Roaster's café versus their clients' cafés - Page 4

Talk about your favorite cafes, local barista events, or plan your own get-together.

Which is better: Roaster's cafe or their best client's cafe?

Roaster's cafe is better
25
81%
Client's cafe is better
2
6%
They're about the same
4
13%
 
Total votes: 31

pdx

#31: Post by pdx »

zin1953 wrote:That's why I'm a bit surprised that, apparently, several Portland cafés are producing something better from Stumptown's coffees than Stumptown itself . . . to me, that speaks volumes not only about the quality and dedication of these other cafés, but also about Stumptown. Wouldn't you think that, if anyone understands Stumptown's coffees it would be Stumptown?
No, there are other variables. The Stumptown shops are much busier than the other cafes I mentioned. I think that accounts for much of the inconsistency you might see. Stumptown makes great coffee, I just find the other shops I mentioned more consistently great.
Ben King.

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Marshall

#32: Post by Marshall »

zin1953 wrote:That's why I'm a bit surprised that, apparently, several Portland cafés are producing something better from Stumptown's coffees than Stumptown itself . . . to me, that speaks volumes not only about the quality and dedication of these other cafés, but also about Stumptown.
That's a very broad conclusion to draw from the less-than-a-handful of opinions on this board.

Wholesale roasters, especially artisan roasters, are frustrated that they lack the control they would like to have over the quality of their customer's brew. Coca Cola can police their customers (e.g. from diluting the syrup), because their trademark has enormous market power, and threatening to cut off a customer can be a serious economic threat. Few, if any, coffee roasters have that kind of power and few can afford to be picky about who they sell to.

My hat is off to those who try, but I know it is a struggle. As you say, staff turnover tends to be high in coffee shops, and keeping them trained is a constant worry for conscientious roasters.
Marshall
Los Angeles

User avatar
shadowfax

#33: Post by shadowfax »

Marshall wrote:That's a very broad conclusion to draw from the less-than-a-handful of opinions on this board.
This sort of sums up my take on the poll attached to this thread and many of the comments... :lol:
Nicholas Lundgaard

User avatar
malachi

#34: Post by malachi »

Back, oh... almost 5 years now, we used to have a rule that still might be in effect.
Basically, the guys who did delivery used to always taste the coffee at the accounts when they delivered. This plus the customer support phone number (and email) plus the periodic unannounced drop-in by a wholesale person or manager would consistently nail the under-performers.
If you under-performed once, you got the call. This usually resulted in a warning though in some cases resulted in mandatory re-training of owners/managers.
If you under-performed twice, depending on severity and time between the two, you either had mandatory re-training (which you paid for) or your account was terminated.

This worked reasonably well while of course in no way was it fool-proof.


Back to my original question...
Are there roasters out there who are so committed to quality that it consistently extends beyond the coffee served at their own locations and includes the quality of coffee served at their accounts? And I'm not just talking the top accounts - in fact, ignore the top accounts. Look at the WORST accounts.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

djmarc1200

#35: Post by djmarc1200 »

I can only comment on Chicago, but I think the # of cafes involved may be directly related to the ability of a roaster to keep quality up in the independent stores.

Beans in one or two or five cafes? Fine...you can probably ensure the quality to some acceptable degree. Make it 30 or 40+ locations and perhaps it becomes impossible.

Yes- the top cafes are as good or maybe at times better, but if you look at the 'worst' in Chicago, there is no way you are getting what you get at the roaster's shop. And let me be clear that I am talking about straight espresso as the measuring stick here.

User avatar
malachi

#36: Post by malachi »

zin1953 wrote: That's why I'm a bit surprised that, apparently, several Portland cafés are producing something better from Stumptown's coffees than Stumptown itself . . . to me, that speaks volumes not only about the quality and dedication of these other cafés, but also about Stumptown. Wouldn't you think that, if anyone understands Stumptown's coffees it would be Stumptown?
To be fair - the three cafes mentioned are a bit unique in this sense.
Kevin (the owner of Albina Press) is a quality fanatic, works closely with Stumptown on coffees, and used to have Billy Wilson (ex Stumptown employee) as manager.
Coffee House NW is the new home of Billy.
Fresh Pot is a "sister company" of Stumptown and works closely with Stumptown on the coffees.

It would be as if Kyle and Ellie started a cafe serving Intelligentsia coffee. You could probably assume they'd do a damn fine job.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

pdx

#37: Post by pdx »

malachi wrote:To be fair - the three cafes mentioned are a bit unique in this sense.
For sure, the fact that these cafes are so consistently great is no knock on Stumptown. The people who run & staff the Press & CHNW (Kevin, Billy, Adam, et al.) are fanatics & pay very close attention to how the blend changes from batch to batch. I can never get out of these cafes without getting commentary from the barista on how the shots are pulling today, and they always ask what my experiences have been lately.

Sure, there are prerequisites to quality (equipment, cleanliness, coffee) but what sets really consistently great shops apart is staff that pays close attention, all the time. I really think this is something that takes training, but is also related to hiring. People just have to have the right personality to be this involved in what could seem to be mindlessly repetitive work. Portland is blessed with a good supply of people who care that much about quality coffee.

Its just like pulling shots in your kitchen- quality depends on consistently paying close attention to everything you're doing.
Ben King.

zin1953 (original poster)

#38: Post by zin1953 (original poster) »

Marshall wrote:That's a very broad conclusion to draw from the less-than-a-handful of opinions on this board.
I can only go by what people post, Marshall. I'm not a mind-reader, and I readily admit not having visited Stumptown. But I have been to lots of other cafés -- busy and slow. Vivace, as one example, is very busy, and yet my experiences there (based upon multiple visits to the café, on multiple visits to Seattle) have been consistently superb. The same can be said for my experiences at Caffe Artigiano in Vancouver -- same thing: multiple visits to the café, on multiple visits to Vancouver, with consistently superb shots. Heck, Peet's is super busy and my cappuccinos there are VERY consistent -- from shop to shop. That is to say, while I find this Peet's location better than that one, generally there is only a very little difference between who is "on the line."

(Let's not go overboard, here: Vivace has been consistently superb espresso; Peet's consistently very good cappuccinos. There is a difference!) :wink:

Back to my earlier comments about the freshness of beans . . . while I do know that a busy café will go through LOTS of 5-pound bags, all I can say about the café I was originally eluding to is that the beans often seem to me to be stale -- based upon the espressos I have had at the café, and from the beans I have purchased to take home . . .

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

pdx

#39: Post by pdx »

zin1953 wrote:I can only go by what people post, Marshall. I'm not a mind-reader, and I readily admit not having visited Stumptown. But I have been to lots of other cafés -- busy and slow. Vivace, as one example, is very busy, and yet my experiences there (based upon multiple visits to the café, on multiple visits to Seattle) have been consistently superb.
I think you'd find that Stumptown is consistently better than Vivace, and certainly better than Peet's.
zin1953 wrote:Back to my earlier comments about the freshness of beans . . . while I do know that a busy café will go through LOTS of 5-pound bags, all I can say about the café I was originally eluding to is that the beans often seem to me to be stale -- based upon the espressos I have had at the café, and from the beans I have purchased to take home . . .
Do they not tell you when they were roasted? I know Stumptown accounts always know the roast date, and their retail bags are always date-stamped.
Ben King.

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Marshall

#40: Post by Marshall »

zin1953 wrote:I can only go by what people post, Marshall. I'm not a mind-reader, and I readily admit not having visited Stumptown.
My point was that a tiny sample does not "speak volumes" about anything, more like a "Post-it" note. :D

The other Portland shops mentioned in this thread all have fine reputations of their own. But I would want a great deal more information than was posted here before questioning the "quality and dedication" of a shop of Stumptown's repute.
Marshall
Los Angeles