Barefoot coffee

We find it fascinating that the owner of luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo is selling it to devote its considerable resources to developing its premium coffee businesses (read more in the New York Times: Jimmy Choo hasn't been as successful as expected, perhaps because we've reached peak stuff, but there's clearly a lot of money to be made in the small-daily-luxuries consumer sector. One thing is for sure: the money will flow to investors, not growers. No matter how blessed a grower's land is with coffee-friendly characteristics such as altitude, volcanic soils or a perfect micro-climate; and no matter how carefully the crop is tended, it is coffee growers who will continue to bear the risk of crop failure, coffee pathogens, fluctuating commodity prices and shifting consumer tastes, suffering through the hungry months between crops.  

The value in specialist premium coffee accrues to those with the ability to articulate the distinctiveness of beans from particular regions and particular farms; those who can tap into our vague imaginings of the shady Guatemalan or Ethiopian highlands, and the way they bring notes of dark chocolate or light floral acidity to your cup. Coffee growers' technical expertise isn't worth nearly as much in the supply chain as the ability to imbue the beans with the magic of distinctiveness and social cachet. As always, this end of the supply chain lies closer to consumers in the rich world than growers.  Selling $300 coffee cup sleeves doesn't seem to have captured enough of these riches.