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Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008

Coffee Forum

Brews on the blogosphere

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To blog, to journal publicly on the Web, has gained popularity at an exponential rate. According to Technorati, an Internet search engine that collects, organizes and distributes blogs and other forms of independent, user-generated content, there are more than 175,000 new blogs every single day. Writers of varying ilk are appreciating the ease with which they can not only publish their ideas, share stories, dissect the news, and simply vent, but can also receive responses from millions of people from all over the world. The blogosphere is a universal discussion, and everyone’s invited.

In May, Mike Miller celebrated the oneyear anniversary of “Milwaukee Specialty Food and Coffee,” his Weblog dedicated to local, national and international food and coffee topics. “I was looking for a coffee-related forum or discussion group that was specific to Milwaukee, but didn’t find one,” Miller explains. “So I had to do it myself.”

Coffee enthusiasts, foodies and industry professionals are subscribing to “Milwaukee Specialty Food and Coffee” for Miller’s daily—give or take a day or two— vignettes of uncensored commentary, pictures and graphs. The written delivery can be endearing and perceptive, whether Miller is teeing off on the absurdities of modern coffee culture (“I’ve always made fun of punch cards and lately refused to carry them, but made an exception a while back because the card was foisted on me by a barista at Bayshore that I have a crush on”) or the economic sensibilities of certain specialty coffee companies (“Starbucks and … Caribou have, in a sense, doubled their exposure to the vicissitudes of gas prices by expanding in areas of urban sprawl”). The information, which speaks of an online diary, is valuable.

Along with potential patrons who want to avoid a bunk coffee shop, business owners in the coffee and food trade would be smart to reference Miller’s blog entries to see how customers are perceiving their stores. Is the coffee stale? Are there too many employees working one shift? How’s the Wi-Fi service? Is a competing coffee shop going to be opening soon? Without the red pen of an editor looming or an allegiance to any group, Miller doesn’t mince words. Overall, his disposition is positive, though he won’t shy away from sharing insightful criticisms.


There is always a question of credibility when it comes to blogs. Anyone can write one, regardless of their professional or academic credentials, or lack thereof. Miller is well-informed and rather balanced (though he definitely has a soft spot for local coffee faves like Alterra Coffee Roasters and Stone Creek Coffee, and you can guarantee he’s going to favor the small and independently owned coffee houses versus the large corporate chain coffee stores). To give the blog more depth, however, “Milwaukee Specialty Food and Coffee” has opened its forum to contributing authors like Mary Dally-Muenzmaier, former marketing manager and blogger for Stone Creek Coffee and Kristine Hansen, co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coffee & Tea. To widen the conversation even further, readers are invited to post their facts and opinions on the site too.

While “Milwaukee Specialty Food and Coffee” devotes itself to, well, specialty food and coffee, the site includes a diverse list of subjects, ranging from “Shameless Panhandling” and “Heinousness Alerts” to religion and travel. “I think most bloggers find the bully pulpit irresistible,” Miller says. “And I’m no exception!”

For more information, go to www.milwaukeespecialtycoffee.com.

Mike Miller | Photo by Kate Engbring