In car parks and industrial estates, laneways and badly-lit parks, all over the country men and women are secretly meeting strangers to indulge in a very wicked pleasure indeed. Participants act under pseudonyms and often only reveal their real identity at the meeting point itself and then disappear back to whence they came. The “Group Buy” is alive and well in Ireland and is bringing quality coffees to pots and portafilters nationwide.
Under the radar and unbeknown to the everyday coffee slugger, group-buying presents an opportunity for the average consumer to experience the greatest coffees from around the world without incurring a massive expense. Parcel delivery charges and the associated problems that come with it mean it is too impractical to rely on for your everyday cup, but every few weeks or so a group buy can both broaden your horizons and educate your pallet.
My first time was a big one, in that I volunteered to be the buyer and distributor. This brings with it a lot of responsibility and a willingness to deal with a lot of problems. If you volunteer as the buyer, those problems become YOUR problems and you’re expected to deal with them. It’s not fair, it’s just the way things are done.
Perhaps the (second) most rewarding aspects of group-buying is meeting likeminded people who are really into their coffee. Your knowledge and understanding of coffee will grow as you surround yourself with people who are passionate about coffee and have a comparable desire to learn more.
Once the coffee is bought, posted, received, dispersed, opened, ground and brewed, the real fun begins. As the participants will inevitably be drawn from all walks of life, people will consequently be brewing their coffee at different times. The trend in a forum-sourced group buy is to post your findings and feedback online as you work through your bounty. If all the participants join it develops into something like a week-long cupping session which develops as the bean changes in flavour and the taster becomes more familiar with it.
It also serves as an outlet for all the questions, stories and opinions that your friends and loved ones have long since learned to ignore. You can discuss seasonality, freshness, dosage and varietals ad nauseum without boring those around you into aggressive hate-filled tears. The continuing stability of your relationships with friends, families and loved ones is wholly reliant on your participation in group buying. You have been warned.