Starbucks: Bring Back Calling

starbucks.jpgRemember the days when Starbucks’ Baristas used to “call” the drink order: “iced tall Americano” or “tall no-foam latte.”

That was part of what made Starbucks special.

Before Starbucks became the McDonald’s of coffee (funny, McDonald’s is going to start selling fancy coffee), I was one of those callers, cranking out the caffeine as a Starbucks barista in Las Vegas, when Starbucks only had a handful of stores there.

Customers loved it. They were mystified. It was entertaining.

Here are the basics in calling: always call size first, unless it’s iced. That way the person making the drinks could save time by grabbing the right cup. If it’s iced, the barista needs to know to grab a plastic cup. Then you would call by order of ingredient.

But now, they cheat and write on the cup.

That’s because Starbucks has had to train people quickly to keep up with store openings. When I trained, we learned for three weeks. We tasted coffees, smelled them, learned how to time espresso shots…It was an art.

Now that Howard Schultz is back as CEO, trying to fix the company’s tanking stock, that’s one thing I wish he’d change. Give the employees more training and make them call drinks. It would make Starbucks more special.

For now, Howard is cutting breakfast.


Barista Perry

Perry is a Barista in Greece. Check out his latte art.Wave Tulip

Isn’t it lovely!

Here is his flickr photo stream.

Siphon Coffee Machines

coffee-siphon.jpgphoto from javaholics

Siphons look really cool, don’t they? Read the history of “vacuum pots” (siphon machines). 

At Last, a $20,000 Cup of Coffee

SAN FRANCISCOWITH its brass-trimmed halogen heating elements, glass globes and bamboo paddles, the new contraption that is to begin making coffee this week at the Blue Bottle Café here looks like a machine from a Jules Verne novel, a 19th-century vision of the future.Called a siphon bar, it was imported from Japan at a total cost of more than $20,000. The cafe has the only halogen-powered model in the United States, and getting it here required years of elliptical discussions with its importer, Jay Egami of the Ueshima Coffee Company.

“If you just want equipment you’re not ready,” Mr. Egami said in an interview. But, he added, James Freeman, the owner of the cafe, is different: “He’s invested time. He’s invested interest. He is ready.”

Professionals have long been willing to pay prices in the five figures for the perfect espresso machine, but the siphon bar does not make espresso. It makes brewed coffee, as does another high-end coffee maker, the $11,000 Clover, which makes one cup at a time. Together, they signal the resurgence of brewing among the most obsessive coffee enthusiasts.

Could this be the age of brewed coffee? “We’re right there at the threshold,” said George Howell of Terroir Coffee, a retailer of roasted and green beans. “Coffee has never been a noble beverage because the means to perfectly produce it haven’t existed,” said Mr. Howell, who is also a founder of the Cup of Excellence, an annual competition that seeks to identify the best beans in each coffee-producing nation.

But, he said, with recent advances in coffee-making technology, “now you can get perfect extraction.”

Mr. Freeman is not trying to end the era of espresso. He still starts his days with a cappuccino, and his cafe serves drinks mostly from espresso machines, including a lovingly refurbished San Marco from the 1980s. But he’s excited by the possibilities of brewed coffee.

“Siphon coffee is very delicate,” he said. “It’s sweeter and juicier, and the flavors change as the temperature changes. Sometimes it has a texture so light it’s almost moussey.” read the rest at NYT

Winona Goes Fair Trade

Published – Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On moral grounds: Winona shops feature fair-trade certified coffee

The consensus among Winona’s coffee shops: Fair trade is the way to go.

Every coffee shop in town buys at least some coffee from raw-bean wholesalers and roasters who offer fair-trade certified coffee.

To be certified, a coffee must come from a farm that adheres to regulations that ensure a safe working environment and sustainable cu

ltivation practices, said Carmen Iezzi, executive director of the Fair Trade Federation. Fair prices are given to farmers who would otherwise be given just enough to survive, if that, she said.

Like all commodities, the price for fair-trade coffee changes constantly, but is about $1.30 per pound right now, Iezzi said.

Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world behind oil.

About 40 percent of the beans the Acoustic Café offers are fair-trade certified, said café owner Jerry Heymans.

Heymans roasts the raw beans in a small roaster in his Winona café and uses them in his local store and his location in Eau Claire, Wis.

Heymans thinks his college-town patrons “have a broader vision of what’s important.”

“More and more consumers are becoming conscious of supporting the global community,” Heymans said.

Mugby Junction has carried all fair-trade coffees for about a year, said owner Carew Halleck.

Before the switch, Halleck offered some fair-trade varieties, but switched to align his business practices with his moral principles.

“What you’re talking about is relationships,” Halleck said. “Not based on exploitation, but based on mutual support … and mutual benefit.”

It’s not a matter of besting competition or boosting sales, Halleck said.

In fact, Halleck eliminated some coffees because they were not fair-trade certified.

Solid Grounds espresso stand carries 100 percent fair-trade coffee, said Greg Moser, Rock Solid Youth Center executive director.

Fair-trade coffee is not sold only by the cup; some area grocers offer fair-trade coffee in bulk.

“Fair trade is a very hip thing right now,” said Dennis Zenk, bulk foods manager for Bluff Country Co-op.

Demand for fair-trade coffee has grown in recent years, Iezzi said. Sales grew 53 percent from 2006 to 2007.

Popularity isn’t the only reason to carry fair-trade coffee, said Zenk, adding that the co-op has stocked fair-trade coffee since 1999, when certification first started.

Zenk thinks it’s important to give farmers a fair return for their

product, which takes “a lot of energy and a lot of toil to produce,” and to offer farmers an opportunity to “develop themselves so they can make their lives better.” read the rest.


Barista Competition

latte-art-fire.jpgcoffee-fours.jpgLONG BEACH, Calif. USA (Dec. 18, 2007) – The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), the world’s largest coffee trade association in the world with members in more than 40 countries, presents six regional barista competitions this winter – starting February 8 and continuing through March 30. SCAA’s upcoming barista competitions are a prelude to the 2008 United States Barista Championship (USBC) occurring during the Association’s 20th Annual Conference & Exhibition, May 2-5 in Minneapolis.
The most skilled and accomplished baristas throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, Southwest, Mountain, Great Lakes and Western regions will demonstrate their coffee preparation and serving expertise to become their region’s best. As a result of winning their respective regional barista competition, each champion automatically qualifies for the semi-final round of the 2008 USBC. All regional-winning baristas also receive an expenses-paid trip to next year’s USBC. The winner of the USBC qualifies to compete at the World Barista Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark, June 19-22, 2008. Regional barista competition entrants must impress judges while preparing and serving 12 coffee beverages including four espressos, four cappuccinos and four original signature drinks of their own creation within a 15-minute timeframe. Competitors are judged on station cleanliness, taste, beverage presentation, technical skills and total impression. All entrants are critiqued by seven certified judges, including one head judge, two technical judges, and four sensory judges. All judges are certified by the SCAA and the USBC committee.  Specialty Coffee Association of America

I Love Coffee

i-love-coffee.jpgThe best part of this book is its drink recipes and its review of home coffeemaking gadgets and machines.

Here’s a recipe from the book for iced cafe cola. Talk about a caffeine jolt.

4 ounces cold espresso

2 ounces of rum

6 ice cubes

16 oz Coke

Stir coffee and rum and top off with cola. Makes 2.

This tip from me: Add a heaping of fresh whipped cream to the top.

Coming Soon Red Barn Coffeehouse

I can’t open my own coffeehouse — yet — so this is my online shop, where I’ll have coffee news, stories, products books– anything related to the coffee life. It is a lifestyle, right?