I was pulling a bar shift. Ouch my thumb, time for the fancy ergo tamper. The logo makes the espresso taste better... er, maybe not but it is cool and not the least bit dorky.
It took a little while but the latte art and portions are tight right now. The espresso was making me unhappy though. Surprise. When would I be happy with it? The beans are quite funky and suffer a tough pungency that reminds me of our early popping roasts that we simply throttled dark in vain attempts to save them. Don't know what was going on there. That and a depressing lack of straight shots put me in a sour mood at first.
In a positive turn, I put down a small lineup for a trainee of a french (near fire alarm) roast of Costa Rica, a light roasted Guatemala, a medium Panama, and a light roasted Yirg(sample roast). She nailed the descriptions on the first try.
Yirg: light, some acidity
Panama: Clean, mellow, some roast
Guat: Very acidic
Costa Rica: Smoke
I was quick to point out that now she had just formed an opinion she could relate to the customer. I thought it was interesting to see someone just pluck that out so quickly. Sometimes you get confusion over bitters/sours but this was quick, dirty, and accurate.
The rest of the evening I was sparked into detailed conversation with any customer interested in chatting. I realized how much I enjoy customers who can go on about the flavors they taste in the cup. When you can get a customer talking about what kind of flower or describing the specific citrus, you win. Those customers don't just happen though, in a way, you have to cultivate them. Engaging people in that kind of discussion also makes coffee fun. It's like a medium that sparks a conversation and sometimes a relationship. Without that human connection, you are just some guy in a room making up descriptions ;-) Two of you somehow makes it normal! The barista as a salesperson, sommelier, and sometime coffee server... now that's a familiar thought.
In many ways, I had to get back behind the bar for a reality check. To revive my love of interacting in the cafe over a cup of coffee. It's a short stint but it is proving to be just what I needed to regain some momentum and refresh my perspective.
BTW: The Panama was actually from Redeye, a local roaster in Hingham. It was Diamond Mtn from Hacienda La Esmeralda. I was surprised by how nicely it aged and what a clean coffee that is. It came out very smooth in the fetco.