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Coffee and the future

(First of two parts)

by Senator Manny Villar

The word “future” in the title of this article should come with a caveat because many of the things I wanted to talk about are actually happening – in various stages of gestation – in the present. Changes in technology and communications are so fast the future seems to be just around the corner.

I saw this first hand when I visited the United States a few weeks back. Specifically, I went to visit Silicon Valley, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the emerging hub of technology in Seattle in the state of Washington – these are the two major tech centers of the US.

In that short one-week visit, I was amazed at seeing how the future might look like. I have never been so fascinated about the possibilities of technology especially as it relates to businesses and the workplace.

I am very much interested in the advances in technology and, more importantly, how these advances can impact businesses and our lives, in general. I believe that technology is there to make our lives better. Of course, some have negative effects but that is due largely to how we use, or abuse, them.

The first change I noticed in Seattle has something to do with coffee. Dotting the neighborhoods of the city are countless third-wave coffee shops. Seattle of course is known as the epicenter of the explosion of the “coffee culture” in the US. By some estimates, the people of Seattle consume more coffee than in any other American city.

What is surprising though is the popularity of these so-called artisanal, third-wave coffee shops – Philz, Blue Bottle, Anchorhead, Analog – competing with retail coffee giants like Starbucks. I learned that it is called third wave because these coffee shops represent the third wave of coffee movement.

The first happened in the 1960’s when coffee became widely accessible and a larger segment of the population began enjoying a cup with frequency. With the growing popularity of coffee drinking, big companies like Starbucks emerged and made drinking coffee outside the home a habit, and made a tremendous profit out of it.

The third wave represents a focus on artisanal and innovative methods of brewing, on sustainability, and on more direct trade between the coffee maker, barista and the coffee drinker.

This trend is consistent with the tech future as a major consumer of these third-wave coffees are millenials and those working in the tech industry.

I learned that Seattle and the other cities of the state of Washington are now giving Silicon Valley a run for its money in terms of being the tech capital of the United States. Amazon, Microsoft, and Expedia hold offices there and other tech companies such as Alphabet and Facebook have satellite offices. I understand Twitter and Google also have a presence in the area.

Amazon and Microsoft, by the way, are being run by the two richest persons in the world. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s Bill Gates have more than $180 billion of fortune between them.

The Economist report noted that there are now a quarter of a million people working in technology-related jobs in the state of Washington with Amazon as the largest private employer in the city of Seattle. The region is attracting tech workers with the second highest average salary – $126,000 annually – for software engineers. You can feel the different atmosphere when you are there. The city seems to be always buzzing with activity. Somewhere, you know someone is developing something that will, maybe, change the world.

(In the second part of this article, I will talk about how technology might impact our businesses and the workplace as well as ask an interesting question: “Where is the Philippines in all these?”)