Thursday, February 7, 2008

a lot of just stuff (i think)

well, i'm at it again. blogging. i promise i will keep this one mostly about coffee and as short as possible.

so first off, business lately has been slow. i think it's because people spend way too much on christmas and then hurt for months after. or their new year's resolution was to give up delicious lattes. or they relented (har har) coffee for lent. or they're sick of me. self-deprecation aside, business really has been slow. on days when the sun is 'a shinin' and the birds 'a singin' we do pretty well, but that business mostly comes for lunch, which isn't necessarily the coffee-lovin' crowd. i really think that education is the key to boosting our coffee business. first, that education initiative starts with educating the servers, who are the main contact between me the barista and the lunch customers, about the drinks we serve (like what comes in a mocha and people who say "skinny" mean "skim milk"). after we're all on the same page with the basics, the baristas, myself included, really need to buckle down and get all of our ideas on the same page. we want to do things consistently the right way all across the board. we've got to present a united front against the assault starbucks has launched on the palates of kingsport, if i may get militant. john q. public should be able to walk in and get the same drink from mandy that he gets from me. i feel, though, that the barista crew is already most of the way there on this one, which is a good feeling to have. then, the final piece is educating the consumers. they are the ones that really need to know what they are drinking, not just that it has an exotic name or lots of whipped cream. hopefully this education will in turn affect their taste sensitivities in such a way that i may never have to make a drink with 4 fl. oz. of syrup to one shot of espresso ever, ever again.

i mentioned starbucks. they recently (last friday?) opened their store across town. i don't want to attribute how slow we've been to their new location in kingsport because that may almost be admitting defeat. so! that means that the other independent coffee houses need to retrieve our business. how are we going to do that? education. again. as my economics teacher always said, the more the consumer knows, the more problems they will find with starbucks. okay, so he never said that. actually, i never took economics, but that's not the point. the point is, if someone tastes good coffee, they will know what good coffee (and in turn bad coffee) is. and guess what: there are already a few places in kingsport to get good coffee. we being one of them, i feel we need to sort of team up with the other independent shops and be proactive about educating our customer base. two shop cuppings? yes. very small inter-cafe kingsport barista jam? i'm for it. open houses? by all means, please.

a couple of things that i'm terribly excited about:

1. the friendly friends at Phoenix Coffee are being very gracious in hosting me this upcoming march. that's right readers: i will be gone from kaffe blue from march 12th until march 16th (wednesday through sunday). no, i won't be in bed so you can call me and i'll come down to the shop and make your drinks. i'll be 7 hours away makin' drinks and learnin' some new skills and makin' new friends and basically having an almost entirely tax-deductible good time! and then come monday the 17th i'll be home and developing tons of new ideas for our shop here. really, miss felicia flagg, i'm excited!

2. i'm finally getting a day off, which means that i'm going to go down to our roaster The Coffee Company's shop and see how our coffees are prepared for us. i'm pretty sure he hosts open roasts every tuesday morning starting around 7:30, so i'll be there until noon-ish watching them roast and maybe even cupping some of the coffees we don't source. ch-yea!

3. the rosewater latte idea really turned into a good thing (thanks again miss flagg!). if you don't know about this, felicia from the aforementioned Phoenix Coffee turned me in the direction of rosewater in lattes. now, me bein' an extremely bearded man, i was on the fence about this rosewater and milk and all that. but, i thought, it's valentine's time, so let's give it a shot. i toyed around with her recipe and came up with this:

small amount of chocolate in the cup
small amount of rosewater in the milk (it's strong stuff!)
vanilla, twice the amount of the rosewater in the milk
the milk gets steamed with all of that in it
the espresso pours right on top of the chocolate

the taste: i enjoyed it! and in all honesty, i absolutely hate chocolate. brownies are gross, hershey's is gross, all that stuff. but this drink turned out really really well.
when you drink it, you get that initial scent of the roses but the taste isn't overpowering. then, you taste the chocolate, which is pretty mellow underneath the bouquet of the roses. so there's our valentine's drink: chocolate and roses (can you see how this applies to the holiday?).
please come try it. if i can be turned from just black coffee, espresso, and double cappuccinos to this latte, then anyone can.

this one is long, so i'm wrapping it up. final bullet points:
~ kaffe blue is now serving a very nice zimbabwe coffee. the taste is distinctly african but still a little smokey. sorry, i don't have the vocabulary for cupping notes.
~ i recently heard that women who are overly sensitive to caffeine get um...premenstrual symptoms when they drink too much coffee. severe irritability (is this them dropping off the caffeine high?), cramps, and headache. i haven't been able to find any informative articles, so if you guys can find some info for me just e-mail it to . that news makes me feel alright about serving decaf, 'cause i sure want to keep my customers feelin' good, or at least not that way.
~i've been having a hell of a time gettin' my rosettas lookin' good. i thought that it might be that we use narrow cups for our mugs and to go, which means that the crema gets too thick at the top of the drink. then today i got three pretty close to perfect! however, i didn't have my camera, so they're in someone's belly by now. still, if anyone has any tips before i get to cleveland, let me know.

one note:
i'm not writing this blog so i can make everyone happy. i have these opinions because that's the way i think and the way i feel. i'm not going to pull punches or make excuses or blah blah because then there's no way for me to get better. if i do something wrong, i sure hope i'm the first to admit it. if not, tell me and we'll fix it. i want to learn. if someone else is doing something wrong, i'll talk to them about it, but i won't compromise my beliefs just because it makes someone uncomfortable. if you have a valid point, defend it. you may change my mind if the evidence is substantial enough. and remember people: it's just coffee.


Anonymous said...

man, oh, man.
you're a genious, mr. barista beast.

love- micah.

Felicia-Marie said...

Dear Beastie,

Your "Chocolate and Roses" latte is *genius*. I made it for some folks at the Phoenix (including the owners) and they loved it!

It's incredibly rich and delicious with soy milk. You should give it a shot even if you don't usually throw down with the soy juice.

I'm still super excited about your visit. We should talk soon about your expectations about the trip, and what you'd like to learn.

As of right now, I have a barista training scheduled for new employees on the 13th, and I was wondering if you'd like to be put through the training or if you'd like to help with it and pick up some new fun skills along the way.

I'll explain in further detail over the phone at some point, but in the meantime, be thinking about what you'd like to get out of your visit to Cleveland.

Happy *stinking* Valentine's Day!

- Miss Flagg