Cup of Luxury

Bryan-David Scott

10. Cup-Celebrity Coffee Chef Bryan-David Scott headshot high-res

In the early years of his life, Bryan-David Scott was a championship boxer. Today, he is a heavy hitter in a different ring, namely, in the arena of ultra-luxury coffee. “There are a lot of ways to deliver a knockout punch,” says the soft-spoken but clearly impassioned Scott, “and I believe that the experience of drinking my coffee for the first time is one of those.”

How does a boxer become a luxury coffee purveyor? After a stint with the police, Scott, who throughout his interview comes across as the ultimate Renaissance man, entered the world of direct sales as a furniture broker. He proved effective at using e-commerce to bypass the show rooms and sell below retail in a furniture market that was beginning to show signs of suffering from the economic slowdown. When the furniture industry crashed in 2006, Scott asked himself, “What is it that I am truly passionate about? What can I sell every day rather than every few years?” Coffee immediately came to mind. However, Scott feared that Seattle, where he was living at the time, was a saturated market. Two in-depth studies later, he concluded that Seattle was not as saturated as he had initially thought. “People were tired of drinking mediocre stuff,” he says, explaining his decision to aim for the top quality possible. How to achieve this? From the beginning, Scott was willing to pay up to 700 to 1200% more for green coffee beans, ensuring not only a higher quality raw material, but also gaining loyalty from his growers, and fostering real relationships, years before “fair trade” became a buzzword.

Initially, Scott entered the coffee industry as a broker, an role with which he was familiar. He gained an immediate celebrity following, with chefs and sommeliers commenting on how superior his coffee tasted. Despite these encouraging beginnings, being an independent coffee broker while maintaining top quality proved to be financially and logistically difficult. To attempt to solve this issue, Scott took on a partner, a master of coffee for 34 years. This enabled him to finally take his already high quality coffee to the next level, the one he refers to as “luxury coffee,” and found Cup of Luxury. Other brands, such as Starbucks, may claim that they are luxury, but according to Scott, this is “like putting a sexy bumper sticker that says Rolls-Royce on a 95 Ford escort, and calling it a Rolls-Royce.”

Other than the aforementioned super-premium beans, what is the major difference between Cup of Luxury coffee and other brands? Coffee is rated like wine, on a 100-point scale. Traditionally, only coffees ranging from 95 to 100 points are considered luxury class. However, last year, Bryan-David Scott decided that 95 points would not be satisfactory for his coffee. “I wanted 100 points or nothing at all.” He now puts his handcrafted coffees through tastings by an independent panel of 34 professionals hand-picked from the worlds of wine, cuisine, and of course, coffee. This panel must unanimously give the roasted coffee beans a five-star rating. How do these professionals judge the beans? Some check on the visual aspect. No broken pieces are allowed in the mix, and each bean must be flawless. There is much care taken at the harvest in sorting the beans and only the top one percent are ultimately chosen. The sommeliers and coffee experts on the panel are expected to use a French press with a pour over, as drip is not considered an optimal method for extracting maximum flavor from coffee. Some of the chefs on the panel will judge by eating the bean itself. According to Scott, these un-brewed beans must embody perfect flavor, displaying ideal richness and complexity without any acrid notes.

10. Cup-Fresh roasted luxury S-2

Even within the Cup of Luxury brand, there are echelons. Black Label, for example, is “one of the most beautiful coffees we have.” Scott waxes lyrical as he describes the secret blend’s aroma of dark chocolate and dark berry as well as a vanilla component, which he specifies is reminiscent of “Spanish vanilla.” And the taste? “Oh my God. It’s a very distinct flavor.” Beyond Black Label is Cup of Luxury’s Paramount blend. It is, in Scott’s words, “an outrageous coffee that would be beyond 100 points on the hundred point scale, because it’s so complex, rich, clean and smooth.” Like most fine wines, Cup of Luxury’s coffees are not single-source, but rather expertly concocted blends. Continuing with the wine analogy, Scott, who recently moved to Sonoma, compares the Paramount blend to “a Chateau Lafitte or a 97 Screaming Eagle Cab Sauv.”

Not only is each offering custom blended, it is also custom roasted at the time of each order in order to ensure maximum freshness and expression of flavor. It would be difficult if not impossible to provide such quality with a traditional business model, so Bryan-David Scott has launched an extremely exclusive coffee club. Other than sampling it at very high-end venues or at elite events, joining the coffee club is the only way to enjoy Cup of Luxury coffee. There are 1800 memberships available worldwide, and these cost almost $6000 a year. This makes it difficult for an average person to gain access, but not for the celebrities, chefs, and higher-end consumers who care about their coffee quality, and who are Cup of Luxury’s target clients. Is Bryan-David Scott worried about the seemingly Sisyphean task of converting consumers to real luxury coffee, especially with numerous emerging coffee brands nipping at his heels? His past as a boxer has clearly shaped his approach to business. “I am a fighter,” he says. “I do my best under pressure.”

Text by Karena Gupton Akhaveinh

THE OBSESSION ISSUE

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