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COFFEE COMMON: The Collaborative Brand Wakes Up

A couple weeks ago we announced our plans to create COMMON. Holy hell it's been a ride since then. We describe COMMON as one part community: one part business prototyper; and one part collaborative brand. And it's turning out to be one part giant lump in the throat.

We're a tiny operation and it's a tall order to build our dream. Dream = A network of creative people rapidly prototyping hundreds, if not thousands of progressive businesses designed to solve social problems, all connected to a brand that’s community designed, community owned and community directed.

It's roller coaster ride with ups and downs of emotion and energy. But one of the things that keeps us going are all the people that are reaching out to offer help and encouragement. This week Stephen Morrissey from Intelligentsia Coffee skyped me up to talk about coffee and collaboration. Stephen has somehow become my guardian angel in my own journey into what some people describe as the third wave of coffee in the US. The first wave was post first world war. The second wave is our introduction to espresso through Starbucks and the like. And the third wave is what we're discovering about pour-over coffees and single source beans from people like Stephen and companies like Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, Stumptown, Square Mile, and more.

Stephen was the World Barista Champion in 2008, so I couldn't ask for a better teacher. Although he surely has had better students as some of you might even pick up from my description of the third wave. I'm a newbie indeed.

To get the word out about the simple truths of great coffee, a group of companies that by most traditional definitions would be considered competitors have decided to band together and work for a greater cause. Damn, I've said it before but collaboration is the new competition, and this is a great example if there ever was one. So Stephen was wondering if this sort of collaborative experiment fit what we were doing with the COMMON brand.

Figures it would take a coffee guy to wake us up to the full potential of our collaborative brand concept. It wasn't the kind of engagement we'd ever considered before. But as we played it out it seemed to fit under the idea of a branded event that could over time become something much more. We've been so focused (blinded) on entrepreneurs that we may have missed a big idea that Stephen saw. Thank goodness for people that shake you out of your preconceived notions. So could COMMON brand a movement? Why not? Could COMMON brand a benefit concert? Absolutely!

In a few short days Stephen, Brian Jones (a Project M designer with a coffee blog, Dear Coffee, I Love You), Sean Bonner, Jeff Oeth and others put together a plan to brand this sweet collaboration of some of the country's top roasters and baristas. These baristas include several national champions and a world champion and they're paying their way to be part of waking the TED attendees up to coffee. The most complex and nuanced beverage on earth. Sorry wine. Hopefully you will be at TED to partake of their craft, but if not you can watch the conversation between barista and TED attendee unfold here at


By Alex Bogusky


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Reader Comments (5)

Common Coffee, n. 1. freshly ground heaven.
2. a group that resembles a socket and a plug, that when locked together...
sparks of Light ignite.

Lump in the throat, n. that thing that forms in one's throat when you are doing your work from your heart ~ as a service to life, you become a cause rather than an effect.


February 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIN-B-TWEEN

I meant "Coffee Common"......too much coffee this morning!

Cheers and


February 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIN-B-TWEEN

Alex, if you haven't seen it, you must check out the documentary "The Perfect Cappuccino":

Full disclosure, it's by a friend of mine, genius filmmaker Amy Ferraris, who introduced me to the wonders of Intelligensia well before the third wave reached Los Angeles in earnest. Amy won a Fulbright scholarship to make a documentary about the history of the cappuccino against a backdrop of Facism in Italy and corporate America and all of the tensions along the spectrum.

I've been making my own judgments about various third wavers ever since...

And I can't wait to see what comes out of Coffee Common...

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaz

Coffeecommon is showing "problem loading page" so is it a go or a dud? I hope the former. I'm pumped by this fearless rev and common. I just wish we could somehow get away from labelling people "consumers" and get back to calling ourselves "citizens," which implies people taking an active, rather than passive, role in community. Citizens who vote. Citizens who volunteer. Citizens who care. Citizens who buy things but buy them with a conscience. Citizens: not consumers.

March 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Cox

Pop over to to see our 14 foot tall, solar powered, COFFEE Bubble Tower ! Made from recycled burlap and jute coffee bean bags from around the world!

The squeals are deafening! Not because the world’s biggest bubble toy is noisy, but because the kids (and their parents) are going nuts!
Chasing and popping bubbles is only half the fun with the 14 foot tall, solar powered Bubble Tower Sculpture. The other half is watching the kids (and their parents) swoop and run and dance after the soaring bubbles. Or collecting masses of bubbles on their heads!
The solar powered (with battery back up) Bubble Tower is very quiet, but people respond with noisy abandon to the floating gobs of bubbles spewing from the top of the 14 foot tall pyramid.
Coming soon to a festival near you!

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBill "Stretch" Coleman

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