company - education - coffee

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Going full circle...

Ben did his full intro post as a new contributor to the blog(AKA Open Barista Project)and I realize I never introduced myself.

My name is Jaime.

I started working at Simon's in Cambridge about 2 years ago. Simply put, it was a block from my apartment at the time. I had no interest in coffee. In fact, I thought coffee was a nasty habit and avoided it like the plague. I just applied because it was convenient (part time job) and the place I was working at was a train wreck of bickering ex's who got into the food business because of misguided reasons.

I'm a picky person. I try to make things happen. I don't know when to leave things alone and like to tinker. I can also be very stubborn and abrasive. When I first got into Simon's there were some serious personalities to deal with, serious lack of direction, and general confusion about a lot of things. I knew nothing of coffee, so I couldn't speak about the drinks at that time. As I got training on the line, I realized something. This shouldn't taste so bad. I mean, why are so many people drinking this if it is so horrible. I then began to set out to figure out what was wrong here. Why did the espresso taste so bad?

At first, I thought it was me. It must be my lack of skills or in the very least some little bit of information I had missed. I searched for help from the roaster at the time. They came in and gave us a sales pitch about the company when all we wanted was training. I wasn't feeling good. I started paying attention to the roasts coming in for espresso. I noticed one week it was oily, dry the next and very inconsistent in how it looked. This set Simon into motion and I was given permission to search out comparable espresso options. I scoured the internet for information. Logging everything from coffee geek to espresso research and expressivo. It was on coffee geek that I locked into Gimme, Intelligentsia, and Metropolis. Another worker suggested barrington coffee. Simon preferred Gimme and I preferred Metropolis. We narrowed it down to those two. It would come down to who could get us brewers and service. I still have a lot respect for Tony and Jeff at Metroplois for the personal way they handled themselves but fate would intervene. It was as we were evaluating these coffees that I sent an email to the enigma that is Peter Lynagh(who in all sincerity, I respect a great deal) at Terroir. I wanted to sample the Terroir coffees but really thought they were too expensive to sell at Simon's. He promptly and with little discussion sent John Flynn down from Terroir with some samples. We were sold. The espresso tasted good. It really tasted good. It was not long after that we switched to Terroir.

At that time, and after some personel changes, I became the manager at Simon's. I convinced Simon to change grinder blades, change bad habits, and begin focussing on quality as a theme of the business. Our focus on quality and struggles with the old Rancilio HX led us to grabbing a 4G LM and a new grinder. We began serving guest espresso and focussing training on only the full time people.

Our first three months with Terroir was rough. We couldn't figure out the drip coffees and we were losing lots of customers. Simon knew there was a transition period but the weird thing was espresso sales climbed and continued to climb whereas drip sales took a hit and diverged. When things stabalized, we were doing 3/4 of our coffee as espresso drinks and selling lots of straight shots. From 3 a day to 3 dozen a day. After a good struggle and lots of tinkering, the drip coffees regularly sing. I learned how to diagnose them and adjust the brews to get the most. Simon is learning too and we are very happy with the drip from Terroir. Simon is now investing in upgrading his grinders to Mazzer majors and the first one arrives next week. Overall business is up and things were looking good since the Globe Article...

No wait, go back a bit... The one turning point for me personally had something to do with my cohort Ben here on I met Ben through a thread on CG. We were both starting to get hard core about coffee. It's hard to pin it down exactly, but he was the first kindred soul I met in this espresso fanatacism. We were able to share knowledge and expand our experiences together. It would eventually lead to Asim who was the guy with all the cool toys and Judson (the scenster barista) becoming part of our regular group. Hong (the chef) regularly comes and we are about to invite two more (professional barista and hopefully)regulars to the group. Sometimes work mates and friends will drop in but we are now very clear these days that it's about having fun and making friends and the coffee is the medium.

Tired as usual but happy that I got the support of my friends.