last part ending on a tangent pondering

After our mini barista jam in Cafe D’Arte, most of our troup drove back up to Vancouver while Jen and I stayed for the night. (A quick thanks to Sarah for letting us stay at hers and for the fresh fish for breakfast). After a few hours sight seeing and checking out the shops, we headed over to Sitka and Spruce. I was hoping I might get a chance to meet Bronwen Serna who works there but unfortunately she wasn’t working.
Although I knew it was located across the road from the old Hines Public Market location, where I’ve been before, I was still surprised at the location of Sitka and Spruce. For those who don’t know, its in a sort of strip mall. On walking in though, I found the space so charming it really didn’t matter where it was located. I loved the design of this place. I pretty much adored every detail and I apologise for the poor quality of my pictures; I was playing around with the features on the camera.


We’d a really really good lunch and then two capps for dessert. The capps were very traditional in their build with the foam spooned on. I’m not a huge fan of this, but whatever it was, it tasted really sweet and was a good dessert to our lunch.
What I found really interesting is how Jen talked about her capp here as being the best of her whole trip. As a newbie’s palette thats been exposed to some of the world’s best cafe’s and coffee’s, she still doesn’t get muddled up trying to nail the description and instead just calls what she likes; sweet, not sweet, bitter? Dirty? So in saying this, Jen rating this capp as her best of the summer says something in my book. It also makes me wonder which third wave techniques are singing back to the consumer. What is the impact of temperature stablilty, slower flow rates and new tamper design when the average consumer perhaps doesn’t notice. This is not to say that a cafe will not succeed if their focus is on maintaining quality, but I wonder what factor in bar practice will carry through to the customer’s palette the most? Machine cleanliness? Temperature stability? Level tamping? Fresh coffee? Good coffee? Or just the easy answer of a mix of them all?

This leads me onto another topic, one more immeadietly associated to the present. (I’ve been back from Seattle nearly a month now.) I’ve been doing a fair bit of training for Brad over the summer and one thing that bothers me is that I never do the exact same training. Sure we can always expect variation depending on the alertness and skill of the trainees, but I’m more concerned with my own sequence in the session. Sometimes I start with the grinder, others with seed to cup and then others with basic machine technology. I suppose I adapt depending on the training context and the various factors inherent; How many people am I training? How long do I have? How good is their english? What sort of business are they? Swift or manual? How busy are they?

I don’t make any conscious decision from the outset with these questions but I think I probably alter my training each time accordingly. In saying this, I’m still not sure if its a bad thing to be varying. I generally find myself simultaneously seeking and avoiding absolutes in coffee. I wonder if I should have a number of documented training manuals with different levels if necessary. I know I always do a number of things in a training session especially with regards to cleaning but I find myself varying my level of detail I go into in distribution and extraction. My premise has always been to make sure the trainee understands why they take each step in the process, and I rarely stray from that in my training. The trainees all learn eventually what I want them to learn and I’m always satisfied with their progress in the end.

I dunno. I’m really just thinking outloud here so I’m sorry if its a bit of a rambly post. I know I don’t like the idea of have a regimental training guide and applying to everyone regardless. So maybe I’m ok. If I’ve ever trained you, and you now make nothing but shit coffee, please call me.

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6 thoughts on “last part ending on a tangent pondering

  1. Hi stephen Just been catching up on your comments,( in reverse order which was stooopid on my part) Loads to discuss let me know when you’re back and if you have time come up to Newry and try the new Dalla Corte it’s just arrived and i’m having fun… See you soon

  2. with regards to the part of your post about whether the customer notices. i like to think of what we do with coffee and espresso as sort of the formula one of coffee. it is so cutting edge. price is not a consideration. just flat out how amazing can you make it. a lot of that research on the f-1 track eventually trickles down to the mass produced vehicles we drive. does it get ‘noticed’ by consumers? well, yes and no. they may notice smoother gear shifting or whatnot. but a lot of it they may never be able to put a finger on. they just realize it’s somehow better.

    isn’t that where we all are? customers do sense quality, even if they couldn’t ‘lift the car hood’ and tell us what new engineering is doing these great things with their coffee.

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