Monday, May 21, 2007

The Shock of Change

Today a monumental coffee event took place at my place of employment. Our modest, one-button Keurig k-cup machines have been replaced by a Flavia - a bold, menu-driven contraption meant to 'replace a Starbucks run', according to everyone on the sales team.

The curious traders and programmers crowded around a girl in a logo-emblazoned Polo shirt, as she explained the various menu items and the flavors available from the battery of little packets that come with the machine. She told us that the Sumatra is less acidic than the Kenya, although the Kenya is more 'fair trade'. She explained how you can combine a coffee packet with a Creamy Topping packet to make an 'Indulgence' drink - a latte or a cappuccino, depending on the button you push.

She also mentioned that you can instead add a Milky Way Swirl packet to your coffee to end up with a speedball of sorts - a concoction that feeds two addictions at once. At the other end of the health spectrum there is a whole slew of 'Wellbeing' packets - from Japanese Green Tea to the enigmatic White Tea.

Cutting to the chase, I'll say that between me and my co-workers, we ended up trying the entire line of Flavia's offerings, and they all tasted like shit - the latte, the drip coffee, even the tea.

I really shouldn't feel threatened by this - they are really not targeting my segment of the market. In other words, they wouldn't be caught dead in Edgewater or Rogers Park, but just witnessing this can be a bit scary. Basically, in the blink of an eye, a corporation will show up at your doorstep, turn every concept that you hold dear into a buzzword, and make what you do sound trite. It's like the action movie routine - the hero says, "it's not safe here", and right away we hear the first bullet strike a window.

I accidentally crossed paths with the Flavia sales team on their way out. The girl in the Polo shirt was chattering like a banshee, probably a consequence of getting high off her own supply (it's rule number two, and don't you forget it). She was talking about how wonderfully positive the response was, and that once the "shock of change" wears off, it will be more postive yet. We'll just see about that, sister.

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