First let me say I'm a bonafide card carrying Coffee Snob. Heck, I wrote the CSA 12 Steps years ago! You bet I've been chasing fresh roasted, fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee since I first started drinking coffee in 1984 and I'm a purist in my personal brewing and consumption.

 

That doesn't mean I don't recoginize the difference between an espresso based dessert beverage and a traditional espresso or macchiato or cappuccino. And that doesn't mean it's my place to push my consumption preference on others.

 

Case in point. A first time customer stopped in a few minutes ago and asked for a 16oz Hazelnut latte easy on the syrup. I simply asked if he'd like it a double or quad shot, went quad. While making his beverage for his trip home from work he mentioned his pastor had told him he had to try us. He mentioned usually going to a shop north of us that's serves Stumptown. I told him I had great respect for Stumptown coffees but I'd go head to head with Duane's coffees anyday. He then said he'd only gone to a Stumptown itself once and would never again, BECAUSE he ordered a Hazelnut latte and the barista belittled him in his tone of voice questioning him "are you sure you want to put a flavor in our coffee?" DAMN, if you're going to carry a syrup don't rag on a customer for ordering it! I told him yeah I'm a coffee snob myself but know the difference between an espresso dessert beverage and traditional espresso beverage. This new customer also noticed and commented when I dumped the first double shot (it ran a couple seconds fast, and hey it would have been "ok" in a sweetened bev' but I wasn't in a compromise mood, good thing!:). I asked him to take a sip before leaving to make sure the Hazelnut level was ok, his comment "perfect, your sign out front is right, I'm a believer". (The sign: The Best Espresso in Clark County, Agree or It's Free)

 

If someone orders a "dessert" espresso beverage don't belittle them, just pretend it's your "signature beverage" at the WBC and make it the best damned dessert espresso beverage you possibly can. You may not be making it for a "Title", it's more important than that, it's for your personal and business reputation and survival.

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As a life long coffee lover and fairly recent specialty coffee lover , I think the indie specialty coffee shop industry has a very long way to go before the average American knows what a trad cap, espresso, etc is. Figure Starbucks spent a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing and advertising to train Americans how to order a Grande Soy Lattewhachamacallit.

This is just my opinion , of course, but the general American public is clueless about coffee period. Recently I read an article about the coffee scene in NYC, and the author used the word "notes" when describing the coffee, as I'm sure you guys do when cupping. Some guy replied in the comments ridiculing the author for using the word "notes" to describe coffee. As if coffee is not worthy of being described in the same manner that wine is. This is just a small example, but I think that attitude represents a large portion of the population. Another example was when I was watching Iron Chef "coffee battle". One of the judges , who is a famous NY chef, remarked she prefered the "sludge mud coffee from a street cart". would she say the same thing about wine? Would she prefer the lowest form of any other ingredient she uses when cooking? Then why does she prefer the absolute worst coffee available? As a backlash to the Starbucks invasion and what the public percieves and "yuppy fancy coffee" they willing choose to drink the sludge in defiance.

Just like Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, Kraft, and other multi billion dollar advertisers, Starbucks too have ingrained the "Starbucks experience" in the mind of the consumer. You, we, have lots of work to do to break them out of it.

Well, this is my theory as a coffee consumer. Sorry for rambling :)
Chefs these days are getting more and more into street food and simple food stuffs. Unfortunately what this means is that many of their choices taste better in the mind than in reality. They want nasty coffee to balance their otherwise unbearably posh life. To them it is not about flavor but about image...like a politician getting dirty with the common man for a photo op. Really good coffee...believe it or not...may not have as much pretense in the mind of a fine dinning individual as mud sludge coffee and therefore is not as attractive to those who trying to be exactly that by imbibing in their cup of false humility.
-cd

Wellerfan said:
As a life long coffee lover and fairly recent specialty coffee lover , I think the indie specialty coffee shop industry has a very long way to go before the average American knows what a trad cap, espresso, etc is. Figure Starbucks spent a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing and advertising to train Americans how to order a Grande Soy Lattewhachamacallit.

This is just my opinion , of course, but the general American public is clueless about coffee period. Recently I read an article about the coffee scene in NYC, and the author used the word "notes" when describing the coffee, as I'm sure you guys do when cupping. Some guy replied in the comments ridiculing the author for using the word "notes" to describe coffee. As if coffee is not worthy of being described in the same manner that wine is. This is just a small example, but I think that attitude represents a large portion of the population. Another example was when I was watching Iron Chef "coffee battle". One of the judges , who is a famous NY chef, remarked she prefered the "sludge mud coffee from a street cart". would she say the same thing about wine? Would she prefer the lowest form of any other ingredient she uses when cooking? Then why does she prefer the absolute worst coffee available? As a backlash to the Starbucks invasion and what the public percieves and "yuppy fancy coffee" they willing choose to drink the sludge in defiance.

Just like Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, Kraft, and other multi billion dollar advertisers, Starbucks too have ingrained the "Starbucks experience" in the mind of the consumer. You, we, have lots of work to do to break them out of it.

Well, this is my theory as a coffee consumer. Sorry for rambling :)
You just nailed it.
Deferio said:
Chefs these days are getting more and more into street food and simple food stuffs. Unfortunately what this means is that many of their choices taste better in the mind than in reality. They want nasty coffee to balance their otherwise unbearably posh life. To them it is not about flavor but about image...like a politician getting dirty with the common man for a photo op. Really good coffee...believe it or not...may not have as much pretense in the mind of a fine dinning individual as mud sludge coffee and therefore is not as attractive to those who trying to be exactly that by imbibing in their cup of false humility.
-cd

Wellerfan said:
...Another example was when I was watching Iron Chef "coffee battle". One of the judges , who is a famous NY chef, remarked she prefered the "sludge mud coffee from a street cart". would she say the same thing about wine? Would she prefer the lowest form of any other ingredient she uses when cooking? Then why does she prefer the absolute worst coffee available? As a backlash to the Starbucks invasion and what the public percieves and "yuppy fancy coffee" they willing choose to drink the sludge in defiance.

Just like Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, Kraft, and other multi billion dollar advertisers, Starbucks too have ingrained the "Starbucks experience" in the mind of the consumer. You, we, have lots of work to do to break them out of it.

Well, this is my theory as a coffee consumer. Sorry for rambling :)

Agreed, to a point. Gotta ask though, is it putting on the act of lashing against pretense in an effort to be hip? Or is it genuine backlash against pretense? Probably a mixed bag, so I think its an oversimplification to dismiss the whole street food thing as being posturing. There is some damn good "street food".

There's a difference between drinking PBR because you only have 4 bucks left in your pocket, drinking it because you like the taste, and drinking it because that big can is cool.

Yes, there are also a small number of foodies championing "vin ordinaire" - easy everyday wines that are pleasant enough to be enjoyable yet simple and cheap enough to just drink on a Tuesday.

Interesting turn to this.
Brady said:

There's a difference between drinking PBR because you only have 4 bucks left in your pocket, drinking it because you like the taste, and drinking it because that big can is cool.

Yes, there are also a small number of foodies championing "vin ordinaire" - easy everyday wines that are pleasant enough to be enjoyable yet simple and cheap enough to just drink on a Tuesday.

Interesting turn to this.

Excellent points. Do people order Gibraltars or Cortados because they're "the cool thing to do" or because they're an improvement over a cappuccino or small latte? Depends on both the customer and the shop.

One thing we heard over and over again with the Clover was, "If a shop spends $10,000 on it, they must be serious about coffee." Yet we all know shops that can do manual pourovers as good if not better than some places with Clovers. Just not as sexy nor from an expensive shiny box. Image counts for a lot more than most of us want to admit.

We're struggling with a lot of things in this grey area between being somewhat hard core and providing gracious customer service. It's tough to be all in your face hard core in suburbia, especially when your demographic is strongly 35y.o.+ moms and grandmas. We've added an espresso blend made specifically for bigger/flavored drinks to augment the Black Cat & Hairbender we use for the smaller drinks. We're in the process of stripping down our syrup offerings to a rational point where we have about 8 total and we all know what each tastes like (even though most of us wouldn't order one). We're in the camp where we might deride a pumpkin spice latte, but we'll make the best damned pumpkin spice latte you ever had.

But we have to draw some lines in the sand as there are orders that are absolutely deflating and demoralizing to a highly trained staff. We had one woman who used to order a Clever-drip single origin, then ask to have two inches of water added to it, then put it in a medium cup and make it a skim au lait. The result was like milk tea - just freaking awful. But she had a gift card, so we had to suck it up until that card was used up. Now we won't make that drink for her - and as we don't serve anything even remotely close to her milk tea-ish concoction, we've politely explained that we're just not her kind of shop and she's free to take her business elsewhere.

The danger in encouraging bizarre drinks is that person telling their friends that you make some "the best (insert silly drink name) ever" and then you end up getting more of the same. If you've got a highly trained professional team, after awhile they're going to start wondering what management actually stands for regarding drink quality.

Another case in point. We absolutely will not flavor a cappuccino. The customer may point to the vanilla and say "all you have to do is put a pump of flavor in there." We'll decline, noting that we can make a dry flavored latte in a larger size, but our cappuccino is milk and coffee in a specific ratio, no alterations. If the opportunity exists we'll talk about how both our coffee and milk are probably sweeter than what the customer is used to and it's our #1 seller and a product that's basically our signature service. So we're not backing off. They then either opt for the cappuccino and agree that it's good or opt for the flavored latte and perhaps grumble that some Nazi wouldn't given them what they wanted - while enjoying their latte. Can't think of a single customer we lost on that.

On the flip side, we've back off a bit on offering darker roasts. We still don't offer a french roast, but now that we're doing some of our own roasting, we've found a couple of SOs we can roast to a profile that manages to still satisfy our own tastes while also providing the depth and bite that dark roast drinkers like. It's a bit of compromise, but one that's actually forced us to really learn how to roast coffee and what Xs to tweak to get Y result. We've had a ton of converts who were strictly french roast drinkers.

It's not easy and the only rules are what applies to your own shop and customer demographic. We'd suggest that urban "foodie" locations might well be able to thrive going full hard core, but for those of us in the 'burbs or in flyover country, a bit of "bend but don't break" philosophy and really trying to understand what the customer wants (the big can, the cheap drink, or the taste) goes a long, long way.

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