Category Archives: Business

Time to say goodbye to the coffee world

Well, if you didn’t already figure it out.  I have to C O N C E N T R A T E on some things that makes it so that I can’t be focused as I would prefer on the “Bean Chaser Blog.”

I appreciate friends like Jason Dominy, Jim Hoffman and crew, Mark Prince, Dan at HB, Chemically Imbalanced, Tonx, Shannon Hudgens, Kevin & Regina @ Crema Roasters,  Geoff Corey, Scott Conary, and I will even thank Nick Cho, and I can’t leave out the team at Octane and by name Tony.  The home roasting ability of George Holt.  Finally, I thank, the professional roasting of Intelligensia Roasters and Counter Culture Coffee.

There is no certian order to that list.  Some listed had a HUGE impact on my life and I will be forever thankful.  And there is some there that taught me a huge lesson on what not to do (I mean that good and bad).  I will have forgotten some, I guess.  It’s is unavoidable.  Some people I have there faces in my head and I can’t remember their names.

If I hadn’t found Mark Prince in a Google search for “French Press” this would have never been started and I hadn’t have ever messaged Tonx, I would have never found Hudge, and thus, I would have never had my first INCREDIBLE shot of espresso (single origin, mind you).  If I hadn’t found Hudge I wouldn’t have this massive two group Faema in my kitchen, which in the words of my brother-in-law “is the first and last thing you see in that house.”

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Basics for a new generation coffee business

The wife and I have been just plugging at an idea for a coffee kiosk business.  We have a plan in our head which we intend on putting on paper, but right now it is just in the air.  All we would be doing is sucking off of $B top.  We would be in a high foot traffic educational area and we would keep the menu as simple as possible.  A very, very constricted menu such as a espresso, Latte, cappuccino, with the usual soy and such variations and finally the drip/French press via only two single origins.  Nothing fancy and nothing to argue about.  It is a kiosk and the point is the student doesn’t have to drive four miles off campus between a set of classes to go to $B.  The concept further states that we “are not $B and thus we are different.”  Two flavors, which I don’t even want to offer, but we feel like there is some necessity for it, especially at first.  Hopefully, we will be able to offer at least two tables for chair seating and there is some benches all around this large enclosed rotunda area that we have our eyes upon; Thus we hope we can offer the espresso “for here” only.

Jim Hoffman has some spectacular reading going on over at his blog that, in his words, covers “quite a broad topic within coffee, that covers not only elements of brewing but sales, consumption, successes and failures and the challenges that lie ahead for anyone in the industry.”

The first topic is Trust, then Pricing, and finally Expectations.

I would have to say this is required reading, even for a customer.  I know that Miss Nikki and myself will be studying this short, but very helpful primer.

Third Wave Coffee, a Conversion :: Part 1

Subtitle: First Wave, Second Wave, 2.5 Wave and Third Wave.

I intend on defining the Third Wave concept, adding some personal points to the definition and giving my experience with Third Wave.

Third Wave.  That just sounds cool, doesn’t it?  I guess the first time I heard of  the concept called “Third Wave” it must have been on the Portafilter.Net Podcast.  What is Third Wave?  The theory was first proposed by Trish Skeie of Zoka Coffee and I think the best summary of it that I can find is

“Her theory goes like this. The “First Wave of Coffee” was the post-World War II era, a time when coffee was simply consumed, not enjoyed. The war forced the production of quick, easy foods and instant coffee reigned supreme.

“The “Second Wave of Coffee” started in the late 1960’s with the birth of companies like Pete’s and then Starbucks. Specialty grade Arabica coffees began replacing lower grade Robustas as cutting-edge roasters and baristas gained appreciation for the nuances of different roasts and origins.

I would like to add here that I think that the second wave is also probably best described as a “selfish wave.”  A wave of wanting to be identified with a brand.  For example, not starting with, but surely popularly inserted into the Mike Myers movie called “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)“, Hollywood started placing $B in movies and TV spots all the time.  A practice which goes on to this day.  Even when they either can’t get the “rights” or get paid for it via product placement, studios regularly will take a cup with a $Buxy style logo on it and put a heat sleeve around the cup and stick that cup in a actor’s hands in front of the camera.  Thus, American’s, especially, follow the stars and therefore people want to be identified with pop culture.  I think it is safe to say Starbucks was a big part of “Pop Culture” in the United States for the past 10 or so years.

Here I will add “a wave;” or better called a ripple:  Two and a Half Wave (2.5 Wave).    These are the “coffee shops,” bakers, deli’s, restaurants and other various businesses who are trying their best to whore off of the crest of the Second Wave.  Who have no desire for coffee, may not even drink the stuff, and could care less about any thing we would consider “best practices.” Their coffee is usually, gush, worst than Dunkin, Starbucks, or anything else decidedly Second Wave.

“Fast forward to 2007 and we find ourselves here in the “Third Wave of Coffee”. According to Trish, it’s the evolution of coffee drinkers toward a deeper appreciation for the uniqueness of different coffees. Today it is quite common for customers to ask for a certain country of origin (Ethiopian, Sumtran, etc) when ordering their coffee. Here at our Coffee Bar, many of our customers know the name of the farming co-op that grows their favorite coffee along with the roast profile and other unique attributes of the bean.”

——source:
Jody Treter. (2007). Bean Activist: Third Wavers, Decommodification of Coffee, Retrieved 08/18/08, from source.

Here is a walk on Google regarding Third Wave and it is very much worth reading from several sites and blogs on this topic.

To put it simply, Third Wave coffee is the love and appreciation of coffee.  Whatever benifits the coffee as a final product and what is in the coffee’s best interest is at the heart of Third Wave coffee.  Everything and everybody involved every step of the way is centered on the coffee; Not a barista, a roaster,  not money, not a company, not an individual, not a farmer, broker or real estate agent is more important than the coffee that fills a cup at the end of the chain.  To me, that is Third wave coffee.

So, what is the fuss?  I really don’t know.  I listened to all of the pf.net podcast and one thing I could garner was is the fact that Jay Caragay (pf.net co-host) was always thinking the concept was b.s.  The problem with that podcast is you never know when one of the host, or both, are b.sing.  So, he may well have been fully behind the concept, but calling b.s for the fun of the show.  There is a couple podcast where Trish is on the air with the guys and at least one podcast that has Third Wave actually part of the debate of the show.  BTW, Trish had a blog on Zoka and I read her post regarding T.W, BTW I can’t find her blog,  at all – even through Google.

So, not willing to “commit” to the concept of Third Wave I reluctantly would talk about it amongst baristas, roasters, and other coffee lovers.  I just didn’t feel comfortable, in fact, I felt awkward.  As much as I love coffee, and even though I have a two group Faema in my house running off of 220v and plumbed in, plus a professional food grade Mazzer Mini, a professional grade EspressoCraft tamper and can pour latte art (read “trying”) I still don’t fit in with baristi.  So, therefore I don’t feel comfortable talking with them about Third Wave concepts.

Imagine John Riley talking smack about espresso.

Imagine John Riley talking smack about espresso.

When I go to Octane in ATL, (and guys don’t take this wrong) I don’t fit in at all.  I know it may be because I am the only one there that is just sitting there talking about coffee.  It also could be that I probably intimidate the “daylights” out of everybody because I just pulled up across the street with a 80,000 lbs truck!  “What is that trashy truck driver doing walking over here?”  Everybody else is buzzing around talking about all sorts of crap and the ONLY thing we have in common is the Toscano in the grinder and in the cup.  Every coffee establishment I go to that is decidedly Third Wave I feel like I am freaking people out when I start talking about coffee in a dedicated, knowledgeable fashion.  Sometimes they slow down at whatever they are doing, listen a little, and look at me funny.  All I probably have said at this point is “Wow, the chocolate notes in this espresso is rather prominent.  Kind of Brazilian in nature.  Almost has a Sumatran kind of ‘zing’ to it, dontcha think?”  By this time, the poor barista is thinking of calling the manager up as if I was a customer with a gun! Just think of John C. Reilly (Step Brothers the movie) or even Jack Black (All sorts of stupid stuff) walking in and talking like that?  You would stare too.

When I introduced myself at Coffee & Crema to Shannon, said, “Hi, my name is Wilson Hines, I am a “coffee geek.”  Shannon smiled and quickly stuck his hand out.  I didn’t know how else to introduce myself, I figured he needed to know I had high expectations, as geeks do.  We have been friends ever since!  Oh man, Shannon and I have had some crazy coffee discussions.  We even refer to the pf.net podcast like Bible verses, LOL!  Such as, “According to PF podcast 52 Jay said……”  I don’t know why Shannon and I mixed so well together, but we did.  But, when I packed the family in the car and went to both Murky locations in D.C I had a mixed bag of descriptor!  We went to Arlington first and they thought I had lost my mind dragging a wife and two kids 220 miles for a shot of espresso and a couple of capps.  What can I say, I wanted to see the place!  When I pulled up at the Pennsylvania Ave location they already knew we were on the way!  They welcomed us warmly.  It was odd, one place thought we were crazy and the other place was like Shannon’s reception, we really had a good time at the Penn Ave location.  I bet Liz pulled twenty shots of different grind settings.  We were trying everything in and out of “the book.”

Out of the remainder of places I have been, I have had more of the “odd” look than the “excited to see somebody who cares look.”

I still think we have a long, long, long ways to go in educating our baristas, even at a Third Wave shop like Octane, Open Eye, Coffee & Crema or anywhere else, and I am not so sure if we will ever get to the point the Third Wave concept envisions.  The fact of the matter is you must have employees.  The second matter of fact is you can’t do but so much to ensure those employees are truly in love with the product.  You can have certifications, mandatory training at a roaster or in-house, or any other method you want, but at the end of the day, you still have got to hire somebody and that somebody you have probably doesn’t come home at the end of the day after pulling shots to sit at the computer “learning lingo,” working Barista Exchange, and posting or whatever on Coffee Geek or Home Barista.   In fact, I think BE has had a good and effective impact on getting the Average Joe Barista online and communicating with others.  And lets face it, BE is decidedly Third Wave!  One thing I don’t buy about the Third Wave concept and I don’t know if this is a perceived idea of mine or a perceived idea of the industry; But, there is an idea that you have to be a screaming liberal, tree hugging, tattooed to death (tastefully or not), Bush hating, “rent a protester” that you would only imagine at a G8 Summit Protest!  Trust me, I am none of these.  I am not the guy on the opposite end of that rope either!

But, I am naturally a Third Wave coffee enthusiast and convert.

Next…”Two and a Half Wave,” what is going wrong and what we have got to do about it.

Furthering the NYC Debate: Escape from NYC

Thanks to Barista Mag

Thanks to Barista Mag

I guess we will have to wait and see…..

Barista Mag titled their article “Escape to New York.”  Me personally, I hope their right, but I think the “from” is probably going to be more accurate.

A Roasting Stampede Headed Towards NYC

EDIT: This post is “in response,” so to speak, to this NYT article.  I knew I had forgotten something…

Stampede: A stampede is an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the herd (or crowd) collectively begins running with no clear direction or purpose.

Wikipedia. (2008). Stampede: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Retrieved August 13,2008, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stampede.    (Kinda crazy, I have been reading about bibliography citations lately).

Trust me.  I am for properly sourced, quality, fresh roasted coffee like the next guy.  For crying out loud, I have misjudged my coffee supplies and I ran out today; Thus I am sitting here drinking a press pot of Starbucks Ethiopian Sidamo purchased yesterday from a $B chain store.  I feel like I could have prepared some Folgers and received the same results.  (BTW, off topic, but anybody follow that link?  Notice the ™ on the coffee name?  I wonder what could be going on with that?  Is it Starbuck’s Trade Mark or Ethiopia’s?)

So, we are all for fantastic coffee, right?  With the following names now throwing their hat into the roasting ring in N.Y.C, wouldn’t seem almost like a stampede; Doesn’t it almost seem to be over-saturation?  (Gush, I said over-saturation and NYC in the same sentence). Stumptown, Counter Culture Coffee, Ecco, Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle Coffee Company, Brownstone Beans, Café Grumpy, Abraço Espresso, and finally Ken Nye, owner of Ninth Street Espresso all wanting to roast in NYC and within the next 12 months.

Every single one mentioned talked about “signing leases” and moving right in to a facility.  Has anybody heard the portafilter podcast with Ken Nye of Ninth Street talking about just how hard it is to get a lease under $125 a square FOOT!  I must say that is the best podcast I have ever heard in my life, on any topic, and I have replayed it probably six times.  If I recall correctly, he made the comment “…most people from other towns come here and look around and scout it out and put a calculator to it and just go home.”  (Not a direct quote, but that was close).  I know I haven’t started a single coffee shop, and I haven’t even been to a coffee shop in N.Y.C.  Something I have had on a my “bucket list” for a couple years now.   Amazingly I was in Newark, NJ (10 miles from any coffee house in the City) probably 25 times from January to July this year and I couldn’t get across the Hudson to do accomplish the mission.  After he made those remarks, Ken also was asked “So, what is it going to take for more shops to open in New York City?”  And Ken came back with “A realestate collapse.”  I am telling you Ken is “the man” when it comes to the coffee business, IMHO. He is my A-Rod!  I have a Ninth Street Coffee Logo as my desktop image on my laptop.  He is just “doing the business” like I would want to do  the business.  No syrups, no 20 oz (or 16s either), no take out espresso, no…, no…., no…..  Just, NO!  They are the real Coffee Nazi’s of NYC and probably the East Coast.

So, was there a “realestate collapse” in NYC?  I don’t know, I imagine the nationwide realestate collapse, which has generally speaking been atrributed to family homes, isn’t scratching NYC.

Finally, my question is this: I know NYC is HURGE!  But, is there enough specialty coffee houses (don’t read here some crappy place that fills the doser up in the morning and doses out of it until it is empty!) in NYC to justify that many roasters?  Right now, I think I can say “no.”  Maybe they know something I don’t.  They probably do!

Insight: Technology, Connectivity and Trucking, Part I

Sometimes when your passing that 80,000 lbs behemoth Peterbilt on the highway you remember the days, as a kid, you thought “Wow, I want to do that when I grow up.” Well, here is some insight on how hard this business is and what technology means in this business.

I was in Plant City, FL on Thursday and Friday and the broker that I was going to use just couldn’t get the load he had planned for me put together. It would have been a half load of strawberries and the other half was in the air and not known (that was the problem). I would have been going to New Jersey with the load.

So, after spending a half-day on Friday of just setting around and waiting, for this broker to get this together I started getting seriously nervous. If you know anything about Florida, it is a state that has very little production other than produce, especially this time of year until June. What that translates to is when you take a load to Florida you better have a real and effective plan on getting a load out of Florida. When I was contacted by a broker asking me to go to Plant City, FL from Maxton, NC the first thing I said was, “Let me call to see what is happening in Florida.” And I did and the Florida produce broker said “Yeah, come on down, I need four or five more trucks right now.” So I did come on down to the “bikini state.”

The load down was strait forward, no glitches and I unloaded at 14:30 EST Thursday in Plant City, FL. My produce broker told me to go rest and he would get things going no later than 10:00 EST on Friday. I tell you, being in Florida on Friday is dangerous, as you could get stuck there the whole weekend if you can’t find a load. Sure you can “dead-head” (drive with no load in the trailer) on home, but with Fuel at $3.40 per gallon that just isn’t an option anymore. So, when the time rolled around to 12:00 EST Noon and no load had come together for my produce broker, I was getting nervous and by 14:30 I was dead serious scared. I called the office and the secretary had her hands full, so she couldn’t get online and find a load or post my truck. I took my mobile phone, the Samsung A900 (about 1 year old) and tried to log onto the Internet Truckstop which is a load board system that gets trucks and brokers working together on almost a real-time basis. You can find loads and post that your truck is available. There are other systems too, like “Getloaded.com” and others. We use IT and GL. The phone was only a year old, but let me tell you, using it for web surfing is like using a feather and ink to write a letter in MS Word! I literally had to select “find loads” and then scroll down for four minutes!!!! Then select which type of search I wanted and scroll down after it reloaded the page for four MORE minutes. It was horrendous. I finally was able just to post my truck as “available.” Even that was so archaic that I was about to pull my hair out.

It was finally about 15:30 EST when I could get myself “posted.” I was about to go postal. Usually, if you don’t have a load in the state of Florida by 12:00 or 13:00 you are not getting a load – period. I posted the truck and started walking to Grampa Johnston’s BBQ right there at the market. It kinda felt like I was eating my last meal! I was down in the dumps! I was going to sit in Plant City, FL until MONDAY!

I didn’t walk 25 yards from my truck and the phone rang!….See the next post for more info and how this all was solved.

Insight: Technology, Connectivity and Trucking, Part II

Oh man.  Was I relieved to hear my phone ringing.  It was a broker who badly needed to cover a load of tomatoes going from Plant City, FL to Philadelphia, PA.  And the price was good too.  So I am loaded, right?

Yes, I am loaded, but I start thinking of how in the world I am going to keep from this happening again.  If your “disconnected” from the outside world in the year 2008 in the trucking business, you might as well be out of business.  I have a friend of mine who doesn’t have a laptop, doesn’t have a friend he can call and he is struggling to the point that he has less than 90 days to figure out whether or not he is going to stay in business.  He is 40 years old and reluctant to work with new technology.  In other words, the business is “moving on” and he isn’t willing to move on.   And now that the “writing is on the wall” he wants to do some investing in technology and now doesn’t have the money to invest.

I wanted to write more and be more detailed about the phone, but I am running out of time 🙂  I had a choice between putting a laptop in my truck and just that act, the very act of placing it in the truck will cost me about $400 in mounting hardware and the LCD monitor, along with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.  Or I can upgrade my phone!  So I did, this thing is fantastic.  The HTC Touch by Sprint (CNET Review).  I guess if CNET is reviewing your phone, that means it is “cutting edge,” right?  I don’t know the answer to that really, but it seems to be cutting edge.  The lady at the Sprint store asked me what I would like to see and I said, “The very best thing in this store!”  I think it is the best, at this point.  It seems to be the response by Microsoft to the Apple iPhone, which I would rather have but don’t want to switch my carrier, as I have five phones on this carrier.

I KNOW this much:  I can post my truck on the load boards in 1 minute!  I can perform a state to state or state to multi-state search within 2 minutes, as opposed to 15 minutes before for either function.

More to come…