By Sherri Johns
In her last article, Sherri Johns covered shop roasters and new trends. However, not everyone opening a café will roast their own coffee. Coffee roasting and coffee brewing are two very different businesses and require different skills.
As a café, what is more important then the quality of the coffee served? Properly trained baristi are at the top of the list. A nice clean environment with friendly service is also quintessential. Add a complimentary selection of pastries and foods of high quality. Although, without high quality roasted coffee service and trained staff and tasty treats will not alone determine a café’s success.
A successful café must feature high quality coffee, brewed and served correctly. As we say in the barista world, you are only as good as the last cup of coffee served.
How to find a coffee roaster
When looking for a coffee roaster, look for demonstrated expertise and passion. The coffee roasters should be just as excited about sourcing green (raw) coffee beans and providing high quality roasted coffee as you are about your business. Locally roasted coffees are generally better, at least fresher. Things to ask: Where is your roastery? When a customer places an order – when is the coffee roasted? Coffee is a perishable and once roasted will stay fresh for about two weeks. As a customer, will your coffee be roasted to order or simply pulled from a shelf in a warehouse and delivered to you? Will the roaster deliver fresh roasted coffee every week? If they try to tell you coffee will stay fresh for a long time, or if they recommend storing coffee in a freezer or refrigerator, find another supplier. They are not knowledgeable about specialty coffee and will not help your business.
Packaging is important. Look for a roast date, (not a date of expiry) and airtight heat-sealed bags with a one-way valve on the package. This allows gas to escape while keeping oxygen out. Fresh roasted and bagged coffees will degas for several days: the valve allows the gasses to exit without allowing air, coffee’s enemy, to enter.
Visit the roaster
Visit the prospective coffee roaster. Does the factory look organized and clean? Arrange a cupping session with the roast master to evaluate the coffees. Which do you like? Has the roast master ever been to a coffee growing country, visited the coffee farmers? It is important to know if the coffee roaster has a relationship with the farmers and importers. Does the roaster put back anything into the community where the coffee grows? Support a local school, donate books? Things like that can help out tremendously in a rural environment.
Does the coffee roaster offer high quality equipment for sale? Will the roaster maintain the equipment for a fee? A roaster should offer good advice to meet your needs as a café, providing a list of necessary equipment that will match your budget and menu, up to and including recommended cups and saucers, paper cups and lids?
Training is a huge issue. You may buy the highest quality specialty coffee available, but if the staff is careless and not properly trained, the coffee will not taste good. Determine if the roaster offers training to staff in the factory or at your café. Training is on-going as staff transition. How will they be trained? There must be follow-up training with employees as well to ensure brewing standards are consistently met and staff remain motivated and enthusiastic. Are there recipes and a training manual provided? Are the standards according to the Specialty Coffee Association of the respective country or SCAA?
Sometimes a café will select an imported roasted coffee. This can be for a number of reasons; perhaps there is no local quality roaster in the area where the café or restaurant will be. Maybe the brand is well known with a large customer following so the restaurant or café feel it will increase their business with the name recognition. This can be true. However, one must be careful to not buy old coffee. Ground coffee should never be purchased and served at any time. This is stale no matter what a sales representative will tell you. Only buy whole beans with a roast date.
The last impression of any great meal is the coffee served. Let it be a great impression.
A chef measures each item on his menu, every ingredient, and reaches out to the local community and finds the local coffee roasters. Through a reputation and an appointment, the two meet. The coffee roaster must be just as passionate as the chef and the two will strike up a relationship. That’s really the gist here, a relationship. Chef does what he does best and coffee roaster does what he does best. There is trust. Both want to have a successful restaurant for chef. Chef allows the coffee roaster to come into restaurant, determine each and every piece of equipment needed for proper coffee brewing and service. Examples of this are an espresso machine, volume brewer, and drip brewers by the cup, what serve ware is required and best suited for the coffee and, lastly, what the coffee menu looks like. What special coffees are served and how they are brewed.
Make no mistake there must be a match, a drive, a passion and everyone has to be involved whether café or restaurant. The beverage menu consists of brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino and creative signature drinks, all prepared exactly as the coffee specialists’ recommend. What is next is truly a leap of faith. Cold process toddy is served for iced coffee. Iced coffee is introduced in September, an unusual time as the weather begins to cool. The unique brewing device captures the staff, café owner, chef, servers, and waiters.
Step to success
Every coffee drink is made by the trained barista. This ensures each and every drink is prepared properly according to the recipe and prepared consistently each and every time. Fresh coffee is delivered weekly. Staff has tastings to familiarize themselves with coffee profiles in order to make suggestions to customers. Twice a month the roaster comes to the café or restaurant and “talks coffee”. His passion becomes the staff’s passion.
Coffee is more than just a purchase; it is a partnership for a mutually beneficial relationship, between roaster and café, or roaster and restaurant, seed to cup, from the barista to the customer’s cup.