ourselves to ignorance, it leaves us all in a worse situation. By understanding the conditions and cultures of other people, we can better consider their experiences. By considering them, we can care more about how they live. We care more as we learn more. Thanks to the coffee-knowledge community, we are gradually working toward more care and consideration in our cups.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Buchanan (he/they) is completing their Ph.D. in Latin American history at UC San Diego. Their research focuses on the growth of specialty-café cultures in producer nations in Latin America. Jordan grew up in Scotland and currently lives between there and Mexico when not doing doctoral work in San Diego. After purchasing their first AeroPress, Jordan has been an avid specialty-coffee enthusiast, which has added a new perspective to their lust for travel and exploration.
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Source: Barista Magazine