Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Thursday, June 13, 2002


Lileks has an interesting "Bleat" about the connection between an Islamic investment fund, a relief organization for Palestinians (no identified link to militancy or terror), and a coffee company near and dear to my heart, Caribou Coffee. I worked there for about a year when I was a grad student at the U. of Minnesota, so I have some personal experience with the company. I also first became utterly, completely addicted to caffeine as an employee there. Now, Lileks doesn't seem to like their coffee so much; I disagree with him on that, but it is, of course, a matter of personal preference. The Islamic investment group in question seems to own a very large percentage of the company (~88%), which is interesting, because the company was built on the notion of a young couple traveling in Alaska, coming up with the idea, "Hey, what if we started a store that sold really great coffee?" Of course, the story seems like so much BS, but this little aside into the world of private investment banking and funding could spell trouble for them. The rest of the column is about Lileks' interest in the vagaries of Islamic law, and how different it is from the Minnesota cult of choice, Lutheranism (that's a joke, Bowen!). I think there is a pretty simple explanation for why this investment company might want to get involved in coffee. First, it is a pretty good investment, as anyone who has paid 4 bucks for a double almond mocha will tell you. Second, a lot of coffee comes from Muslim countries in North Africa(Kenya and Ethiopia were major sources for Caribou, as I recall) and Southeast Asia (Indonesia is a major coffee producer), so this is a good way of trying to economically encourage growth in Muslim countries (or at least, that could be a justification). Finally, Caribou is a small, fast growing, privately held business, that would be easy for a privately held group that maybe doesn't want a lot of publicity for its investments to get involved in. Anyway, I thought it was interesting, because of my personal connection to the place. When I worked there, it was a lot of fun, and they never tried to enforce Islamic law on the employees!(I don't actually know if this investment group was involved in the company when I worked there, but the point is, as Lileks says, there is no real chance of such a thing happening)

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