Lisbon coffee scene has changed a lot in the last 3 years – or better to say, it finally started. Comparing to 2015 when there was just one coffee roaster in the city, and two coffee shops, now we have have a whole range of places who claim to be serving specialty – and it makes every local coffee fan happy.
Every time I hear that there is a new place in the city – I try to arrange time to go there. The reasons are obvious – I want to drink tasty coffee, something new, not made or roasted by me. I want to meet new people, taste something good. We all know how a well-made espresso can fill you with joy – such a small drink, but packed with complex taste! And all of us experienced that comforting feeling, when you are grabbing a cup of drip coffee, or just made V60, and the taste unfolds – and you just feel very, very happy, because of the strawberries, melon, pineapple, cherry, dark chocolate, fig – and I don’t know what else that could be find in that particular cup of coffee that somebody who knows how it should be done made for you.
Magic. Craft. Love. Dedication. And, more than everything else, taste.
Specialty coffee is all these things, and that’s why we love it.
But what if…it tastes really bad?
I always go to the coffee shops with an expectation to drink something at least moderately tasty – I am not talking about the “wow” effect, cause for it you need so many factors, and there are not enough professionals in Lisbon yet to provide the elevated Specialty Coffee Experience, the industry is still too young for that.
But just a moderately sweet, balanced cup. Satisfying. I am a person that is pretty easy to please, by the way. Just a sweet cup.
Sadly, what happens to me frequently when I go somewhere, is that I am served something that is simply not good, and I mean not just slightly – but very bad. And I feel sad, for many reasons.
First, nobody likes to spend money in vain.
Second, as a part of the specialty coffee industry, industry of taste and craft, I feel ashamed that there are places who create a totally wrong image of specialty coffee – and this way deprive people who might have liked well elaborated coffee from trying it. It is to say, if a place like that were my first specialty coffee place in my whole life, I would never came back.
I feel ashamed and outraged.
I am coming to the conclusion that sometimes owners of these coffee shops put “specialty coffee” in the description of their places – and that’s the only thing they do to ensure that they are actually serving it.
Just write about it in their instagram.
I guess, probably it is just a mistake of perception, of an understanding what is actually specialty coffee, and that you have to know how to work with it.
I prefer to believe this, rather than thinking that it is done on purpose, like that nasty coffee that I had yesterday.
Probably it is just a lack of understanding, experience and tasting capabilities.
The reality is that Specialty Coffee is not just buying beans from a good-looking brand with a nice packaging that says “Guatemala”, or “Tanzania”, or “Espresso Blend” on the packaging.
It is not just this.
First, not every roaster who does it, really buys and roasts specialty coffee – there are plenty of those who buy cheap commercial coffee, roast it with no special care, then package it and sell as specialty – to the customer who is not capable to distinguish, yet.
So having an origin of the beans on the packaging is not enough – you need a person, or you need to be a person, who can taste, who knows how specialty coffee should taste, to avoid buying expensive crap.
And second, if I had to give just one more advice how to do things well – baristas need to use scales. Please, use scales. Please.
I was very sad yesterday, when I had a very bad, salty, sour, under extracted “double ristretto” that cost me 1,5 euros, and then to have a barista proudly telling me that it is made “by eye”.
Please, use scales.
God, they blow my mind, really. To make a fully, well-extracted ristretto (which by itself is a pretty complex task), you need to know in and out. You need to know it. You need to have the recipe. Your eye is not precise. And if you think you are being precise, make 5 espressos “by eye”, and then weight them. And you’ll see how the weight varies.
So, double ristretto. By eye. Salty and sour (of course it will be salty and sour, if they passed through at least some well-qualified training, they would have known it, and they would have known how to avoid it). 1,5 euros.
Barista asked me how it was, I responded that it was like that.
He got angry with me.
But, once again, what are you expecting?
I am not being mean in any way – just if you are in the industry of taste, taste the coffee you are making. And respond these questions “Is the coffee I am serving sweet?”. And, most importantly, “Will a person be able to distinguish by taste and taste alone that the coffee I am serving is Specialty Coffee from a certain region from a certain country? Is it obvious in the taste?”
Because it should be.
Smell the cup after having an espresso.
Does it smell like something tasty? Fruit? Citrus? Caramelized sugar?
Or it smells like carbon, roast, dirt, cardboard?
Your sense will tell you ever that you need to know.
After all, Specialty Coffee is what you are drinking, so the only purpose of it is to be tasty and for you – to enjoy it!
Good coffee to everybody, and may you have a great week!