company - education - coffee

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Internet Punditry and the third wave concept....

Ben and I visited a new shop that opened the other day. Clean marbled floors, posh seating and the likes. I've had the espresso before. I've pulled it and I've had a barista from the roaster pull me shots of it. This was not on the level.

We walked in and ordered two doubles to a person behind the counter who looked visibly nervous by the order of an espresso. He pulled a double and then tossed it. Next shot, without adjusting the grind, he pulled another double and split it into two cups. He commenced to pull another double and split it again. In essence he pulled two singles, one over the top of the other. Both 18sec shots. It was a surreal moment. Ben later surmised it was because the shot was gushing out a bit with a wiggle that the guy must've decided to split twice it since it wouldn't pour straight down into the cup. It really didn't make sense.

Ken Nye is right. Pull every shot for straight espresso. The truth is if you don't serve enough straight espresso, you will struggle when someone does order espresso. I pull a lot of straight shots and I realized it really makes you pay attention. If I went with long pasues between espresso orders, I would lose perspective of volume and shot indicators after a while. Paying attention to milk steaming, I would not have the 2.5oz demitasse to guide my volume with precision. It was the increased service of espresso that refined my focus on the espresso.

Just another bad shop you say or just me bashing another shop you say. I went to this shop because they were featured in a local newspaper claiming to be 'third wave' and spouting all this rhetoric about being better than Starbucks and about the coffee. 30 plus syrups and white mochas/caramel machiattos left me skeptical but we went. Note: When I meet a good barista, I drop a five. I respect a good passionate Barista even if they serve rubbish coffee or work in a crappy looking shop. It's not their fault. Shop owners who underpay and try to do things on the cheap skipping quality in the cup piss me off. Baristas do not.

I've never used or adopted the third wave pitch. I don't disagree with it. it's just I have this focus of looking at coffee as a culinary movement. The culture, community, ethics, are all means to an end. Coffee as a culinary movement where disitinct flavors and boutique single origins redefine the perceptions of coffee. Sounds a bit GHH but I promise you George does not agree with my vision. I believe espresso or some other alternative brewing method are the route to this movement. I strongly differ with Peter and George in that I feel drip coffee is not the future of boutique coffees. Then so many would critique me unless they could sit in a room and share this epiphany with me. Brewing George's drip roasted coffees with clean and expemlary clarity through espresso has fired me up about the potential of coffee. I'm on to something and I know it whether others can replicate it or not.

So what does this all have to do with the third wave of coffee and that shop? Ben and I realized that there resides a handful of persons who really contribute and put themselves out there doing research and experiments for the community as a whole. Solving the problems we know and researching the problems we never even thought of. There is a large structure of people who contribute something by guiding newbies, cheerleading on blogs, and adding their own personal experiences. There is a fascinating online culture of people moving this industry very quickly towards something yet unknown.

Sounds great and fabulous. Except... there are a select few who are already profiting off the 'third wave' and 'riding the wave' without adding much. Think about who these chuckle heads are and beware.

I guess that's the rub. I don't subsciribe to the wave arguement. I acknowledge it's existence as a concept and accept others that others subscribe. I see a continuing evoloution of coffee as a culinary experience. A culinary event, no less than wine and with unbounded potential.