I know I said my next post would be on staff but I feel a short divergence is needed. I want to talk about the idea of quality. This term is used a lot in reference to our shop. It’s a really complex thing with a malleable meaning. I want to explain what it means to us and therefore create a solid foundation for other posts.
So how do you define quality?
What makes something good?
Well its relative. I have mentioned it before and I think I will come back to it again and again. It hinges off the back of expectation.
I am very keen to stress that there isn’t and shouldn’t be a singular ideal for quality in coffee. It serves different roles for many of us. Coffee is a complex product and our experience of it is equally complex.
Coffee can be the basis for so many different quality experiences.
A large very hot coffee drink on a cold day with a sugar, a comfy seat, nice surroundings and your favourite book is a valid quality experience.
A roasty espresso blend that combines well with sugar as in southern Italy is a quality experience. There is a whole cultural coffee tradition which this type of coffee beverage represents and the quality of this beverage is reliant on how it fits into this created framework.
There is more than one or two or even three ways to do something. This is especially pertinent in coffee.
Sometimes I think it would be nice if it was as simple as a singular graph of quality with a line that goes from rubbish up to excellent. It doesn’t work that way and that’s kind of great. Our job is to realise how it all works and how we fit in to this larger puzzle.
The quality we aim to achieve in our shop is to explore the possibility of flavour in coffee and define quality within this framework. Questions of quality in a speciality coffee shop then become about the balance of the cup, lack of flavour taints or how the flavour of the cup relates to the origins and provenance of the bean. All of this within the arena of what many would call the third wave coffee movement, a movement that is still evolving and defining itself.
We will share questions of quality with other shops, such as is our product consistent etc. But if we were to be judged on whether we offered a comfy coffee shop experience like I mentioned earlier then we would fail abysmally. We would also fail if we were to be judged on whether we offered a traditional Italian espresso that worked with sugar or a filter with a drop of milk. Where we want to succeed is in offering an exploration coffees flavour, its capabilities and a dialogue of where they come from.
Although we have seats on which to enjoy our product we are in essence less of a lifestyle “third place” café and more of a retail store
Once we have agreed upon the objective we can then have the graph we want and apply a more objective judgment about what is good. Don’t get me wrong there is much discussion to be had even on these particular terms but that requires a separate post.
We passionately believe in the worth of what we have chosen to focus on and wish to offer it to the public as one of the many choices in the marketplace.