I remain a big fan of Peet’s, despite the fact that I roast my own coffee these days. Peet’s has a remarkable history — one of quality, and consumer education. The company, and its people, have made an indelible contribution to the world we now know as specialty coffee.

Alfred Peet provided coffee to Starbuck’s way back when their mermaid had something to blush about. He even allowed the young Seattle company’s founders to copy his store’s design for their tiny shop in the Pacific Northwest. The story goes that Starbuck’s grew quickly, and Peet had to tell the gang to get their own roaster… and taught them how to use it.

In time, Starbuck’s Jerry Baldwin bought Peet’s, and moved to the San Francisco Bay with his head roaster, Jim Reynolds, to concentrate on Peet’s alone. At the same time, he sold Starbuck’s to Howard Schultz… a guy who sold plastic, and had visions of a coffee bar on every corner.

These days Peet’s, too, has IPOed — and is growing its business nationwide — but the business is still very much about the coffee, and about educating consumers. The Peet’s Winter 2002 newsletter [sorry, postal mail only, but you can sign up online] bears this out, with particularly insightful articles on blending, and on growing relationships with coffee producers. Sure, it’s a catalog… but it’s also a lucid glimpse at the folks on the other side of the counter.

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