If coffee is promoted as "high quality" (whether as beans or as a drink in a cafe) - what do you interpret that to mean? Good quality beans? Skilled baristas making it? Both?
Would cafe owners charge more for what they consider High Quality coffee? Again, is that because of the skills of the barista you employ or the beans themselves?
Do you think consumers view quality coffee in the same way?

Indulge me here, tis for university.

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Quality to me means a good cup. Do I think this is shared by the consumer? To some degree... if you find customers like that hold on to them!

As for charging more for higher quality, I like the Intelly model (though I'm sure it is done elsewhere too) of brew-to-order, with variable price. And drip can certainly benefit from the "make it look more complicated" thing using pourover, vac-pot, clover, or french press. It is a good cup, and lets the customer show off for their friends (look what I'M ordering).

My philosophy as a barista is to be transparent. The greatness is in the bean already, I want only to present as much as possible of the bean's potential in my customer's cup. Not to understate the role of the barista - coaxing out this potential is not easy, and doing it well seems to be the exception, not the rule. I think if everybody in the chain, from the plant to the cup, shares the same philosophy, you'll have true quality.

Making something drinkable from lousy ingredients does not strike me as "creating quality". It is a useful skill to posses, but I don't think you can create quality by artfully masking defects.
Quality is consistancy. It means a value for the cost!

Quality as realted to coffee is comparable to national (commercail standards) as related to flavor and aroma profiles: sweetness, acidity, body, aftertaste etc.... quality coffee should have more intensity and higher preference than everday coffee or espresso.
Hello All

It seems that you are asking some good and tricky questions based of the number of replies. I am joining very late this discussion but here are my thoughts.
I also believe as many people said that the entire chain has a responsibility to keep the quality of the bean as much intact as possible. However I do not agree with people that state that coffee quality could increase depends on the way it is made.
Quality starts in the coffee shrub and could not be much better than this initial stage. Finally, I believe that consumers are not enough conscious so far, about what quality means but new tendencies such as serving drip light roast coffee from single origin made in Clover machines or French press would bring up a new buoyancy of drinkers that are willing to pay more for perceiving tiny but wonderful nuances in a cup of coffee.

Best Regards,

Andres Castro
I guess his should be looked at in a "TQM" - Total Quality Managment perspective way. Like in the automotive industry...whats the point of having the best engine, if the rest of the car you are building is an Edsel?! Being a roaster we strive to get the best out of the beans that we work equally hard to get. However I have had espresso's at some of the cafes that we partner with that I struggle to recognise as coming from my blends!

I think "High Quality" begins way before the roaster sees his/her greens, but does indeed end in the hands of the barista preparing the beverages. Yes the 4 M's, especially the "mano" one are in my view the keys to getting a quality coffee into a buyers cup.

However I would say when it comes to the consumers view of quality, a poorly trained barista may have a loophole to slide out of. Most customers I know of blame the roaster label for a poor cup... not the Mano! I know it sounds like I am siding with the roasters here (maybe I am ;p) but I think as there are still a lot of retail customers who take little notice of how a barista prepares their morning latte or flat white
My god, where are we going?
this is all great stuff guys, thank you very much.

I've been doing a lot of research recently with groups of regular customers in the two coffee shops I am working with for my uni project - one chain shop and one independent. I've asked them all what they think "high quality" coffee is, and the responses are really interesting. None are experts on coffee, most have no idea what working as a barista actually involves, but on the other hand, they are the people who are spending money on coffee and keeping these businesses afloat. It is amazing what a difference there is between your responses - as in, people who actually work in this industry, and the consumers' responses. I'll post the results as soon as I've finished the last lot of interviews next week, but until then, how do you think the customer's views of quality differ from your own?
Thanks Bel Townsend, that would be much more interesting for us.

In general, I never ask customers about the quality of our coffee drinks because they are too gentle to tell the truth. But, you may find out something which we would know but hard to hear.

I am waiting for your result next week.

I cannot really guess what they say about.

Billy your a blessed man! Quality gear+some good coffee= A good start
Hmmm... as you have said, quality is different in each one of our eyes. Its our expectations that create what we view as quality, in my mind.

Each one of the elements that you have all discussed influence what you and the client view as quality.

And each one of those elements if not quite right, will diminish the perceived quality.

I believe that if we can influence our customers through their senses, even before they have the opportunity to taste the coffee, that will greatly affect their perception of the quality of the drink.

One of the biggest influences of human nature is self perception. If your client is made to feel good about themselves when they walk in your shop, a lasting impression is made.

While 'bad' coffee beans can never create the full extent of quality as we are discussing, there is a reason that there are so many different coffee shops, different roasters, different roasts. People have different tastes and different expectations.

So, to me, quality coffee also consists of the experience, because that is human nature. Hence the success of many a coffee shop that belies the common sense of a skilled barista.

Here lies the importance of knowing your market.
Thanks Javaqueen, that's a good point.

Does anyone think that sometimes the skills that go in to producing high quality coffee (and I don't just mean the barista) are wasted on customers who come in for the atmosphere and then go home and drink instant?
Perhaps that is the key to sustainablity.Perhaps if we can teach our customers how to prepare our coffees at home, and not just put the brewers and coffees on a shelf and hope our service will get them to buy. In shop cupping and sampling and preparation classes to help them know it is the coffee and not just our skills.
Bel Townsend said:
Thanks Javaqueen, that's a good point.

Does anyone think that sometimes the skills that go in to producing high quality coffee (and I don't just mean the barista) are wasted on customers who come in for the atmosphere and then go home and drink instant?
Works for us. I have several that complain that they can no longer drink crappy coffee. I always grin and apologize.

I feel the same way about the people that got me started on this... if only they'd warned me :).

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