These are some rambling thoughts that I am getting out of my mind and open for discussion.
What to hear what others thoughts are…
Thoughts - and possibly shop signs - to briefly explain a position on coffee without milk and sugar
This is not necessarily about coffee, but definitely about a model the artisan coffee industry has that should be taken on by others.
The great thing about quality is that you know where it comes from. Good coffee from a decent supplier will usually give you more information about where the beans are from than you can possibly process. You can know farmers names, altitude of plants and see photos of the living standards of the works - for reference, take a look around Has Bean’s website.
I’ve recently been trying to reduce buying my food, in particular meat, from anywhere that isn’t traceable. I have noticed the substantial difference in quality between supermarkets - that simply say the country where it is farmed - in comparison to butchers who can tell you the farm and breed of animal used for the meat.
They want to shout about where they got the produce from, as should any business who cares about the products they serve. Quality should be in being sure what you serve has been ethically sourced and treated with care along its journey to you. Suppliers should learn from those at the forefront of the coffee trade, in knowing that saying ‘Brazilian’ is not good enough to ensure what you are getting will be of any difference in quality or taste to any other selection.
Information possibly needed to ensure the customer of quality - in this example - meat:
Farm, breed, date of packaging.
Other requirements that the farm sets should also be listed: minimum age of cattle, specialist hygiene stipulations etc.
Farms, shops and producers that supply crap should not be getting my money and I want to make sure that I don’t want to give it to them.
Anonymous asked: I think one thing that chain coffee shops do well is consistency. Or at least, that's the conventional wisdom - that the uniformity of things like espresso machines, staff training (barista and customer service / front of house), suppliers, shop decor etc - mean you'll receive a relatively consistent coffee/ experience no matter which branch of a chain you visit. In this respect, I think people will always be attracted to chains. Whether this is over independents, I don't know...
Agreed: The reason why chains are so popular is because it commonly reaches peoples expectations - even if that is just a spiced chicken from Nandos or a not so appetising chicken nugget from McDonalds.
The hardest thing to improve on is staff. Many chains will hire whoever applies, because their demand and turnover is so high and because standards are so low, anyone who actually gives a damn about what they sell will most likely not work in a chain because they want to produce something good - or more likely - don’t actually care about the produce their give out, because why should they?
A staff member who cares could easily improve the quality of coffee in a Costa branch, but one staff member does not make a store and it has to be an all over effort embraced by management - if not the directors of the chain themselves.
An excellent example of a ‘chain’ that cares is Byron Burger. They produce great food, unique design, excellent staff and are willing to take a risk. They set their standards high, so those who wish to work with them will already have to be at their level of caring, rather then seeing if their at the required level once hired.
Anonymous asked: Hi. I enjoyed your post on independents vs chains. I think that, even if a coffee chain were to do all of the things you mention (unique design, emphasis on quality, great service, community focus), people would still head to independents. I think it would be fair to say that there's a degree of distrust in play when it comes to chains that are large and visible, and a feeling that the things chains do are for show, or decided in some corporate boardroom somewhere. Your thoughts?
I have worked in many places and the ethos of return on investment for ideas has been no different from independents to chains. Whether it is a chain or independent, businesses still need to focus on making money - just because those decisions happen in a boardroom does not mean that they cannot be out of touch with the ethos of their shop floors.
Look at Taylor Street Baristas, they now have seven locations. That is pretty much the groundwork of a chain; yet they are renowned for making good coffee and keeping to the aforementioned principles.
If you look at chains in Australia (I have to clarify, this is only from what I have been told and not direct experience) such as The Coffee Club are generally known for serving good coffee and a good standard of service. While this acceptance of chains is not across the board (see Starbucks having to close most of their locations) many places are now raising their standards in Australia to become seen as an acceptable option, even McDonalds.
Companies, no matter how large they are, can become quality focused and create a culture of caring; it’ll be tougher, but it is possible. While there may be distrust, you still have to question why there is distrust. If they are ethical and serve a quality product for a reasonable price - however unlikely this may be - I would find it tough to dislike the chain just because everyone else has taken a liking to them.
counter-productive asked: Interesting comments on restaurant coffee, personally I think a top end restaurant with customers prepared to pay more for quality is the place for single origin brewed coffees and a separate brew menu with more emphasis on quality.
I would love to go to a restaurant that has a few coffees on brew, with recommendations by staff according to what you have been eating.
Speciality coffee will have to look to integrate itself into gourmet food locations to help it establish the difference that is possible. Pre-ground coffee in delis is not good enough.
Independent coffee shops are largely liked because of some of these aspects:
Unique in design
Excellent customer service
Emphasis on local community
Well, what if a chain came out and did all these, as well as serving excellent coffee?
There is much discussion and admiration for independent shops, but what (in the quality coffee scene) wins people over?
I can fully imagine being happy to spend my money at a place that serves me excellent coffee with great service and knowledgable staff. Of course, this is far easier said then done, with it being so hard to find staff that care, scaling this to a chain could be nigh on impossible.
I would like to hear anyone’s thoughts on my ramblings above about chains, what they could do to win you over and what is most important to you: quality of product, service or independence of ownership.
I recently visited a restaurant that served excellent food and was also informed that they were buying in excellent coffee. On inspection of the coffee area I saw a poorly maintained espresso service area - both machine and grinder were far from top of the line, but more than sufficient to produce great coffee on; but the problem lay in the treatment of the equipment in both hygiene and general area prep (portafilters laying around, hopper panels removed and exposed on grinder etc)
If you are going to buy in good beans to make good coffee and have the correct tools for it, then why spend thousands of pounds on equipment only to treat it awfully?
It obviously lies in lack of caring/training on the staff’s part; but I can understand their lack of caring. Staff in a restaurant have a hundred things to worry about and coffee doesn’t take a priority.
So, why not switch to an easier method for producing great coffee - such as batch brewing. While customers may appreciate their post meal latte, it would surprise me if the large proportion of customers wouldn’t switch over to a filter coffee.
Large batches can be produced at once, cutting down on labour costs, training is far easier and provided there is correct training, the area for fault is much larger in the brewing and thus can produce better brews and reduce coffee wastage.
Best of all, for about £500 you can get a good filter brewing system with a grinder and serving vessels (for instance Hario range servers of some sort of flasks). This is almost half the price most places would pay for a bottom rate espresso machine package.
Just a thought and would like to hear some feedback on peoples’ thoughts - or even if you’ve had filter coffee in restaurants. Give me a shout.
I survived Edinburgh, making coffee for the TED Global 2012 delegates, and came back alive.
It was a pleasure to work with Ristretto and be behind the bar with some of their great baristas. The event was done with a number of partners, supplying brewing equipment or ingredients, and it was great to work with materials supplied by: Alchemy coffee roasters, Mercanta coffee beans, La Marzocco, Hario and Marco Beverage Systems.
As you can see from the panoramas of the downstairs circular bar, set up of both upstairs and down included 4 La Marzocco FB80s, 4 Mazzer grinders, a Hario/aeropress brew bar, a Marco Filtro flask brewer and a Marco Eco boiler with Uber-Font and also a beautiful section dedicated to brewing the artisan teas of Waterloo Tea.
We got the chance to play with many coffees, a different single origin espresso and two different filter coffees on the brew bar every day. This gave us a real chance to chat with the talkers and attendees of TED, who were all a naturally curious bunch; as you would assume the audience of a TED event to be. They listened openly and asked questions, willing to take a chance on what was recommended to them.
Thanks to Ristretto for the opportunity and lastly Edinburgh’s Brewdog for fuelling us with so many delicious beers.
I’ll leave you with some photos of the week:
Jiri surrounded by steam
Dutch Latte Art Champion Esther displays how her unrivalled passion for coffee has taken over her life.
Waterloo Teas brewing station
Baristas are an unusual breed.
All Photos by Craig Does Stuff.
I am well chuffed to announce that I will be working with Ristretto to serve coffee to the attendees and speakers of TED Global 2012 in Edinburgh.
If you are not aware of TED, it is an internationally renowned event that gets creatives, designers, intellectuals and pioneers of industry to give talks of their choice. It is a closed event, both an honour to speak at or even be able to attend. The talks can be found online on their site www.ted.com and you are bound to find something to inspire you there.
I have been asked, along with a dozen other baristas from across the country, to head up to Edinburgh and present great ethical coffee to these influential people as a way of showing them what is possible. I have been a huge fan of TED talks for years, so that with serving great coffee from a company like Ristretto, who I have worked freelance with on several occasions, in the beautiful city of Edinburgh is too good an opportunity to miss.
I will be photographing, videoing and blogging my journey and try to make the most of this great opportunity. I will be representing both my new employer The Plough in Harborne and Ristretto on this occasion and could not be more proud to do so.
In Simon Sinek’s talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’ he said ’People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ I firmly believe in this. If you what you appear to have in your shop is passion rather than product, people will relate and customers will feel empowered in their purchase of a product as they are investing into a passion.
How does that relate to being a barista? Here are three examples of artisan coffee/tea shops that have given me an outstanding experience as a result of their why.
Teasmith - Spitalfield, London
A place that is completely dedicated to tea and the sensory experience. In order to drink in here, you have to engage with the person serving. All seats are around the bar, there is no menu on the walls, only on a small piece of finely printed paper. You understand you are coming in for an experience in tea, to see a ceremony of the creation of your drink as much as drinking the tea itself.
The why to buy: Like a sitting in and watching a teppenyaki restaurant, they are selling an experience in tea itself and not selling the just tea.
Kaffeine - London
Design is what strikes you first - simple, understated, elegant yet industrial. The uniformity of design across both interior to fine details of takeaway cup presentation makes the shop have a effortlessly cool feel to it. Top this off with some of the best coffee & sandwiches in the city.
The why to buy: They are selling a lifestyle, a place you would want to get your coffee from and not just the coffee you want to get.
Colonna & Smalls - Bath
What Teasmith is to tea, this shop is to coffee. While the shop still keeps its rustic charm, every wall has something geared towards coffee. You sense the expertise and that things are taken a little more seriously - whether that is in their smart uniform that has echoes of the old Italian barista, or the menu of brewing methods and tasting notes - with no prices in sight. Usual coffee shop expectations - large menu, house blends, sugar and milk for black coffees - have been cut out from the shop.
The why to buy: You are buying into an appreciation of a higher level of skill; a willing to get over a hurdle of things not being made easy for you, so you can appreciate something much finer - in this occasion it is coffee.
Apple was used by Sinek as an example and in this Forbes magazine article by Carmine Gallo, ‘Why Apple Store Emlpoyees Won’t ‘Sell’ You an iPad’, Gallo points out the importance difference in an Apple store is that their staff will never push sales upon you, they are only there to inform. They share their passion with the customer and a purchase will eventually be made from caring about the product and the customer will ultimately be more fulfilled because they know more about what they are getting. They will know how to use the product to the best effect, the limitations and future expectations, all because of the honesty and caring of the staff.
This then translates to hospitality, and in this case coffee/tea shops, by customers engaging with the baristas and then in turn caring about the coffee or tea they are tasting. This is not something that can be pressured, this is a soft sell. This is about finding ways, whether is is through design of shop, menu or clothing, for the customer to slowly align their expectations and come with the correct mindset to be engaged. You have to find ways that even a takeaway customer, who may be in a rush, will come to the correct realisation of what you are serving.
The coffee industry, if it wants to make a sustainable income from premium products, have to integrate new ways of engagement to create opportunities to share the ‘why to sell’ of their product and emphasise their differences to both chains and distributors of substandard brews. For more thoughts on that, see Seth Godin’s TED talk on standing out or James Hoffman’s post on A linen napkin.
This is just random collection of thoughts and I would be happy to hear on anyone else’s experience of service or how their expectations have been handled.