Valuing the Specialty Coffee Experience with Los Angeles Pros

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I recently asked eight Los Angeles coffee professionals, “What’s one aspect of the specialty coffee experience that customers should value more, and why?” Discover their responses.

Christopher “nicely” Abel Alameda (Menotti’s Coffee Stop)

Authenticity is what I value. How legit or true the story why some place exists and why they do what they do means a lot to me. I value that in something as finicky as coffee where there are myriads of ways and styles of places to enjoy it. There are businesses that are very successful because they have been true to themselves with what and how they like it. I have worked at places that eventually lost or didn’t really have a genuine and authentic feel to ’em.

Marc Gallucci (Fix Coffee)

I believe that customers should value the accessibility in their local neighborhood (or city) of a high quality, made to order, cup of coffee or espresso drink prepared by highly qualified staff who themselves value the experience as much as their customer. This is the result of coffeehouse owners (like me of course) who make every effort to ensure all aspects of producing a quality drink (such as water, coffee, milk, equipment, training) are absolutely considered.

Kyle Glanville (G&B Coffee + Go Get Em Tiger)

As an operator, it’s my job to try to reconcile what I value and love in specialty coffee with the values of my customer. There is an immediate and tangible value to certain things in a specialty coffee bar. Latte art, pour over contraptions, nice equipment and well dressed baristas are the cues a lot of customers rely on to inform them of the quality of their experience. What’s harder to quantify for most consumers is what makes one cup of coffee different from another.

There is a tremendous range to coffee that I think goes largely unrecognized. I’m not just talking about the range in different drinks, but specifically the range in different coffees. I don’t think the specialty coffee industry has equipped its customers with the vocabulary to understand why certain Ethiopias right now might be dramatically different than certain Colombias – or why you generally wouldn’t want to be caught dead drinking anything from Costa Rica in April this year, or what makes Kenyan coffees the shining stars they are.

It’s not that the customer has to know all those details necessarily, but just to know what is good and bad, particularly in filter coffee. The big problem here is, the vast majority of specialty coffee shops have very little understanding of these basic elements themselves. And roasters knowingly pass off inferior coffees because they know the market won’t punish them for that. If customers were demanding sweet, nuanced and complex coffees roasted and brewed well we would all have our work cut out for us to prove that we have any clue what we’re doing.

For now, though, I’m thrilled to see a great number of my customers taking an open-minded approach to experiencing new things in coffee. It bodes well for the future of this crazy industry!

Matthew Kang (Scoops Westside)

Customers should really value the consistency of the operation. How much are staff dialing in their coffee to make sure it’s up to par? Is that cup of coffee going to be great every time you get it, because you’re certainly paying a lot of money. Hopefully staff is asking how your coffee is, and if there are any problems, that they’re amended right away. That way, when you’re coming in and getting a coffee at the shop, you’re able to depend on the quality of the cup from beginning to end.



Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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