On Converting People To Craft Coffee With Top Hat Espresso Catering Founder & Green Street Coffee Barista Tim Pearson

In terms of the different coffees, whether it’s on drip or you’re doing a pour over, what kind of flavors are you calling out when talking to newbies?

Tim Pearson. by Jacki Philleo.

Tim Pearson. by Jacki Philleo.

It depends on the coffee and how it’s roasted. Where it was grown and how it was processed at the farm–it all effects how coffee notes or flavors come out of the cup. We have coffees from Ethiopia. Since it’s processed naturally and they leave the coffee bean in the cherry to dry, it will take on some fermented fruit flavors, like blueberry. Sometimes the washed process coffees have a higher acidity and might have raspberry notes or caramel or toffee, walnut, apricot, plum notes. There’s just endless possibilities when it comes to coffee flavors. And there’s–kind of like how there’s a wine wheel or a beer wheel, there’s also a coffee tasting wheel, which we can always refer people to. It allows people to express vocabulary in terms of what they’re tasting. It breaks done what flavors there are and why you’re tasting them.

So when somebody comes in and asks for a dark roast you guys may have something that, in the slightest way, just starts to approach a dark roast.

It’s hard to find a really dark roast that we can serve you in the store here just because our philosophy is different here. We do have an organic French roast in bags that we can sell if you want to buy a bag.

Is that the biggest thing you face when it comes to people not familiar with craft coffee?

One of the biggest things. It’s not a–they always walk away with a medium or light roasted coffee anyway. We’ve never had anyone come back and complain. As a barista, you have to gauge their persona. If they come in and they’re in a rush and they say they want a dark roast coffee, we’re just gonna give them a medium roast coffee or a light roast coffee because you don’t have time to explain to them based on–if they seem like they’re in a rush. There’s those people where you say, look we have a medium roast, is that good. They say, ok, that’s good. There’s other people, like I said that you have time to talk to and tell them why light roasts are preferred here, or mediums roasts depending on what kind of coffee we’re serving that day and why we chose to do that.

I’ve seen people say you guys don’t have regular coffee [whatever that is] and I’ve seen couples come in, stare at the board for awhile and then turn and leave, with one turning to the other and saying, “this is a hipster coffee shop” before they exit.

[Laughs] I think there are always going to be people who are unappreciative of the finer things. There’s always going to be people who just want a Miller Lite. And there’s always going to be people who want a double caramel hazelnut macchiato from Saxby’s with whipped cream on top and they’re not going to find that here. And if they’re happy with what they get at Saxby’s, they’re not gonna be happy with what they get here, and vice versa.

But how awesome is it then to get those people to take that first step?

It’s all about education. Most people like to learn. And the people who do like to learn, when they are educated properly–when they’re not being pushed–about specialty coffee, it’s very well accepted–for most people. Some people don’t have the time or the [desire to] care for it. Honestly, it just depends on the type of person you’re talking to.

How do you put them in a comfort zone if you realize that if you throw out something to complicated, it’s going to push them away?

That’s kind of the tricky part of being a barista–figuring out the level of knowledge they are at, because you also don’t want to insult them. You ask them questions. How do you brew coffee at home? If they’re grinding their own coffee, that’s always a good step. I think freshness is one of my starting points because it’s easy to understand. There’s not any crazy terms when you’re talking about freshness. Okay, you want to get coffee, you want it when it’s one to two weeks after it’s roasted and primarily it’s best to grind your coffee right before you’re about to brew it. As with anything else, it’s going to [start to] go bad once you expose it to oxygen, so getting a grinder is one of your first steps to having fresh coffee along with finding a local roastery to get fresh roasted coffee from.
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