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

Again, it comes down to having the time, but you guys have those little 4oz sampling cups for new customers.How often do you use them?

Oh yeah, that’s definitely encouraged here. We’re giving samples out all the time, either of our cold brew coffee or our drip coffee for the people who are into the dark roasts and want to try something new. It’s easy to give someone a couple sips of coffee and then talk to them about it while they drink it.

You said you love having a conversation about coffee with people and educating them on coffee. Is there anything you want to add to that?

I think as a barista who is well versed in specialty coffee, I think like anyone else who knows a subject really well, it’s like if you found something that’s brilliant, you want to share it. It’s kind of that feeling. It’s that hidden gem that people have not been exposed to and being able to expose people to that. It’s fun to do it. We get more [new] people who are on the verge of frustrating and so when you do get people who are open and intrigued by it, it presents the opportunity to explain the depths of this hidden gem to them.

You’re saying, of the completely new customers, the ones new to the idea of craft coffee, more can be frustrating?

Yeah, it is frustrating when you spend five to six minutes on an AeroPress or a pour over Chemex or an extremely rare coffee and watch them pour cream into it and then pour simple syrup into it. It’s like you just wasted your time because they’re not appreciating it to its fullest extent. Obviously, we don’t show it externally, but as someone who understands it comprehensively, it’s hard to watch.

People have lampooned that–the reaction of the precious barista. But there is a reality to it. You’re not going to be able to taste the quality of it.

Right. It’s like if you have a $100 bottle of Merlot and then you pour it over a giant glass of ice. It’s like watching that as a wine connoisseur. If you’re gonna speak up you’re gonna sound snobby [laughs].

I only drink black coffee, but I used to put so much sugar in my coffee. It’s like if I did that with this coffee [Green Street’s drip coffee]. I wouldn’t be tasting what separates Green Street from the mediocre coffees out there.

Right, I understand it because there was a point in my life where I did the same thing, but at some point I became open to learning. If you’re open, you get to experience something better. The people who aren’t open remain closed off. They never try it and miss out. It’s all about that one time. You find that one cup. You try it black and you’re like wow, this actually doesn’t taste like crap black. I can taste some things I’ve never tasted before–it blows your mind a little. I think as specialty coffee drinkers, we’ve all had one moment in our history where we had our minds blown by coffee. Simply put, we just want to blow peoples minds with coffee that same way.

What was your moment?

When I started roasting coffee. I opened myself up to drinking black coffee, which you know, for most people is kind of an extreme thing to start doing when you’re drinking cream and sugar and you grew up that way, thinking that’s how coffee is supposed to be. Maybe the first cup of black coffee, it’s not amazing. It’s weird or bitter. Uncomfortable. For me, I needed to taste the coffee pure to know what I was doing. I think the big moment was when I had the opportunity to taste coffees from different countries from around the world that were all black and you could noticeably tell a difference in flavor. I roasted coffees from Colombia, different countries in Africa, Indonesia. With each of those countries, I could taste an extreme difference in flavor. I never realized that was even a possibility before. I was like, coffee’s coffee. All of sudden, I’m like, no, it’s not.

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