Tag Archives: coffee

Let’s Keep It Liquid Shall We?

Before 12h00 pm…

The 3Cs…Coffee and Carrot Cake
©2018 Regina Martins

“Just the other day, I was in my neighborhood Starbucks, waiting for the post office to open. I was enjoying a chocolatey cafe mocha when it occurred to me that to drink a mocha is to gulp down the entire history of the New World. From the Spanish exportation of Aztec cacao, and the Dutch invention of the chemical process for making cocoa, on down to the capitalist empire of Hershey, PA, and the lifestyle marketing of Seattle’s Starbucks, the modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.”
Sarah Vowell



It’s All About The Experience

Coffee is my indulgence, drug and generally makes me happy. Just the smell of coffee is enough to change my mood. Che and I often joke that should we ever own a coffee shop, we’ll have permanently roasting beans at the entrance to entice customers in.

This isn’t cheating at all – perfume counters do it all the time, spraying expensive scents to entice customers to buy. It is also very interesting that said perfume counters are always to be found at entrances to stores. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Anyway, back to the coffee shop thread. With my love of coffee, it is natural for me to think of establishing my own shop. I would be happy all the time, not to mention just a tad hyper.

Peter Baskerville, who’s founded many coffee shops writes about 12 secrets to a successful coffee shop. He gives advice on what food to sell (not too much variety), the layout of the barista station (close to the cash register so the barista can hear the orders come in and get a head start on the order), and to get the best machine with the best coffee.

The secret is to consistently serve the finest espresso. He says that “espresso coffee is one of those rare products where consistent 100% quality matters“. I can vouch for this, having tasted some bad espresso and some simply divine.

The most eye-opening point he makes is that “coffee shops, like restaurants, are much more a people/service business than they are a goods/transactional one”.

Which is the same point that Cole Schafer makes in his article How to run the best coffee shop in the world.

He mentions 10 points, from knowing all your customers by name, to serving a good cup of coffee to never taking your customers for granted. He ends off by saying – “understand that you aren’t in the coffee business –– you’re in the people business“.

In my last travels, I got pretty tired of being ripped off for a cup of coffee. It’s shocking that so-called local coffee shops will treat customers badly, charge an arm and a leg for coffee and a sandwich and are unsympathetic towards a traveller who doesn’t have small change. It got to the point that I dreaded going into a coffee shop, which didn’t do much for my mood, and which eventually drove me into a Starbucks.

Why? Because I knew I was going to get a friendly face and a consistent experience. So even though I lost the ‘local feel’, I felt treated like a valued customer, someone with a name, a person. Whether I’m in Amsterdam, Lisbon or Atlanta, especially in areas of high transit, I will seek out a Starbucks because the emotional overhead of trying local in some locales is just too high.

In his article, E is for Experience, entrepreneur, Roche Mamabolo writes of a similar experience to the one I had recently, and goes onto write about the  Starbucks experience and says “from products and store fronts to your own personality, people want a real experience.” It’s about “a joyous smiling waiter that is interested in your name instantly becomes your friend.”

Like any business, running a coffee shop is about people, “more than words, slogans and tag-lines, what your customers cherish is how you make them feel“. And customers never forget how you make them feel.

So to all coffee shop owners out there, remember that your business is about people and the experience that will keep us coming back for more. So, a small glass of coffee liqueur with my cappuccino is fine, but if it’s slapped down on the table without care then no amount of zing I might get from the alcohol and the coffee-induced-happy-state will compel me to return.

Right, so, I’m not punting Starbucks, I’m not getting paid by them to write this (I’m not even linking to their website), I just want to make that clear.


Strong Enough To Float a Horseshoe On

I wrote this post two days ago in response to Judy Dykstra-Brown’s Java  101 but didn’t post it then because loadshedding started. I was inspired by the topic – coffee! Click here for the post.

During my childhood years my folks didn’t have a coffee machine of any sort. They could’ve afforded one, I think that coffee just wasn’t that important. Mozambique, in those days, was more of a tea culture.

Whenever we had visitors, my Mom used to make special coffee. I remember my folk’s coffee cups were thick brown ceramic and I loved their beautiful boldness. I so wanted to play with those cups. My Mom placed a spoon of granules in each cup, and with a teaspoon of water made a paste with the coffee, beating it until it became light brown, almost a tan colour. She then added the rest of the water slowly, and a thick layer of foam formed on the top. Instant cappuccino. Much later, when I was allowed to drink coffee, I was surprised at the creaminess of this way of making coffee.

My folk’s friends had an espresso machine and everyone referred to coffee made in it as “café café” or “real coffee” to differentiate it from the instant variety which my folks had in the house. My Dad used to have his after lunch or dinner espresso with his friends and I often used to go with him to play on the swings with the other kids. It was strange to me that he chased his espresso down with a glass of water. I later realised that it’s a very European thing. The water helped the bitterness of the coffee dissipate, having a diluting action. At least that’s what it felt like to me when I tried it.

A few Christmases ago my brother bought my folks a Nespresso type machine. My six-year old nephew is the one that uses it the most, not for himself off course, but he loves tinkering with it and in the process make my Dad a cup of coffee. My Mom needs to clean up after him afterwards, you can imagine the mess he leaves behind :-).

I started drinking coffee in high school but it never was an important part of my life. It was a social thing. It was only much later, after I met my husband, Che, that I developed a taste for “real coffee”. His family were coffee aficionados, so no instant was to be found in their cupboards.

When we started dating we often dropped in at Café Bom Bom after movies or dinner for a cappuccino with cream and chocolate shavings on top. It was delicious even though I now prefer foam over whipped cream.

Che and I have become coffee snobs. Only the best varieties, and we love making our own blends. The day does not start until I have had my first cup of coffee. Anyone treads at their own peril around me until this first cup…I cannot be held responsible for my actions. Oh, and another thing, I prefer a cup – coffee in a mug does not taste the same. But a cardboard cup is ok.

The other day a neighbour came over to help us with our drains. Che made coffee like we always do, “real coffee” drip filter variety, and we were quite surprised when he said that it was too strong. So nice neighbours that we are, and for the first time in many years we bought some instant coffee for when he comes over.

I love my coffee strong enough to float a horseshoe on. But never as strong as “moer-koffie”, a typically South African way of making coffee, in an enamel coffee jug on the fire, no fancy drip filter – just “real coffee” grounds in water and boiled until the cows come home. With sugar and milk it is delicious – and strong enough to float two horseshoes on, cowboy coffee style, with dregs at the bottom of the cup.

On a more coffee-serious note, I can never be without coffee and to remove the risk of this happening whenever I travel, I include in my luggage my little espresso maker together with coffee grounds. All I need is some water and a source of heat and all is fine with the world.

Epilogue: The latest good news for coffee lovers in South Africa is that Starbucks is opening up over here! I’m excited but some of the purist coffee lovers aren’t. We do have great coffee here in SA after all. SA, like many other African countries is on the back-burner for certain product offerings, like Netflix. Until this year, whereupon it was announced that Netflix is coming to SA next year. So we have Netflix and Starbucks. Now all we need is 24 hour shopping.