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What's the Story Behind This?


Everything we buy (avocados, toothbrushes, gasoline, diamonds, yoga mats, etc) has a story. It came from somewhere. It was grown or made by someone or some machine. Some truck, car, airplane or guy on a bike delivered it to the store where you bought it or even brought it directly to your front door.

Yesterday as I finished watching the documentary The Birth of Saké, the Japanese alcoholic beverage had become more than a spirit in a bottle.

What I know now about Saké-making isn't extensive but I was able to see the grueling work (in terms of conditions and duration) required to produce it and I have a sense of the kind of people behind its production. I know it is struggling to maintain relevance and market share in today's world among beer, wine and spirits. There are camps of people wanting to drink it with traditional flavor profiles (think Budweiser and Miller) vs. those seeking out evolved flavor and production (see craft beer).

As an aspiring home bartender, I can tell you prior to yesterday Saké was never something I thought of. I'd tried it once or twice, oversimplified what it was and moved on. It appeared to be a boring spirit not worth a second thought. While my consumption habits may not change dramatically, knowing its story is important in attempting to change my behavior. Saké is no longer just a bottle on a shelf. It's produced at the Tedorigawa Brewery, made by a small band of men who live there six months at a times, doing a lot of work manually in heated rooms and constantly nurtured to arrive at its finishing point before its President-elect (son of the brewery's current president) spends the other six months of the year on the road attempting to educate people like me into becoming its next customer.

That's a lot more compelling reason to buy something than just because a bottle looks good or is the right price ;)

A couple years back, Sam Altman of Y Combinator (an equity accelerator), put out a list of lessons he'd learned thus far and one seems quite applicable, "Read more long content and less tweets. Watch less TV. Spend less time on the Internet." I suppose the "watch less TV" part might run in contradiction to what Altman said but my guess is, he'd exclude a documentary like this from that reference.

There are many products I come face-to-face with everyday whose background I do not know. And while attempting to learn all of them would surely drive me mad, "what's the story behind this?" is something I hope to be more mindful of in the future.

Go Forth Boldly

p.s. check out Planet Money's T-shirt Project if you want to see this at extreme granularity.


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