Friday, April 01, 2011

Bad coffee at cafés

I frequently visits the cafes around Stockholm, SWEDEN where I live, but despite this, I believe this can be applied to most cities around the country and the world.

Coffee (especially brewed coffee that is consumated in most homes and offices) is a Swedish national drink, (Sweden and Finland drink more coffee per capita than everyone else according to surveys popping up now and then), but the most common problem with brewed coffee around is that it is brewed but left to stand and burn for hours. Instead of brewed and served a la minute. And in the case of cafes serving Italian style of coffee (huge thing in Sweden of course) Cappuccino, Caffee Latte and so on – it is useally misstreated and badly packed in the portafilter (Portafilter is the handle containing the metallic bowl you put the grinded coffee in). Probably even the cleaning up, maintenance of the machines i bad.


Where coffee geeks claim a coffee grinder to be the  most important, I would argue that it may well be the smallest problem of them all. If the coffee is not packed properly its a problem together with the grind, in that it doesnt only give a bad crema, but also a bad sloppy coffee taste. If the maintenance, washing up is bad same problem apply in that it may still give a nice looking crema, but still a bad sloppy taste. The previous coffees being made left resedue in the portafilter or something similar giving taste to the new. So a good crema doesnt imediatly mean a great cup of coffee.

And this we pay money for.

When I visit different cafés, meeting friends, work with my laptop,  wacom tablet, sketchbook,  reading, I get to see how the staff is working. Or in other words how they have been trained by their boss. After all the boss is the one that should know how things are supposed to be done, right…

Commitment
The work as a boss, manager, owner of the establishment means you expect the responsible above mentioned actually have shown, trained the staff in how things are expected to be done. What standard of quality they like at their company. Mostly though it seems they are their for the money and not the clients. Pennies in their pockets instead of joy and quality of service. They have instead, as it seams, neglected to all of this – traning the staff. On how to maintenance, cleaning up the machine park. Washing up continously during the day. How they grind beans to perfection or at least a decent level. To clean the grinder from old bean resedue to make it grind better and make room for new fresh beans. Change water to freash water. And so on and so forth.

I my may swear in church by saying this, but when  I grabbed a coffee and breakfast with Mia when we were in Washington DC, in the old Chinatown district, at the local Starbucks  we knew what we got. We knew it always tasted the same. Which was quite okay coffee and tea. Similarly, when we were in San Francisco, Phoenix, Berlin, London.

I know Starbucks have automated it all, and it really isnt so great, but its consistent. Which in my view is better than consisten down  spiral quality.

A lot of complaints are raised about Starbucks and Caffee Nero and similar chains, but they keep some sort of standard. Regardless of how I personally think of the quality – again, its consistent. Staff seem to know how to do things at a minimum level. And allthough the coffee isnt the best, its still okey.

In Sweden coffee culture seem to have fallen to pieces. Remember its the national drink. And this regardless if its a trendy café at the posh street Nybrogatan/Karlavägen in Stockholm, or a coffee franshice chain at posh-tourist trap-center of town, street of Hamngatan. Staff may be nice but generally the coffee is a dissgrace of the name. It simply taste bad and sloppy made. Then there is another thing that some café owners are afraid of letting people with laptops sit and check whatever they check on their laptop, is another disgrace to the whole coffee culture experience.

The sad and bad how strange this may sound, it may not become better until Starbucks and Coffee Nero comes this way and set the bar – you see what level we are talking about, right?

Stefan Lindblad
Illustration, graphic design & art

3 comments:

Cafés Camali said...

It's a real pity that people aren't doing the coffee justice by brewing it corectly and higenically.

Although grinding is important, you are right, people need to take care through te entire process.

We would hope any of our customers in Sweden who buy our Spanish coffee would take the time to prepare it correctly, but as a supplier you just don't have control over these things.

After the work we do roasting it to perfection, it's sad to see falvour being compromised by sloppy work.

Andrew
www.cafescamali.com

Stefan Lindblad - illustration & art said...

Hi Andrew from Cafescamali,

Nice to hear a reaction from Spain.

Coffee in Sweden, in all fareness, is generally great, but the decline in many places isnt nice at all. If you read the comments in swedish, in this thread in Swedish (use hhtp://translate.google.se), by a coffee master like Jon who comments, there are cafés who really does good coffee. He specifically mention high standard cafés in Stockholm. Could be of interest for your company.

Equally, people are sloppy at times which made me a bit itchy.

Do try to sell your spanish coffee to the great coffee specialist in Sweden, and now also in London: http://www.kaffemaskinen.se/ and http://www.thecoffeemachinelondon.co.uk/

This is a high quality coffee machine & coffee beans specialist retailer.

Stefan

Stefan Lindblad - illustration & art said...

Andrew Café Camali,

I like your website. Always nice to read and see pictures of the whole process.