Monday, April 03, 2006

Coffee and Tea

It's pretty obvious to most people that Tea has been sort of the little brother to Specialty Coffee in today's market. This could be due to the fact that most hardcore quality conscious shops are primarily into coffee, and then branch out into tea since it's an expected product, and as we all know.. instant coffee is a crime.. and thus, so should be the teabag. Companies everywhere, like Iintelligentsia, Stumptown, and heck.. even Peet's have branched out into the Tea side of things in addition to their normal coffee offerings.

This is where it gets interesting. Since quality tea is imported and bought as-is, rather than bought raw, and then dried, fermented, blended, etc.. (well, in some cases, it is blended on-site, but that's not too common), there is little error in the cup, as long as the leaves are from a quality source. There is little effort in proper Tea brewing when compared to coffee. No calibrating a grinder, no learning the science and philosophy of distribution, tamping, extraction, and all that goes along with it (there is far too much to list in this entry), which means less chance for the PBTC to stuff up the resulting beverage. Often times, I see french presses being used for tea more often than coffee.. which is set out in a giant air-pot to fester in its own heat for hours on end.

At least, that's how it is in the LBK. While I'm absolutely extatic to be able to go just about anywhere in town and know that I'll get a quality cup of tea, I'm absolutely flabbergasted by the notion that it is being served by a COFFEE-specific establishment that fails MISERABLY at serving a good.. nay, mediocre capuccino.

I don't mean to scream, but WHAT IS GOING ON? I understand that there is a market for tea. I understand that people buy it quite frequently. What I don't understand is how these establishments can fail to realize why people aren't buying their coffee, but they're buying the Tea.

Reality check:

If your establishment is primarily TEA, (quite easy to determine, if you ask me), then do not advertise as a Coffee-specific establishment.

On top of that, I have discovered how remarkably difficult it is to help turn these places around. It's hard enough to get a job there if you are seriously into coffee. What's more, it's even more difficult once you already have that job.

Are people intimidated by passion? Are they afraid of criticism?

Let's take a step back.

Is the purpose of the business to just merely make a buck, or is the purpose of the business to make and serve great coffee and espresso?

This isn't rocket science, let's think about this. As a famous prick once said in a well-known movie, with everything you do, ask yourself this question: "Is this good for the company?".

Sounds cheesy, but really, isn't that what it's all about for the average business owner? There are others with a more noble agenda, like introducing quality coffee to the local population, but unfortunately this is less the norm than one might hope. Even in the north American mecca of coffee.. it's a rare thing by ratios.

Yes, I rant alot about a lack of quality. Some people may be bored of it. Some people may be sick of it. Some people may read it and think I'm just a complainer, and will always need something to complain about.

Truth be told, I like to complain. I am all about pushing the existing concept of quality farther than it currently is, regardless the industry or field. In my opnion, if someone isn't 100% dedicated to the cause, they need to quit and move on to something that they can work with that kind of dedication. If nobody ever complained, businesses would never feel the pressure to improve.

I can only wish that the world would embrace my view of industry. I am, however, aware of the fact that the, "If you can't be among the best, why try at all?" mentality isn't everyone's cup of tea(no pun intended).

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