Saturday, May 12, 2012

Remember That Brand New Feeling?

Hey there,

So, I've worked in this here coffee industry for a while.  Moreover, through touring, I've been able to checkout a lot of cafes.  Some were brand new; others more established.  I've even, as chance should have it, stumbled upon a few shops while they were in the middle of being built.  (Mostly in the Bay Area? Coincidence?)

You couldn't/wouldn't know that... this "publication" has accomplished nothing by documenting mostly nothing.  It's a huge failure.  (Mediocre in content and lack of content, alike).  Certainly not consistent.

I digress.

That brand new feeling!
New cafes, like new bikes, new machines, new crushes, are great and feel great!  It's exciting; there's something new to hopefully push the envelope or (perhaps) at the very least contribute something tasty to the area.  And who knows where it will go?  Will the innovation ever stop?  Will the vision ever stop growing?

I suppose when you visit shops as I have (every few months or years), you notice changes a lot more easily.  While the coffee is still very good (hopefully), the digs definitely get kind of worn.  Some places seem to get funkier in an interesting way.... an organic way.  Like hows kids become adults.  Perhaps they grow into their own aesthetic.

Others, though, look pretty fucking bad.  It's easy to make a mess and to let it fester.

Regardless, I've been kind of curious as to whether or not this needs to be the case at all.  Things degrade.  The universe is finite, right?  Life. Death.  Our bodies break down.  I have no illusions of the very short life span of most coffee gear.  Great/REALLY EXPENSIVE espresso machines have short lives.  And grinders?  Don't get me started.

If I've learned anything over this past year in particular, it's that having a proper respect for your tools is key to effectively brewing wonderful drinks... especially espresso.  And the machine you're working on doesn't exist in a vacuum.  The environment around it plays a role, too.  Water enters and liquid leaves.  Coffee is a corrosive material.  Dedication to cleaning seems to be overwhelmingly half the role (or maybe a third....) of being a responsible and convincing barista, bar-worker, and/or shop owner.  It's a lot more work than we often realize.  Beyond that, it's typically work that isn't fun and often means spending longer amounts of time on closing than any of us really want to.

So, I wonder if it's possible to keep one's shop sparkling with the support of even the most dedicated baristas.  Especially if it's a popular or busy establishment.  Anyone have any thoughts on this?  Any insight?

And if a cafe isn't super clean (visibly filthy machines), is it indicative of bad or careless practices? I'm inclined to think the answer is yes.  Does that indicate that service will yield a bad product? I usually equate cleanliness with methodicalness, consistency, attention/intention: things that have all been part of delivering a decent product for me.  It just seems like A LOT of very reputable shops and roasters have some gnarly looking work stations these days.  Maybe I need to chill out?