Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Quality vs. Speed

The question was asked:

When there is a surge of customers, do you hurry through the drinks, sacrificing quality for speed, or do you expect your customers to understand that it takes a couple of minutes to produce good lattes, and even more time when there's seven of them?

John Says...

Strive for perfection in every drink; it will show, and your customers will wait. On busy days, customers will stand in line for ten minutes just to have a shot of espresso. This need for waiting a long time is rare, but from time to time it happens. If you establish the quality of your product with every drink, including dumping bad shots during a mad rush, I really don't see it as an issue. What I do see is a golden opportunity to educate your customers on your commitment to serve each of them the best drink possible.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Regarding Selling Whole Bean vs Pre-Ground

The question was asked...

When selling coffee, does it help to know which of your customers grind?

John Says...

Coffee should always be sold fresh-roasted, and whole bean. Quality is not an inconvenience. Quality=Caring.

If you educate on the pros of fresh ground and the cons of pre-ground coffee, offer grinder suggestions, or sell grinders yourself, that is often a good solution. But, in my opinion, if you grind *only* in order to make the sale, you are missing the point. The owner that doesn't care about how the coffee reaches the customer doesn't care about the customer; they only care about making the sale. And that is sad.

I'm certain some owners may see that as too hard core, but if you care, your customers will care, and follow suit. Does it eliminate a portion of possible sales? Yes. But it's these kinds of principles that will open doors to a whole new array of wonderful customers.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Question was posed:

"What is Specialty Coffee?"

John Says...

Although great strides have been made in the industry, the sad fact is the term "Specialty Coffee" has lost its meaning, and 'Artisan Coffee' is nearing the same state. When Specialty Coffee started, many think of Starbucks and Peets as the forerunners. Others think of what George Howell did in Boston in the 70's and 80's the true forerunner to 'Specialty Coffee'.

Is Specialty Coffee the Starbucks model?
Is it about focus on blended, syrupy, gimmicky, profit first drinks? Is it about being a cool "coffee shop"? Is it about the 'Third Place' or is it about the coffee at the 'Third Place'?

Or is Specialty Coffee something more? Is it about craftsmanship, about elevating coffee to a new level? Is it about understanding the bean, how the various flavor elements found in different varietals can be combined together in a grand symphony of flavors? Is it about truly understanding why we fresh grind, dose a particular amount, distribute uniformly and tamp uniformly? Is it about CoE coffees, and Is it about "coffee as a culinary experience?" Is it about customers' smiles coming from what's in the cup, rather than what the barista are wearing?

Whatever the term has become, "Specialty Coffee" should truly be about Special Coffee!
I think there should be a definite distinction between the average "coffee shop" and "Specialty Coffee". Specialty Coffee should not be about frappaccino type drinks, 32 ounce lattes, or the latest copycat Starbucks drinks. Specialty Coffee does not need gimmicks such as sexy barista, funky furniture, Organic jalapeno lattes, double punch Tuesdays, BOGO coupons, balloon animals, etc.

Specialty Coffee should be about what the 'average' coffee shop looks to for inspiration. As an industry do you want to be a host of Starbucks wannabees competing on who can create the tallest whipped cream on their banana caramel double fudge (half-caf)latte? Or do you want to be something that both proprietors of old and new can aspire to be? Specialty coffee should not pretentious or exclusionary. Excellence welcomes all who care to champion the quality cause and wield her cup. Specialty Coffee should mean something other than a fancy catch-phrase. Specialty Coffee should be about raising the bar. And if this is so, why do so many aspire to be average, or fail to even see the where the bar has been raised?

All of us barista, shop owners, roasters, and coffee enthusiasts should be leading the industry to the best of our ability, helping it progress, and living up to the embodiment of what Specialty Coffee can be.

On Brewing Into the Cup

The Question was asked by George:

Q: While reading and learning, I've ran across statements that indicate the quality of the shot is better if brewed directly into the serving cup. So my question is, how many of you brew into the serving cup, shot glass, or brewing pitcher. Does any of the three have advantages over the other?

John Says..

I believe it's a must. I wouldn't frequent a place that as a practice brews into shot glasses and transfers. To me, it shows a lack of understanding of espresso. The essence of espresso--the body/flavor/mouthfeel, etc. all result from having proper crema.

If you transfer, there is too much loss of crema. This results in a significant loss in taste and body, as well as makes it more difficult to do proper latte art.
Even with the gallons of milk some shops like to shove into their drinks, it makes a HUGE difference. These are still espresso based drinks, and if the base is not perfect, it will resonate throughout the drink.

Secondly, it's an unnecessary step. Why brew and transfer?
More dishes to wash (I hate washing MORE dishes!!), and you lose a good portion of the thing (espresso) you just went to the trouble to make. What is AWFUL is those who do decide to use this method, who reuse the same shot glasses instead of grabbing fresh ones for every drink. At least make the effort. This ultimately is the fault of the owner. The barista, for the most part, will only do as they are trained. The world-class barista will always question methodology and seek a better way.

BUT if you are not fresh grinding per drink, with fresh roasted beans, and doing all the other things that are necessary at a minimum to make proper espresso drinks--it really doesn't matter--go ahead transfer away, no one will know the difference.

asking implies caring. And that is the right path to be on. Every day is a new day to improve.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Panama Gesha - Hacienda Esmeralda: Sweet and sublime perfection

It's been two hours since I've had my second cup of Panama Gesha Esmeralda, and the flavors are still lingering on my palate like morning dew on a blade of grass.

I've tasted Gesha cultivar a few years ago in a wonderful "Don Pachi" from Stumptown, but this is the first batch of Gesha from the wonderful Hacienda Esmeralda that I have roasted myself.

Today I've tested two cups of this coffee on the siphon, and this transcends every coffee I've had up to this point.

First what hits you is the aromatics, they playfully coax your senses where you can almost feel the texture in your mouth before it touches your lips. As it cools to drinking temperature you get a sense of what you are about to have.

First is the silky smooth mouthfeel and sweet berry notes. Careful to take only sips so you can decipher the blueberry from the raspberry and strawberry. In the middle of nowhere a sweet jasmine note leaps out. As the cup cools some notes are sweeter and brighter and some are round and fruity. Some flavors nestle on licorice. Some flavors mingle on berries. Others playfully dance about your mouth with cautious merriment. Red currant. Strawberry. Soft jammy blueberry layered on sweet jasmine. As it leaves my mouth the sweetness lingers, the flavors hide in my cheeks only to reveal themselves minutes later.

The last sip. blueberry, strawberry, jasmine. Both separate and together. Smoothness. Gentleness. Sweet and sublime perfection.