Dean Kallivrousis is Ally Coffee's sales and account manager for the Midwest and Rocky Regions. He began his coffee career in 2010 as a Starbucks barista, and since then has held an impressive range of roles including barista, wholesale manager, and Q Grader.

Dean has competed in and judged US coffee competitions from latte art to roasting, He has been with Ally Coffee for the last three years.

"I love coffee and I love the coffee community at large" says Dean. "It is the community that has sustained me in my ups and downs. It has helped me find myself and I feel like it's my people."

This is the second installment in a Q&A series with Dean Kallivrousis. We did the q&a over Instagram DM in April 2019, and shared the convo via screenshots. The convo is saved in my Instagram highlights, and the full transcript is below. First installment is here.

WHERE WE LEFT OFF

DK: This is what concerns me the most with the talk of promoting alternative markets like Fair Trade, to direct trade to specialty coffee and nonprofits. It doesn’t change the structure. And this isn’t to denounce the good work from all of the above but I think if we want to see greater equity for producers we need to talk about protections for those most vulnerable.

Coffee Vs. Information Gatekeeping

DK: The biology of coffee isn’t condusive to the quick changes in price and trends that happen in the market. It takes a long time for coffee to grow and it goes through a 2-year boom/bust cycle which is a ton of risk for producers.

UM: Totally! Compared to other crops coffee is a different beast! Can you tell me more about he boom/bust cycle?

DK: I was just taking to another colleague Bram De Hoog (@bram_dehoog), and he was describing it more as a biannual production where the plant gets tired after a full year of production and so experiences a drop in yield the following year.

What this historically has led to in order to deal with it was continuing to plant and it has lead to chronic overproduction issues which is partly why there was an international agreement from 1962-1988 to stabilize the market.

UM: Oh wow!

DK: And that what partly worries me about the conversations we’ve been having about the coffee crisis. It hasn’t dealt with fundamentals such as supply and demand or the role that speculators play in the coffee futures market.

UM: There are definitely a lot of factors, and I think for folks who care about this issue there are certain things that feel more clearly actionable for individual businesses.

As we were talking about earlier, there is a really tough wall around access to learning about futures so that feels more intimidating as something to be immediately tackled.

I think access to information is a huge barrier in us being able to even begin to take into account the entirely of systems at play.

DK: COMPLETELY.

It’s why I’ve started collecting as much information available from social scientists in the industry and market. I have about 100 PDFs in a bibliography-style Google sheet that I’m happy to share with anyone who would like to look and read. 

More and more I’m becoming convinced that our action must be collective vs. individual privatized efforts. And listen to and add social scientists to the conversation for guidance.

 UM: Wow, that is great! Our of curiosity, do you feel like the PDFs require translating? I feel like in our conversation I’ve needed help with terms and definitions.

I personally feel fine with asking questions but I know that’s felt vulnerable for me at other times in my life, and feels vulnerable for others. 

If it’s data coming directly from social scientists I would tend to assume that I’d need help with understanding terms, especially since is really hard to find useful explanations online.

DK: That’s a really valid question! And that’s a lot ot the inspiration I have with sharing these stories on IG, which I feel is translating. There are some articles I feel do an incredible job for any coffee professional to pick up and read and grasp what’s happening. And I’m happy to share those materials with anyone who would like to read and talk. 

I’d ultimately like to curate or to see information that can be more readily accessible for anyone who wants to learn.

I highly recommend The ‘Latte Revolution’? Winner and Losers in the Re-Structuring of the Global Coffee Marketing Chain by Stefano Ponte. The information I think is easy to read and gives a really good  foundation on what happened after the end of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989 and on.

Thank you so much by the way for allowing your IG to be a medium to host conversations like this. The last thing I would want is for this information to be lost in translation or for people to give up hope.

UM: That you for those recommendations! And thank you so much for this conversation, I really appreciate it. 

P.S. who are these social scientists and how you know them? Like how I do get connected with social scientists? Is there a hang-out spot? Group text?

DK: 🤣🤣🤣Honestly, Luke (@prof.red.pen on Instagram) and Sabine Parrish (@sabine.coffee) are both incredible resources for the social sciences and coffee. I personally think they’re highly underutilized. 

What’s incredible has been reading this stuff and then having conversations with Sabine to make sure I am understanding things correctly and if it’s consensus or fringe thought.

When I was first starting I would Google “specialty coffee anthropology pdf” and hope I would find something. 

UM: OMG that’s how I used Google. 

DK: HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAHHA!! I’m not alone!

UM: Sometimes people think I’m some sort of expert on something and ask for information about it and I’m like “Idk but you Google ‘mental health vitamins’ you could probably find something.

DK: 100%!!

UM: There honestly should be a mandatory class in middle school or something about how to use Google. I mean that with zero snark, I’m realizing recently that most people are not able to utilize search engines in a helpful way

DK: Right precisely.

UM: They just need help knowing what search terms to use, and that totally makes sense. There’s strategy to using Google.

DK: And what’s tough IMO is that algorithms are based off of what others attempt to look up to it’s like trying to cut the wheat from the chaff ie how echo chambers happen. Which I feel you absolutely know. What’s interesting is trying different combinations of words and seeing what pops up! 

UM: I fuckin’ love the internet.

Want to read the first installment? Check it out here.

Third installment is here.

Fourth installment is here.

Want to read Dean's collection of PDFs? The sheet is here.