Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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80 barista magazine about the stuff—from the soil to the roasting to the fi nal TDS—that we just want to go on and on about this or that variable that makes this particular cup so special. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we've learned and what we're theorizing about the genesis of coffee quality that we don't happen to notice that our customers' eyes glazed over two fl avor characteristics and 1,200 meters above sea level ago. When he moved on to the fresh air (and high elevation) of the moun- tain town of Flagstaff, David initially tried to bring that coffee obsession he'd picked up from Peet's along with him. "For a long time I struggled," he admits. "I was putting all these secondary taste characteristics on my bags of coffee, and nobody got it. When we talked about this funky sort of tomato fl avor in your Kenyan coffee they didn't get it, and I got a lot of pushback, almost having to abandon setting expectations at all about what the coffee was going to be like." While it was hard on him as a busi- ness owner, of course, he also realized it was hard on his baristas. "My staff struggled when the customers didn't get it; they didn't feel confi dent or competent to sell based on taste. So we relied a lot more on creating a vibe in the café, and a friendliness of service to let the customers do what they want and discover what they want," he says. "They may not have known why they liked what they liked, but they sure understood what they liked. That's a customer who doesn't want to engage with you about what the coffee is—they just want to trust that it's good. And over the past 10 years, the coffees have gotten phenome- nally better as a result." Hadassah agrees. "I've learned so much from my customers. I've learned that they don't want to feel stupid or ignorant, and that engag- ing them puts them at ease." By "engaging," Hadassah means presenting herself as an expert but not a pedant, someone who is committed to offering everyone a great-tasting coffee and a great-feeling experience without necessarily prepping them for the pop quiz that will come when they drain their cup. "I think it's important for a learning mind to know that we are constant- ly growing and learning more about coffee, and we must continue on this journey knowing we might end up being wrong more than once." She emphasizes her point again: "Above all else I want to be fun, engaging, and kind." Jessica from Dottie's almost completes Hadassah's thought: "I found that once I had a relationship with most customers it was far easier to sell them on a macchiato or an espresso or the exotic coffee of the day," she says. "In my community, people are easily intimidated by new and unfamiliar things. In fact, I still struggle with the label of being a 'fancy' place, and our number-one seller is a bacon, egg, and cheese. For me now, it's far more important to have an offering that people feel com- fortable with so you can make that connection, then work your coffee magic." H O W T O G E T Y O U R S E L F E D U C AT E D For baristas and business owners alike, soliciting feedback or insight from customers can be a double-edged sword. There are those who will be all too happy to complain or to offer suggestions that don't square with your vision but with theirs. There are others, however, who will have incredibly valuable things to share that might improve your systems, improve your products, and even improve the experience for everybody in the café, whether they're wearing an apron or not. Jessica's learning curve came directly from her small community, which is vocal about its likes and dislikes while also generally being sup- portive of local businesses that are clearly trying to offer something new and valuable to Pittsfi eld. She learned quickly that "fancy" coffee might appeal to some and not others, but that convenience and care were key for just about all of Dottie's customers. COMING UP: Nebraska (Lincoln + Omaha) July Ann Arbor, MI August Rocky Mountain (WY + CO) September THERE'S NOTHING LIKE THE FEEL OF BARISTA MAGAZINE IN PRINT. SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

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