coffee –> questions –> words

September 20, 2011 – 9:22 pm

counter culture’s ben helfen demonstrates the thing with the stuff, while coffee and crema‘s shannon hudgens slings siphon. this blog is skulking somewhere to the left.

it turns out no one asked for just a cup of coffee. and out of many dozens of people (hundreds?) maybe four required sugar.

perhaps it was because this was a paying VIP crowd of handmade art patrons naturally prone to all things “craft.” but a real stunner for me was how engaged with new modes of coffee the indie craft parade crowds naturally were.

there was a bar of glass and salvage wood, and a glass and metal array of brewing devices (counter culture’s ethiopia yirgacheffe idido brewed on the bonmac pourover station, their kenya nyeri thiriku on a 5-cup siphon brewer, and a chemex/kone setup featuring gautemala la armonia hermosa roasted by me). basically an unmissable berry-forward option, an intense citrus experience and a complex, maple syrupy coffee.

helfen’s theory, and it’s a good one, is that serving in glass made all the difference when it comes to steering people out of the cream-and-sugar-adding reflex. he carted hundreds of the vessels up from atlanta, a decision that was transformational, in retrospect. also key: closeness. i had wished for a higher brew bar, but in reality the ability to lean over it like a table, plus a very narrow work space, made for a constant swirl of activity and an ability for drinkers to sort of get into the sensoryness, sans intimidation.

there was sugar and cream on hand — if someone asked for it. almost no one did. there was craft beer on tap right next to us, but plenty of folks still opted for the hot stuff. poor shannon became a highly repetitive lecturer on the forces driving siphon brew. and in the end, a buzzing thrum of people (we weren’t panicked, but also far from bored) made for an ideal context in which to open the senses.

as for this blog’s previous and fairly overtorqued questions of how much to SAY, it was suddenly clear to me how much enlightening contextual information should just happen, if you’re doing it right.

working theory: when it comes to customers, coffee words should essentially answer a person’s natural questions. his questions will arise from something compelling that he detects about your coffee. and if he has no questions, then your coffee is probably lacking in some regard and your attempts to enlighten him via words will often (but not always) be useless.

thus posits CI, upon consuming prodigious amounts of the leftovers and devoting itself to still more pernicious quantities of thought. *close tab*

p.s. having done many event-based espresso bars, it’s fairly astonishing how different in tone, pace and conversation a manual brew bar can be. that is all.