In 1983, I was working for a hot-house marketing company in London. The sales floor was full of brio, hard selling and handsome, public school graduates, who could talk the hind leg off a donkey.
One of the most notable young marketers on the sales floor was one Johnny Butcher, who, when not starring on the wing for Harlequins was smoozing pretty marketing executives from a host of Fortune 100 companies.
One of the other notables was my good friend Adrian Pritchard, one of the most handsome men in the display industry, who, to this day, is still one of the most dynamic thinkers in the display industry.
Every day, suppliers would pass through the sales floor, en route for their regular lambasting, briefing or rare thank you, from one of the greatest Production Directors in the advertising and reprographics industry; Les Dutton or as I was allowed to call him Leso. I am from Liverpool and we tend to finish every word with ‘O’. Don’t ask me why! All the lads loved the name Leso and adopted it, even the chairman Roger Seabrook. Les loved it as it was really a term of endearment.
One day, a young cheery chap, with the sultry looks of a young James Dean, passed through the sales floor, to see Les and introduced himself to me. His name was Jeff Beale. I have the honour and privilege of going to his 60th birthday party on Sunday.
In the UK advertising and promotions industry, Jeff is known as the Oracle. He is without a shadow of doubt, the Worlds greatest screen printer. He has created promotions for major advertising companies for over 40 years. He has over 50 patents to his name.
One of the most interesting products he created was this special box for the worlds most expensive coffee.
The origin of kopi luwak is closely connected with the history of coffee production in Indonesia. In the early 18th century the Dutch established the cash-crop coffee plantations in their colony in the Dutch East Indies islands of Java and Sumatra, including Arabica coffee introduced from Yemen. During the era of Cultuurstelsel (1830—1870), the Dutch prohibited the native farmers and plantation workers from picking coffee fruits for their own use. Still, the native farmers wanted to have a taste of the famed coffee beverage. Soon, the natives learned that certain species of musang or luwak (Asian Palm Civet) consumed the coffee fruits, yet they left the coffee seeds undigested in their droppings. The natives collected these luwaks’ coffee seed droppings, then cleaned, roasted and ground them to make their own coffee beverage. The fame of aromatic civet coffee spread from locals to Dutch plantation owners and soon became their favourite, yet because of its rarity and unusual process, the civet coffee was expensive even in colonial times.
This incredible box, Jeff designed and created, houses coffee that is sold in Harrods for over £8000 or $12000. Jeff and I had a cup last week which cost nearly £30 or $50 a cup. – Not bad. My problem is, that my Spanish Grandfather, used to take me to Coopers in Liverpool in the 1960’s, to collect his heavy roast, French Continental beans. My job was to grind them at home in a hand grinder, my grandmother brought from Spain in the 1920’s. My grandfathers coffee was sensational and the memory of the incredible aroma and haunting taste, is still with me, nearly 50 years later.
This story is really about great people, creating great things and the lasting memories, you derive from those moments of greatness. On Sunday, my wife and I will proffer a toast to Jeff. Unfortunately, it will not be with Coffee, made from ingested Civet beans. I am half Spanish and coffee is the elixir of life. If you like Jeff’s box, you will love the coffee but £8000 is a bit steep. My wife’s favourite is Taylors Rich Italian. I make it for her, every day, with the love and skill, my grandfather taught me, half a century ago – Jeff, put the kettle on!
My name is Steve Howard. You have been reading the Digital Circus.