Times are a changing

Six years ago, when we first opened Cafe u Dvorištu, the Croatian coffee market was homogeneous, conservative, and frankly boring. Looking back I realized that most of what we did at that time was based on a substantial fear of extinction. In order to stay afloat and to avoid confronting the terrible facts of our insignificance in the market, specialty coffee roasters, cafes, and restaurants adopted the idea of separation and refusal to participate. We created walls around us, isolating ourselves from each other and the world that surrounds us. We created ideologies based on the notion that what we do is ''the right way'' but that we are doomed to be misunderstood.

Looking at the situation now, the Croatian coffee market is definitely changing. In Zagreb alone there are now three major specialized coffee brands (Elis Caffe & Roastery, Lively Roasters Co., and Cogito Coffee Roasters), as well as coffee shops like Express Bar (serving Squaremile coffee), 42 Coffee Company (advertising their own unique coffee blends), and many others. Shops and restaurants are employing coffee consultants from places like Berlin and London. In Šibenik Caffe bar Giro is now buying their own green beans and using the service of a local roasting company, Caffe bar Bueno in Mali Lošinj is roasting their own, and 4Coffee Soul Food in Split has made remarkable strides in affecting the local coffee culture. All of this amounts to a significant diversification in the market: of interests, attitudes, and desires. As a result we are getting a wider and more excited response from the general public.

I am not saying that these changes are something to boast about or to be taken for granted. All I am saying is that this growth cannot be ignored. It seems to me that the diversification of the local coffee market is also creating a general confusion. In this respect the trauma of our beginnings has perhaps radicalized us into acts of further separation. Even though there are more of us I see that we continue to be afraid of our potential insignificance. Here I see two possible consequences: we will never create an unified specialty coffee market, therefore continuing to look eccentric, isolated and small; and consequently what we do manage to create will be subsumed by larger more self-confident coffee brands. The positive effect at this point of change is that there are more voices in the coffee story and therefore more people get to hear our versions of it. The luck in the face of it all is that at this point our general customers are not completely aware of our insecurities. This does not mean that we should underestimate their intelligence or the fact that they will demand a more stable, consistent, and authentic coffee market. I think that they will stick with us only when we mature. That is, when we are able to affirm ourselves and not at the same time exclude others. In the end – for better or worst – a bad coffee culture will hurt us more than a bad cup of coffee.