You may well have heard the quote attributed to the head of the U.S. Patent Office way back in 1899 that goes, "everything that can be invented, has been invented." You may not know that this quote turns out not to have been actually stated in serious terms, but appears to be loosely taken from a comedy magazine of the era.
Given the growth and rapidity of inventions since, just in our own industry, I can't believe I ever believed that quote could have been true. Just as it would have been folly then, it is folly now, to believe there is nothing more coming in the way of inventions and "creative destruction" in our industry.
And with the Coffee, Tea & Water show
coming up in November, I hope you're planning to visit Nashville to see and learn what might be coming next.
When I started in the coffee business in 1980, all brewers were "pourovers" or "pour-throughs." Single-serve brewers were only available for full-line coffee vending machines, with the exception of instant concepts and the "pods" of Cyrus Melikian of Automatic Brewers and Coffee Devices (ABCD), actually created all the way back in 1959. Hard to believe pods would not get big attention for decades to come.
It was in very short order that plumbing was added to the popular paper-filter small-batch brewers; the resulting automatic models gave a "down the street" salesman like me a great competitive advantage versus the pourover incumbent.
Coffee-Inns introduced a countertop, coin-operated small-batch machine, which became another effective arrow in my quiver when selling to an office in which the boss was too big a curmudgeon to spring for coffee service.
A quick Google search pulls up images of these old brewers, although some operators may still have one or more of them kicking around their warehouses. Looking at today's equipment, with technology taking full advantage of the ability to control the brewing process, one cup at a time, it is amazing to think it has only been 36 years to get here from the early days of office coffee service.
If there was a lack of brewing options back in the day, there was not a lack of trade associations with which to be affiliated with -- and trade shows that were often "can't-miss" events.
If I attempt to list them all, I will surely miss one or two and embarrass myself, but suffice it to say I can think of at least 10 shows directly related to coffee that I used to attend annually to keep in the loop, and in front of my clients.
The opening session at this year's Coffee Tea & Water show, produced by the National Automatic Merchandising Association, will be very special. It will acknowledge the former Hall of Fame recipients from the early coffee service associations, and inaugurate the recognition of new Hall of Famers. These industry icons have not only moved coffee service forward through invention and innovation, but have also contributed to the association and their own communities.
It seems like ages ago that I became the youngest inductee entered into the National Beverage and Products Association's Hall of Fame. That was a real honor and a career milestone. Having grown up watching my father, Stuart Daw, deservedly receive multiple awards and accolades, the NBPA honor solidified in my mind that I had finally stepped out of his shadow as a coffee professional, recognized by peers for my efforts within the industry and association.
The list of past tradeshow award recipients is a veritable who's who of our industry and its history. Too many are, sadly, no longer with us, including my father, but they will also be honored. I will be equally proud to accept my father's induction on his behalf, as I will my own.
I learned so much from him, as I have from many of the honorees, who will hopefully be able to attend. Once those Hall of Famers move into retirement, their knowledge, experience and expertise will for the most part be unavailable, so you might wish to make it a point to introduce yourself and congratulate a few of them. Pick their brains on anything you've been questioning lately, or just ask them for their funniest or most interesting coffee story. I promise, you will not likely walk away disappointed.
I hope to see you in Nashville at NAMA's Coffee, Tea and Water show. And, as always, "May your cup run full, and the brew, exquisite!"
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KEVIN DAW is president of Heritage Coffee Co. (London, ON, Canada), a private-label roaster serving the breaktime management industries. A 30-year veteran of OCS, water delivery and vending operations, he has concentrated on coffee roasting for the past two decades.