What a year it’s been! And three reasons why 2021 will be much better

Why United Baristas has been investing in the future of the coffee industry 

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What a year. Covid has caused chaos and wrecked havoc with many lives and livelihoods. There are many baristas and business owners who can explain just how bad things have got. It’s been heartbreaking and often seemed like no one is immune. But there’s also another segment for whom this has been a good year. In fact too good to comfortably talk about in public. Select shops and roasters have benefited from sales growth, government grants and lower staff costs. For this group, despite a rocky few weeks in March and April, it’s been Christmas all year. 

As we arrive at the festive season, it’s time to take stock. With the ups and downs of the past months, whether it’s been a good year or bad, it’s our observation that the industry is rattled. It’s business unusual. Radical uncertainty remains, many are tired, bracing for the work that is about to come. But it’s also our assessment the specialty coffee industry also has reasons to be hopeful for 2021.

People are drinking specialty coffee

Let’s start with demand. This year proved the durability of our proposition. Specialty coffee has successfully shifted from a niche, to the mainstream, to the everyday. 

For many consumers specialty coffee has become a not-negotiable staple. Instead of forgoing their daily cup when things got tough, more people are buying better coffee, paying more for it and this creates greater opportunity to send more much needed money to farmers to secure the future of the industry. We should take it. United Baristas is planning to further our work on these issues in 2021.

Politics will be a little more boring

Second, Trump got kicked out of the White House and work has begun on re-building the global trading system, re-establishing international norms and fostering stronger international cooperation to tackle climate change. 

The global system matters hugely for coffee because it’s an internationally traded agricultural product grown at the dictates of the weather and susceptible to political interference as much as it is disease. It’s also a crop that over 25 million of the poorest households in the world are dependent on for income. 

We appreciate that Biden isn’t a solution to the world’s ails, but we also know that humanity now has a better shot at building solutions to these pressing challenges. The coffee community should further work to be a force for good on these issues.

Effort will again lead to reward

Our third hope for 2021 is more esoteric, but more immediately pressing for many in our community. United Baristas thinks the new year will mark the return of skill and effort being rewarded. 

As well as been a financially challenging year, it’s been mentally tough because wins and losses have been arbitrary. In 2020 you could have been a world-class operator with a sound business only to have found yourself on the ropes. Yet others with limited know-how and a poor financial position in February could now be creaming it.* 

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The reason has been geography. Location is typically a top five factor for success in a coffee business, along with a good proposition, a sound business model, solid management and a good team; but in 2020 it’s been the determiner of pretty much everything. Your location has shaped your prospects more than any proposition you could develop or your skill to realise it. And it’s an immensely frustrating for the coffee community. 

When a breakdown between quality and reward occurs it’s disheartening and disruptive. It feels like the laws of nature no longer apply, that something is wrong with the world, that the system is rigged against us and that life isn’t fair.

Take a break, the industry needs you in 2021

These factors over 2020 mean that most proprietors and baristas should give themselves a break. Whether this year has been bad or good for you, the key driver of the outcome hasn’t been of your making. 

Many people have had to work very hard over the past nine months, but whatever the result it was largely dealt to you by fate, you’ve done the best you could with the knowledge, skills and resources you have had. 

Good job. You’ve made it. A new year, and a new era, is now just around the corner.

Whatever your plans for 2021 we wish you all the best. United Baristas has exciting plans and we’ve been working to build services that will support the coffee industry in the year ahead and beyond. 

It is our hope, and indeed our plan, that as effort again leads to progress and taking calculated risk again results in reward, that United Baristas services will continue to help the coffee community to grow, thrive and succeed. 

In the interim, take care, stay safe, and we hope you give yourself a break over the festive period. There’s good work to be done in 2021. And the United Baristas team looks forward to working with you.


*Of course this is a matrix, so the other two, more normal, combinations have also occurred at times in this year of exceptional events.

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