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Vancouver: Where Coffee Trainers Go To Die by Aaron De Lazzer
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champignon
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champignon
Joined: 2 Jun 2002
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Location: Ketchum
Expertise: I live coffee

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Posted Thu Jul 3, 2003, 8:12pm
Subject: Randomly bought espresso is no worse than randomly chosen food!
 

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for you response.  Of course I wish I could just go into any cafe and get a good espresso.  That is almost true of Italy, outside of the areas that cater primarily to tourists, but it isn't true of anywhere else I can think of.

I see coffee as a food item, and making espresso as akin to cooking.  Even if you know what you are donig, if you cook long enough you will have the proverbial souffle that doesn't rise on cue.  And this assumes you had a clue about what you were doing when you made it in the first place.

Granted, Vancouver has a much higher culinary standard than many cities, especially N. American cities.  Nonetheless, randomly walking into restaurants in Vancouver can be hazardous to your taste buds.

Why should we expect it to be any different with espresso than it is with food in general?  If anything, I'd expect a mediocre restaurant to know how to make a hamburger or a grilled cheese sandwhich, but I would not expect a marginal cafe to know how to make a decent espresso.  It is more difficult to do the espresso than it is to do the grilled cheese sandwhich, so this is why randomly purchased espressos tend to SUCK.

Best,

ken
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cheapdialogue
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cheapdialogue
Joined: 25 Mar 2002
Posts: 156
Location: Bellingham, WA
Expertise: Professional

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Posted Fri Jul 4, 2003, 11:43am
Subject: If there are so many faults why don't we see more quaking?
 

I think that shops do make mistakes here and there. I often let people know (about one out of every three) that if they aren't satisfied with their drink in any way to let me know and I will gladly remake it. I say this even knowing  the drink is good. It's my way of letting people know that it is OK to have a different standard of quality.
However, I don't think it is fair to bash these shops on bad drinks and possible lack of training. You can't blame them for leading you on. After all, I get calls at home all the time for "free home inspection services" my email is full of 'free' offers. Can you imagine how many calls my business gets for 'free' stuff? Insurance quotes, samples, air purifiers, bookkeeping ect. My business partner and I get ALOT of free offers via phone. I think your service sounds excellent, but if you were to cold call me without me knowing you? hmm...I'd be suspicious that you were on the same boat as the CutCo knife guy with his free demonstration..."no obligation to buy, but look at these catalogues after I show you how crappy your knives and skills are".
Egos, especially in small coffeeshops, can be terribly fragile. Perhaps instead of telling them the shot is wrong, or worse yet, walking away with a foul taste and pictures- you should tell them that you "like your double ristretti with a darker crema...please."  
I like this article, I'm not bashing you. I just think that it's easy to be an expert and find flaws in people who you are (on one hand) telling them something is bad (and on the other) "I can help you...FOR FREE!". That's why salesman are usually everybody's friend- they empower you to help yourself. It's hard to take criticism from someone you don't know from Nick Nobody.

It's all quite the trick, isn't it?

If you want to come down and train us...I'll sing some praises your way!
;)
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jester
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Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: Professional

Posted Fri Jul 4, 2003, 8:02pm
Subject: Clarification required
 

Dear Cheapdialogue,

I think you have misunderstood me.  When I was doing the cold calling it wasn't completely out of the blue.  I was calling customers that were using the coffee from JJ Bean.  I worked for JJ Bean as their inhouse trainer etc.  The service I offered really was free, by buying JJ Bean coffee you got me as well.  It was also genuinely valuable as any roaster will tell you they have a vested interest in training people to show their coffee in the best light possible.

Currently my situation is completely different.  I am on my own.  I don't solicit business through cold calls.  If people bring me in it has been based on a recommendation/referral or they have connected with me in conversation or liked what I write.

The feedback I suggest in the article is not free advice as I feel you assume.  It is as simple, plain and matter of fact as "I'm disappointed, I didn't have a great espresso here today."  If you as a heads up barista encourage and create opportunity for dialogue as you suggest (i.e. "How was the coffee?") that facilitates the communciation-all good.  I as the customer don't feel frustrated and you as a student of coffee(we all are) get valuable information.  All good things.

I think you are spot on about the fragile egos but egos notwithstanding to request  something like you suggest (I like my double ristretti...) is unrealistic in my experience.  If they dialogue with you on  that level I have no doubt that they're probably doing a pretty good job to begin with.
Kudos for following up a drink that you've made with a request for feedback, good-bad?  Would you like to me remake it?  All things that I hear and see far too infrequently.

Thanks for the comments.  I am always interested in what people are doing and would love to see where you are and what you are doing should I be in the area...wherever that is.
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cheapdialogue
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cheapdialogue
Joined: 25 Mar 2002
Posts: 156
Location: Bellingham, WA
Expertise: Professional

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Posted Fri Jul 4, 2003, 8:49pm
Subject: Phew...
 

I was under the impression that you were either cold calling or took the year off to make the calls. My misunderstanding there. I concur that specific training from your roaster provides insight unique to the blends that they offer.
I think we both agree that communication is at the heart of the quality improvement issue. How one goes about that is probably up to each person.
Thank you for following up on my confusion about the article. I feel relieved to know you weren't writing from a cold call stance.
Feel free to visit (I'm just inviting disaster here) my partner and I have a shop only 30 minutes south of the border in Bellingham, WA. We're in the process of refocusing on quality so we're changing our roasters and also redoing the floors. If you want to stop by though...we'd love it. (What am I doing inviting you and Mark down to our shop with less than six months under our belts?!? ack.)
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MarkPrince
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Location: Vancouver, BC
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Posted Sat Jul 5, 2003, 7:50pm
Subject: Mark
 

Mwhahahahahahahahahahahah!

I'm there, dude! :)
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james66
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003
Posts: 2
Location: Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Expertise: Intermediate

Posted Tue Jul 8, 2003, 4:01am
Subject: Preaching to the converted
 

Giving you the layperson's perspective, I think your biggest obstacle is that the general public does not know the difference between good and bad coffee.  I would argue that for many it's not even about the coffee at all -- it's about the social aspect of being with friends, seeing people, etc.
The majority of businesspeople are going to be driven only by the necessity the are made to feel by their customers, and if their customers are blissfully unaware of any defect in their cup of coffee, then what?  
Unfortunately, in this particular forum you're preaching to the converted.  The question is how to reach the unconverted (by unconverted I'm talking about the uneducated consumer, not coffee shop owners and baristas).
Good luck with your mission.
James
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jester
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Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver
Expertise: Professional

Posted Tue Jul 8, 2003, 5:23pm
Subject: but are the converted spreading the gospel?
 

Hi James,

Thanks for sharing the layperson's perspective and the encouragement with the "mission."  We're always looking for recruits.
Now maybe I need to consider another way to skin the cat but...  
For sure if we waited for Joe Average to drive change in the coffee business we would be waiting a long time.  Is that because their palate is no good?  I don't think so.  I think that the majority of people out there who like to go for coffee and discuss things other than coffee (I have no idea what they talk about) will perk up if you served them truly great coffee.  
Currently there is so much pseudo "specialty coffee" out there it is unbelievable.  For less than a buck I can get a cup of Tim Hortons coffee.  Not specialty, it is a solid donut shop coffee.  If I go around the corner to saaaaay Blenz that has all the trimmings of a boutique coffee shop I can pay 1.5 times that for a coffee that is no better and arguably worse.
No palate education has taken place and nothing has happened to make Joe Average consumer think paying more for a coffee gets them more, or creates an experience that redefines how great a cup of coffee can be.
Recently a friend called me from a noteworthy shop in Vancouver.  She called to tell me how good the coffee was.  It cost no more than anywhere else in town although it tastes twice as good as everywhere else.  There is nothing special about my friend other than she drinks and likes coffee.  The cup of coffee she had, had impact.  It is a matter of  the positive aspects of a cup of coffee being so undeniably obvious I can't help but go out of my way to give these people repeat business.
A genuinely better cup of coffee will reach the unconverted IMHO-full stop.
Here's where the CoffeeGeeks come in.  The people selling coffee will see no need to improve what they do if no one says something that prompts them to change.  This is where the converted need to step up and make some noise.
I also liked very much your point about going for coffee being about more than the coffee itself.  Wait for my 3rd article. :)
Thanks again for your response.
Aaron
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james66
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003
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Location: Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Expertise: Intermediate

Posted Wed Jul 9, 2003, 8:38am
Subject: Average Joe and the average Joe
 

But are the converted spreading the gospel?  That's the point.  How to make the average Joe realize that his "gourmet" coffee is just a cup of average Joe.  And then, let him taste a sensational cup of coffee.  Ever think about coffee tastings, ala wine tastings?
Side note:  you can't get too down, especially when you think how far coffee has come in the Sates in the past twenty years.
Keep up the good work,
James
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jonnocan
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jonnocan
Joined: 2 May 2003
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Location: Toronto
Expertise: Beginner

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Posted Thu Jul 10, 2003, 9:26am
Subject: Well put
 

And you're right. JJ Bean makes excellent  coffee. I just wish I could get it in Toronto. Having it shipped from Vancouver all the time is a pain.

Over all, too many people settle for over-roasted, bitter, foul coffee. So it is there fault. If no one buys it, the seller need to wonder why, eh?

And as for training, I also agree. I got most of my training right here. Thank you very much.

jonnO in TorontO
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javajueckstock
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javajueckstock
Joined: 25 Sep 2002
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Posted Sat Apr 17, 2004, 6:39pm
Subject: Re: Vancouver: Where Coffee Trainers Go To Die by Aaron De Lazzer
 

Aaron, your article was great,  live in the Lansing, Mi area and I cannot find a good espresso anywhere.  I have started asking for double-short latte's, just so there will be enough espresso to taste it through the foamy, airy milk.  

I make espresso at home, but with nothing except the memory of one cup of heaven at Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago two years ago, I don't even know if I would recognize good espresso anymore (I assume mine is good, but to someone who knows coffee, it may be swill).  

Here's my question, aside from books, and I have a few, how can I learn what I need to know to advance in my skill level?  Are there reputable trainers in this area, or do you ever make missionary trips to this part of the world?  I would very much like to move forward, but I am at a plateu with no "coffee gurus" in the area.

Thanks for any help or advice you can give.

Kurt Jueckstock

P.S.  
Background:  I currently have a Starbucks Barista machine (Saeco) but I am buying a Rancilio Silvia in two or three weeks, and a Rancilio Rocky in a month or two.
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