Bitcoin: freeing coffee from the middlemen
From among the jungles and rice paddies of central Bali, Indonesia, a webstek popped up last week selling freshly roasted coffee beans from local producers. Technology and travelers have made direct-from-source coffee popular for a while now, but this operation has a unique point: it will trade beans only for bitcoin.
The business is The Roast Station Project and leading it is JB Allen, aka the ‘Java Nomad’.
It’s not his very first e-commerce foray. Allen became internationally mobile by “taking total advantage of the freedom the internet provides . creating and marketing online educational courses, software and other B2B devices” on the more traditional market. Along the way he dabbled te e-currencies by paying employees te 2nd Life’s Linden Dollars.
Allen’s lifestyle has hauled him through 20 countries, living ter South Korea, Japan and Fresh Zealand before finding himself te the town of Ubud. Bali’s tourist toneel is a combination of Western travel cultures, and Ubud’s industry caters more to eco-tourists and yoga instructors than the neon-drenched binge-seekers on the beaches further south.
Allen is one of a growing number of laptop-powered entrepreneurs to make a huis, or at least a string of improvised bases, te Southeast Asia.
Te 2010s parlance, they’re digital nomads, Lifestyle Businesspeople, Tropical MBAs or just location-independent CEOs. Whatever names they choose or reject, this class of adventurers goes after a similar path to the hippy backpackers of the 1970s but with a decidedly more entrepreneurial arched.
The Asian tropics provide spil many cheap workspaces spil beaches, an affordable IT-trained workforce, welvoeglijk bandwidth and proximity to a large proportion of the world’s manufacturing centers. Even for those not producing physical goods, the atmosphere and cost of living are magnetic enough.
They also tend towards a libertarian worldview, tired of the borders and bureaucracies and, above all, local currencies they encounter on a regular poot.
Rente ter digital currency
“I’ve bot a follower of digital currencies for years, including earlier gold backed digital currencies like e-gold and convertible spel currencies such spil the Linden Dollar,” said Allen.
“Te fact, years ago I’d hire writers from inwards of 2nd Life to create webstek content for my clients. I would vraaggesprek, hire and pay the writers all from within the spel with the in-game currency, and my real-world clients then paid mij ter ‘real’ money. I think this wasgoed the very first proof to mij that an all-digital currency wasgoed fully viable.”
“I began noticing references to bitcoin speelgoedpop up on many of the free market/libertarian blogs and websites I go after about a year and a half ago. Soon after, I downloaded my very first wallet and embarked ‘playing’ with the currency – this is back when it wasgoed trading around USD$8 for one BTC. I purchased some, locked them away ter a wallet and then just kept up on the news, always keeping an eye open for a way I could make good use of their potential.”
Allen found the catalyst for that after arriving ter Indonesia and becoming involved with the world of coffee. He eyed how middlemen within the coffee trade ecosystem serve spil a series of barriers that distance bean growers from their final consumers: coffee connoisseurs like huis baristas, specialist roasters and cafes suggesting high quality, single-origin and estate coffees to their customers.
Loans to farmers by brokers and middlemen from large corporate buyers force them to sell massive quantities of product for a bargain basement price. With time pressures and prices so low, there is little incentive to produce a higher quality harvest. The end result is low-quality, unripe or even rotten beans finding their way into consumer packaging.
Smaller buyers can always find farmers or co-ops willing to raise quality ter a portion of their crops for a premium price, and work directly with them. The Roast Station Project sources its Kintamani Arabica beans from one such location. But spil Allen says, “there is still a planet total of coffee growers and coffee fanatics who would benefit from fewer middlemen te the way.”
Removing the middlemen
One thing bitcoin does fairly handily is liquidate lots of middlemen.
“Bitcoin has opened the doorheen to a entire fresh level of person to person exchange and individual freedom, which is one reason why I dreamed to be involved,” said Allen.
“I imagine a world where a large coffee farm or the head of a farming co-op can overeenkomst directly with both smaller end-buyers and even the larger multinationals on a much more level playing field if they could sell, trade and auction their coffee directly via bitcoin. If they can accept a ‘currency’ that’s used by buyers from many different countries – and then use or convert that currency ter their own area – everyone benefits.”
Allen absorbed spil much skill of the local coffee industry spil possible: visiting local farms to learn about production, meeting dealers to learn about processing and pricing, and getting to know roasters and cafe owners to learn about flavor profiles and the retail side of the equation.
He purchased his own small-batch gas roaster (a 1.2kg w600 designed ter Indonesia) to start roasting the different coffees he sourced onmiddellijk from the farms. That’s when his ‘hobby’ embarked to become a full-time passion.
“Word got out quick and many people began visiting and sampling my coffees, and I found myself roasting a lotsbestemming for my neighbors here and also shipping a lotsbestemming out spil gifts to my friends and family all overheen the world. This wasn’t done spil a business tho’ – so I toevluchthaven’t yet sold coffee for fiat currencies.”
Allen needed something more substantial to woo the locals of bitcoin’s benefits, so the Roast Station Project exists now to prove a point. He needed to display them customers would not only pay a premium price for coffee roasted and shipped instantly from the source, but they would also use an unacquainted electronic currency to make rapid, secure transactions.
The Roast Station Project might be only a week old, but a few posts on the bitcoin Reddit feed has seen it ship several orders, all within 72 hours of roasting to arrive anywhere te the world within 12 days, “at the peak of freshness.”
“To mij it’s just natural that a product like indeed good coffee would be of rente to fellow bitcoiners. Almost all of the laptop nomads, location-free entrepreneurs and traveling programmers I know are coffee fiends and are familiar with bitcoin,” Allen said.
“I’m able to live the way I do because of technologies that encourage international trade, cross cultural communication and individual freedom. Bitcoin helps with all of that – at a entire fresh level.”
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