Saturday, July 19, 2008

The "Incident" - An Observation

Some of you may be in the dark regarding the "Incident" at Murky Coffee in D.C.

There has been literally thousands of comments across the blogosphere regarding this tiff, and it brings some important issues to light:

This is not your father's coffeeshop.
Coffee has progressed incredibly over the past twenty-years, from the farmer cupping their lots, testing various drying methods, utilizing the science of cultivation--which can create a higher quality bean, to the artisan barista who spends countless hours understanding dosing, leveling, and extraction techniques... and who has to master the nuances of each espresso just as a concert pianist masters various pieces of classical music.

Several coffeeshops across North America have raised their standard of coffee and espresso quality to be greater than the food quality of most high end restaurants. It is the average shop, where over-roasted bitterness is the norm, that continues the thought that coffee is a method of caffeine injection, rather than a culinary experience. For these handful of shops that treat coffee as a culinary experience AND deliver it, a higher standard of respect should be given by their customers, as well as a higher level of decorum should be present in the barista.

This begs the question,

"Can we serve an exceptional product while maintaining a casual atmosphere and expect a high level of respect from the customer?"
There is a casual elegance you can find in many restaurants. Take a look at some of the seafood restaurants in San Fran as an example. Shorts, nice shirt, maybe even sandals... dinner for two, $400+
Is it a product of the atmosphere? Of the pricing? Is it a matter of revamping the entire atmosphere to elicit a different response, a different expectation from the customer?

These are questions I have been thinking about for a few years now and while I have a few solutions in mind... it is the implementation that is hardest. But I do believe you can raise the standard by raising the expectation through better presentation and consumer coffee education.

But the customer wants...

When you get a McFish from the Golden Arches it is entirely different from ordering the Seared Ahi Tuna loin at Charlie Trotter's; the same holds true for coffee.

Quality isn't for the Everyman, and rather than try to appeal to everyone, customers are given the best service by a continual raising of standards along with continued pursuit of excellence in our craft. All of this translates to an exceptional cup, and that is the greatest reward we can give.