Today was one of those days where the scale of the coffee industry seemed beautifully incomprehensible. Â The aphorism of “the more you learn, the less you know” is used repeatedly in coffee by people who’ve begun scratching the surface of the industry they’re in. Â Its overuse quickly strips it of real meaning, but any time I get to reflect on the scope of the whole thing I find it joyful.
Over the last 3 or 4 years I’ve met a few people who’ve been looking to make documentaries about the London coffee scene. In each case I’ve tried to do my best to suggest that they write a really narrow brief about what they want to film, and then try to stick to it. Â If you let coffee lead you down the rabbit hole then chances are you’ll run out of money way before you’ve completed your project.
However, if I consider my working life a project then I find it heartening to know that it will be incomplete, and that I shouldn’t worry too much about that. Â I could spend a lifetime in coffee 3 times over and still have failed to have really understand all the complexities of coffee. Â Its tendrils reach into just about every aspect of trade, of culture, of commerce and of recent history – leaving behind rich veins of knowledge to mine away at.
Each of us who discovered how big the coffee industry is were surprised by its scale. Â We had no idea. Â We scratched the surface and came away reeling, but compelled andÂ intrigued. Â Our inability to communicate this to our peers, to our customers, to our family and friends is probably the best explanation of exactly how incomprehensible it is.