These are our current coffee offerings, along with the adjectives I've printed on the menu to describe them. I cupped them all and picked two basic adjectives plus one specific taste to describe each coffee.


sumatra mandheling DP gr. 1: deep, loamy, peppery

ethiopia natural sidama guji gr. 4: sweet, heavy, pb&j

kenya gaturine estate: winey, clean, lime citrus

nicaragua san juan del rio coco: bready, bold, salted caramel

ethiopia sidama bonko wet process: clean, sweet, orange blossom


my dilemma is that i feel that these adjectives (or whatever we use to describe coffee) hold too much power over my consumer's buying patterns. for instance, Starbucks has made "Sumatra" so ubiquitous that customers have made it my best selling coffee, even though personally I think it's best suited as an espresso base and not a pourover (it's not bad at all, it's just a bit...plain.). I could put "stale, astringent, llama dung" as the adjectives and we'd still sell tons of the sumatra. the nicaragua has moved really well in the couple weeks we've carried it as well. my suspicion is that the "salted caramel" is what moves that particular coffee, even though I felt that term best incorporated the sweet and savory elements I tasted.


i think most people on bX would immediately look at our list and think the bonko or kenya would be the most appealing. granted, most of us like fruit bombs, but still. i stand by the other coffees but I don't want people to pick them based on country name or never try anything with a fruity adjective.


my question is: what kind of methods are y'all using to describe your offerings to your customers, and what kind of success have you had getting customers to try various options instead of sticking with the tried and true "coffee-tasting" ones?

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For our customers that actually care about what they drink I explain the country of origin, whether it's a blend or not (as most people we encounter think all coffees are blended, mountain grown and picked by Juan Valdez), roast level and what I personally taste in each. For drip coffees I ask if they'd like a lighter or bolder option. Have found when I used to mention "darker" they immediately say LIGHT as they don't want to chance just how dark a roast level might be. Then I use adjectives such as nutty, mellow, fruity, winey, buttery, smokey, etc. Simple, but effective. For espresso I use a simple SO and explain it as being roasted to a medium level and nutty, bold and smooth. Then go on to say if it's extracted to perfection it comes off as unsweetened cocoa in flavor.  

We don't necessarily have a full on pour over program in place (though we do offer different brewing methods, work in progress type of thing, lot's training needed to properly execute in three stores)...but I think this may be the best organization of basic taste profiles for the everyday coffee drinker I've seen.




btw, my friend was asking me the other night if I had "ever been to that white house in west asheville for coffee because he had the best coffee ever there!"

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