If this was your shop, would you extend training to "all employees." I didn't do any home roasting this past week, and am leaving to go out of town, so for my home inventory I had nothing to grind. One of the best roasters in the industry has two shops here in Orange County, not far from me. I ran over this morning, and I grab a bag of their roasted blend that they call "Espresso." I'm at the register, and show the gal what I'm buying. She looks at the label, sees it's their Espresso blend, and rings me up. As I'm paying, I ask her, "What's the recommended brewing temperature." She looks confused, and then says, "Oh ya, 208 degrees." I contorted my face and asked, "Are you sure??!" She stands there and then says, "...well, maybe 205." I ask her to ask a barista or someone who knows. She turns around to a guy that looks like a manager and he tells her........ 205 degrees. The shop is owned by an icon in the industry, and I'm thinking..... here we go again. Great product, beautiful stores, decent taste in the cup...... but evidently they don't train all of their people. On top of that, I think there's an assumption that I would be drip-brewing these beans. I'm curious....... do you train all of your people in the basics of coffee, or do you reserve the "tough questions" just for yourself and maybe your barista?

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I train all my staff in all areas of our daily cafe life. Of course it takes time to assimilate. And some have a greater aptitude than others. I also train them not to guess at an answer, but to ask someone else before answering a question if they're not sure. Nobody can know all there is to know about every aspect of anything. What's important is learning when and how to find information, not attempt to be an encyclopedia, which for all but maybe a very select few is virtually impossible.
Mike, I would do the same. This was the third time, at both shops, that I've been confronted with either blank stares or answers that were way off base. It was my thought that all employees at a specialty coffee retail location should, at least, be exposed to the basics of coffee; source-farm basics, where beans come from and how they're stored, roasting basics, and then the life cycle of the bean after it's roasted, plus the very basics of all brewing methods. Even an introduction session of 4 hours would be better than just throwing them out there for OJT. ("on the job training"). I'd want that for my employees regardless of what their responsibilities were. I never had reason to ask, but unless it's a deep secret, I'd figure that if a shop sells its beans, they would know and be prepared to share basic brewing info with their customers? I think I was more disappointed than anything.

miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness said:
I train all my staff in all areas of our daily cafe life. Of course it takes time to assimilate. And some have a greater aptitude than others. I also train them not to guess at an answer, but to ask someone else before answering a question if they're not sure. Nobody can know all there is to know about every aspect of anything. What's important is learning when and how to find information, not attempt to be an encyclopedia, which for all but maybe a very select few is virtually impossible.
Johni.... I was on a quick business trip last week, went up to Sacramento, then back home through San Francisco and San Jose. In Sacramento, I finally, after hearing about the shop, stopped at Temple Coffee and Tea in Sacramento. I met Sean, the owner. He's the Western Regional Rep. for the Barista Guild as it's now working with SCAA. From what he tells me, allot of positive moves have been made to make things like barista certification more available. While that's a good thing, I have focused my concern on the other side, and would like to see a more agressive move by SCAA or another group to support a quality program for Specialty Coffee Retailers; some sort of multi-level training and certification for these shops as true specialty coffee professionals. (certify their equipment, their level of expertise in what they can offer, etc.) My concern is that while the baristas get knowledge and become better, they don't have many shops to go to that can match their knowledge. It's been my concern for awhile now that SCAA hasn't done nearly enough to address and support the retail owners. I think there's a vacuum right now for a strong and representative retailer's organizations.

Johni M said:
You know, I think that info is available to all of our employees here in Mississippi, but let's face it... as much as I care, and trust me, I do, seems like the south is a mecca for uninformed coffee customer migration. No customer has EVER asked me or any of my fellow baristas that question. I believe we are pulling shots at 202 degrees. I'll double check tomorrow. I would LOVE to have customers coming in asking tough questions. Something that would make all of our baristas dig a little. I have managed 4 different shops, but at my new location I am a barista, and I hate it that so many baristas here in the south get the title just for pushing a cup of coffee over a counter. Everyone should be trained on all aspects of the coffee they are serving.

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