Mourns The Death Of Ward Barbee
founder and publisher
of Fresh Cup magazine
by Les Drent
It's been only 4 days since we heard of Ward Barbee's
passing here at Coffee Times. I know I speak for everyone
in the Kona coffee industry when I say we were deeply
saddened to hear of this news. Besides being one of
the craziest and most honest characters in the world
of coffee, Ward always stood up for what was right.
Ward was a strong proponent of 100% Kona coffee and
supported Hawaii's farmers in their push to preserve
the identity of their coffee. At a time when specialty
coffee was sprouting its roots in the world, Ward Barbee
latched on to all that was good and right in the coffee
industry and its future. At a time when it was easy
to ride the band wagon of big dollar Kona coffee counterfeiters,
Ward took the side of the little guy (farmer) whose
product identity was being abused.
Ward walked the streets of Kona, visited the farms,
listened to the people (he also partied, danced, and
smoked cigars with the people), attended the meetings
and then eagerly did what few dared to do at the time.
He ventured back to the world outside of Kona, and with
his pen shouted words of wisdom and sense into those
looking to homogenize the Kona coffee name. Perhaps,
the most courageous thing of all is that he took this
stand even if it meant jeopardizing advertising dollars.
Ward Barbee was founder and publisher of Fresh Cup
magazine, an internationally acclaimed coffee trade
magazine. He was an icon in the world of specialty coffee
and a ground breaker in this industry. He was a constant
promoter of the small coffee shop, and owner, and all
they represent in the world of coffee. When he started
Fresh Cup in 1992 out of the basement of his home in
Portland, Oregon, I took notes on Ward's approach to
doing business. I also observed and was inspired by
the many hats he wore. I began operating Coffee Times
magazine out of my own bedroom in 1993 in Kona, Hawaii.
I often called Ward to collaborate on stories relating
to the Kona coffee scandal or pick his brain on business
topics. Ward was always there to help with a laugh and
a joke to boot.
Outside of Kona, Ward always pressed for making the
world of specialty coffee a better and more fun place
to do business. And when Ward was in the house for a
show... buckle your seat belts because it was going
to be one hell of a truth be telling night of fun!!
It's hard to believe that he is gone... so many of
us, including yours truly, took for granted that we
would be closing down another karaoke bar with him in
the future. He was the life of the party and in my mind
one of the great lives of specialty coffee. In coffee
terms... he was a master blend that pulled together
every signature cup of coffee!
Aloha and A hui kaua Mr. Barbee! We will miss you more
than words can express.
My favorite Ward quote:
"They ought to think twice about who they're fighting
with, I buy ink by the barrel load." Ward Barbee
Ward Barbee was 68 when he passed away in Italy on
August 5th. At the time of his death he was vacationing,
and of course having the time of his life with his grandson
and girlfriend Paula. Coffee Times pledges its support
to our dear friend Jan Weigel, who is co-owner of Fresh
Cup magazine and a long time partner with Ward Barbee.
Fresh Cup magazine staff, and supporters are planning
a celebration of Ward's life. For more information please
Press release submitted by Les Drent, publisher and
founder of Coffee Times
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