We wrap up our conversation with the coffee Instagrammer GuruCaleb.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Caleb Stultz
Yesterday, we began chatting with Caleb Stultz of @GuruCaleb, whom many may recognize on Instagram for his coffee gear and bag reviews. Yesterday, we got beyond the aesthetic of the posts and into the mind of what it takes to build success on Instagram in the coffee sphere. Today, we finish this discussion by learning who Caleb partners with and how he observes coffee trends in order to create his own content.
Katrina Yentch: How do you decide who to take on and partner with?
Caleb Stultz: It’s kind of a mix. Sometimes a brand will reach out to me and say, “Hey we’re working on this new product. Would you like to check it out?” And I don’t necessarily know that I have a concrete way that I identify brands that I think would be good to work with or not, but I can kind of tell just by reading through some of the language they use on their website, or the intentionality behind how a product is built. I can tell whether or not they really care about specialty coffee, or whether they’re trying to jump on the bandwagon.
Also, I’m a sucker for eye candy so if there’s a pretty product with a really clean, minimal aesthetic, I’m kind of 100% on board. That’s one thing, but then I also really want to get to know the people behind the brand. I get a feel from talking with the brand and having some back and forth, if they come across … if I feel like I can connect with them on a personal level, it seems like it could be a good partnership on a professional level.
Do you charge for collaborations?
I do. I started doing that once I reached 5,000 followers. And for roasters and coffee brands, roasters are pretty much always working within slim margins so I’ve never charged anything for coffee reviews. I see my profile as a really awesome opportunity to shine the spotlight on great roasters and the work they’re doing. If a coffee brand reaches out to me about wanting to share their coffee, I obviously accept the coffee and I see my review and sharing about their brand as a way I can help support and direct my audience towards their outlets.
But then with gear brands, there’s a product and business model, I know these brands have some form of a marketing budget in mind, so when it comes to promoting gear I have an “a la carte” menu of placements on my profile, where people can put together a custom package for what works for them.
Finding a rate that you feel good with, and when brands are saying yes, I feel like you’ve hit the sweet spot. You know if you’re underselling yourself. And it’s easy to do that because you’re like, “I don’t know! I only have this many followers, I’m not not uber influential.” But if you feel like you could honestly look at your rates and feel good creating content for this rate and brands are saying yes, I feel like that’s how you know.
What are some things in coffee that you notice are trending, and how does that influence your content?
Two things: The first one, I am seeing a lot of experimental processing methods for coffee beans. There’s some disagreement with it, there are the standard natural processing methods and washed processing methods. Those have existed for a long time, but for some experimental methods like carbonic maceration, they’re all these weird ones like “mandarin orange process.” I was just looking at one today called Nirvana process. A lot of people think these are just sort of catchy buzzwords and there’s just not enough to distinguish a certain method versus another.
Nirvana is just an anaerobic process but there’s 40 hours of fermentation time. Just because it’s 40 hours doesn’t justify it giving itself a name. I don’t know, but one thing I’m seeing is that there are a lot of these experimental processing methods, and to me as a content creator, I see that as an opportunity to explore and kind of dive in, explain what makes these different and what does this mean?
Another thing is centralized to the content I’m working on now, but I’ve been seeing an uptick in specialty-coffee pods. Just me saying that I’m shuddering thinking about coffee pods. Like you know the Keurig, the Nespresso, there’s a certain vibe that those give off in the specialty-coffee community, but what I’ve been seeing is specialty roasters have been embracing the specialty Nespresso pods and have been putting their coffee in them. … It’s very cool, but the thing that I love is that these specialty-coffee pods are like finding a way to get specialty coffee in the door of gear that people already have.
That’s a cool accessibility piece for me, like if I know somebody that has a Nespresso machine but they’ve only ever tried the basic Nespresso pods that the coffee is not that amazing, they can try these specialty pods and have the same realization that I had years ago with Stumptown. There’s so much more to coffee that I could be enjoying, and I think that’s really cool.
One downside is the environmental impact of those, but I suppose since Nespresso pods are largely made out of aluminum, that seems way more recyclable to me than the plastic pods that Keurig has. I’m sure there’s a great way to recycle them and that’s up to the individual to figure out how to recycle those. But nonetheless I think it’s a cool way to get specialty coffee in the door with people.
What do you like more, bag reviews or gear reviews??
That is a really hard question! I really love gear reviews, to me as a tech-centric gearhead when it comes to early adopting technology, there’s a lot of parallels in the coffee world with tech nowadays. I’m seeing more and more of a connection there, so to me by getting to do these reviews, and sometimes it’s before the product even comes out, I feel like I’m sort of getting to see behind the curtain of the innovation of coffee, getting to have my hands on these cool new products and share about them, and when friends come over we can play with them. It’s really fun, but if I didn’t say gear reviews, I’d say bag reviews because branding is also very strong in the coffee community. So many roasters have stellar brands and insane packaging. My heart goes out to the gear reviews for being kind of a geek.