#54 – Finding your own voice as a Specialty Coffee Shop

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It is funny how things are interconnected, and topics are almost floating in the air. You can almost believe that they are out there, in the common space, and anybody can just reach out and…

I was getting to one topic today, due to the complex combination of events and thoughts about those events, and right now I am reading that tomorrow there will be an online seminar more or less about what I was thinking about! 🙂


On Monday I read a comment about the coffee shop, and it seemed to me incredibly hilarious. I mean, it brought me almost to the ecstatic state, and I am almost not joking.

It was more or less like “Nice food….attentive staff….good location…and they have a La Marzocco serving mostly medium roast“.

I made some attempts to make a joke about it with my colleagues, but not succesfully XD. My failed attempts made me understand that it is only for me that phrase sounds funny, because I am into coffee, while for them it does not. And for me it sounds as something like “They have a BBQ that serves medium cooked meat“, or “They have a Bimby serving medium-yellow lemonade“.

So I was at the 7th sky, thinking “This phrase is perfect”. Because it looks like it contains lot’s of important details and information, but actually to the person who is in coffee it says almost close to nothing.

Think about it.

“They have a La Marzocco”. Ok, they have an espresso machine that is a well-known brand. That’s it. It does not necessarily imply the coffee is good. It does not mean that you can drink a coffee there, and say “Yes, this coffee is made on La Marzocco, I can taste it clearly!” Nope. But, attention, the customer said it. 

And I cannot even count the times when the guests were passing by, and staying just because “it is La Marzocco”.

The next one is “medium roast”. This is fantastic as well, because this actually means “the coffee they serve is not greenish, but it is not burnt either, it is somewhere in the middle”. For the roaster nowadays, or somebody who is close to roasting, to say medium roast, or to say “french” roast, “full city”, etc – will mean close to zero, because they operate different criteria, they operate the color masured on colorimeters, they operate the offload temperatures. For them, for us, there is a whole eternity within the term “medium roast”, and one medium roast will be different from the other one. But, again, it was not the coffee specialist who said that, it was the client.

So what does that actually mean? Are you feeling it the way I do?…

While we as coffee specialists are getting more and more precise in roasting, brewing and sensory evaluation, the mayority of our clients is paying attention at the brand of the equipment we are using, the cups we are using, and if coffee is light, medium or dark roast, or Columbia or Brasil. And that is the reality.

And it is not our clients who gonna learn our language, it is us who have to speak well the both. And everybody knows it.

The topic that I would like to start, and leave to your judgement, is the following one.

The reality of the coffee industry brands, and their popularity and recognition, both among coffee specialists and just enthusiasts of different level, brings us to the situation where specialty coffee places become more and more similar to each other. I mean, you noticed it as well, haven’t you?

Buy some Acme Cups, La Marzocco (ok, Victoria Arduino, Nuova Simonelli, Opera or Spirit), EK43, Peak or Super Jolly, Hario Servers, V60, Chemex, Kalita, BUNN, OCD distributor, Acaia scales… Have I forgotten something?

But you get the picture. Add to the menu the trio macchiato/cappuccino/flat white, add a couple of single origins, make the special house blend, add chai latte and matcha. Start serving brownies and croissants – and here we have it, the recipe fo creating a Specialty Coffee Shop.

I don’t know. I understand it is business. But is not it a bit boring in the majority of the cases? To repeat, and repeat, and repeat the same structure, and at the same time insist on how different you are from your competitor?.. Who uses the same business scheme, by the way, and roasts the same natural ethiopians from the same importer.

Of course sometimes it is good to play safe, but haven’t we gone a bit too far as an industry?

I wish we were focusing on bringing more creativity into our coffee shops, more “personality”, finding a perfect balance in having the key-pieces of equipment that tell our guest we are taking specialty seriously. Talking his language, but having our own recognizable voice. 



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