The May / June Hotel Food & Beverage Magazine features an interview and web sidebar with Andrew Hetzel titled Coffee is the New Wine that discusses the latest coffee trends in the hospitality industry, suggestions for quality improvement and coffee & food pairings.
“I’VE GOTTEN MORE CALLS FROM HOTELS in the last few months than in the past five years,” says Andrew Hetzel, president and founder of CafeMakers (www.cafemakers.com), a specialty coffee business consultancy based in Hawaii. “Although hotels, and the United States in general, are behind in coffee trends compared with the rest of the world (Scandinavians drink the most and brew the best), they are catching up—and catching on. There are specific ways to create a better coffee experience for hotel guests. It’s a huge opportunity to be creative— and increase profits.
“Coffee is the new wine,” says Hetzel.
Not that long ago, restaurants offered a choice of either house Red or White. No restaurant would get away with that now. And coffee has followed the same pattern. Once people have tasted good coffee, “there is no going back,” says Hetzel. The trends are entirely consumer driven, and the key word is “specialization.” It is not unusual now for someone to confidently request Kenyan or Ethiopian or Hawaiian coffee.
The big trends, according to Hetzel:
Social Causes Offering products that benefit social or environmental organizations (organic, shade grown, bird safe) make people feel good about the coffee they are drinking. “It is well-intended, and does more good than harm,” Hetzel says.
Intense flavors By serving smaller-sized coffee drinks with more intense flavors, guests are more satisfied—and will pay more. Hetzel compares the concept to getting a small pizza in Italy. Initially, it looks too small to be filling … but the flavor is so intense that it’s enough … and memorable.
Even though Hetzel favors cappuccino (the traditional 5-1/2 ounce size), he says flavored drinks are still popular. People like cold, frozen, and blended drinks—even though they contain very little coffee. He feels, however, that the best coffee comes from properly extracted espresso blends.
DON’T FEAR STARBUCKS
Hoteliers want to keep their guests from going to the nearest Starbucks down the street. But they often don’t want a fast food outlet in their elegant lobby. Therein lies the fallacy—and the opportunity. Coffee bars or cafés can complement a particular hotel concept or décor. They can be designed, with the proper ambience, to keep people there longer, eating and drinking more.
And it’s an opportunity for chefs to develop food and coffee pairings. For example, Asian/Pacific coffees (particularly Java and Sumatra) tend to be roasted darker to bring out their more full-bodied and intense flavor with low acidity. This makes them ideal for hearty dishes, such as beef, game, fowl, or heavier chocolate-based desserts. Coffees from Africa and Latin America tend to be high in acidity and offer delicate floral, berry, and citrus tastes, making them better suited for pairing with fruity dishes or main courses with light flavor, such as a mild fish.
“You should never fear Starbucks,” Hetzel says.
Good coffee, he emphasizes, is practical for in-room, banquet, and restaurant service. If you use the proper high-volume equipment and understand that coffee is perishable (it’s best to use it three to five days after roasting; after two weeks it is stale), you can serve the best coffee and give your guest a memorable experience.—MRC
Five Steps to Better Coffee
- Respect Coffee
- Set your Quality Goal
- Choose Fresh, High Quality Ingredients
- Choose the Right Tools
- Train your staff
Coffee quality improvements do not happen overnight; there must be a conscious commitment on the part of management to embolden coffee’s position within the organization and to take the steps necessary to make it better. Take, for example, the topic of free refills. Food and beverage items that you respect are not refilled for free. You do not refill fuel for free; you should not refill your coffee for free. Free implies no value or said another way, our coffee is worthless. You cannot serve good coffee if it is perceived as worthless by your organization and subsequently, your customers. When taken seriously, coffee is one of the most profitable items on your beverage or food menu, and the only flavor of that your patrons will experience for several minutes, perhaps hours, after leaving your establishment. When you give your coffee the respect that it deserves, you will be ready to take the additional steps necessary to get the most from your coffee.
Until the 1990s, most chain operators in America would never have thought to question that coffee was anything more than a commodity – it comes in a powder, just add hot water and drink. The word is out that specialty coffee offers a unique flavor experience that consumers demand (and will pay top dollar for). What most consumers do not yet know is that levels of quality and flavor exist beyond the wildest dreams of their local QSR coffee outlet. You have the opportunity to show them.
Reach beyond the everyday and learn what is possible with specialty coffee beverages. The flavor and artistry that you experience at events like the World Barista Championship (www.worldbaristachampionship.com) is within your organization’s reach. Take inspiration from what the best of the best are doing in the world of specialty coffee and use the resources of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (www.scaa.org), your local coffee roaster and independent expert to help you achieve your goals. Customers may not be confident enough to complain when coffee is bad; however, they will reward a business by returning when it is good.
Get a roast date
You wouldn’t use stale bread on your sandwiches or rotten tomatoes in salads; using stale coffee in a cappuccino is no different. Freshness begins at the roaster: you have approximately two weeks to use whole bean coffee from the time it is roasted – and once ground, mere minutes.
Packaging only masks the effects of aging; the benefits of vacuum sealing and gas flushing dissipate within hours or days of coffee’s exposure to air. Fresh roasted coffee is the only coffee that provides the full coffee experience; work with a local or regional artisan coffee roaster, visit their facility and understand what they do.
You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear
It should come as no shock that it is impossible to make something excellent from poor material. Some may be surprised, however, that there is only a small difference in wholesale cost per pound between most average commodity coffees and many fine quality specialty coffees. The difference per cup is almost insignificant; pennies per beverage will yield dollars of value to customers.
Work with a coffee roaster that displays the same level of commitment to their coffees as you do to your food. One cannot tell difference on paper between coffees labeled solely by country origin, such as “Panama.” To do so would be like selecting a wine on the basis that it is labeled “French.” An experienced roastmaster or green coffee buyer can help you to sort through the dozens of samples that you may wish to taste while developing a flavor profile for the coffee that best suits your business.
On the topic of ingredients – this cannot be said too often – never forget that water is 98.5% of coffee. Small variations in mineral content, alkalinity and chemical additives like chlorine will dramatically change the way that your coffee tastes. Be certain to consult with a water professional to learn how to best treat water for optimum coffee flavor.
Coffee equipment (and espresso equipment, in particular) is a fairly complex business. The best blanket statement that can be uniformly applied across the whole of the restaurant industry is: throw away those old glass carafes. Old-fashioned “50’s diner-style” coffee burners do just that – burn – coffee. Warming prepared coffee causes premature decomposition of the beverage and forms quinic acid, the primary compound in coffee that tastes bitter.
Don’t think this means that a business must make huge capital investments in new technology; the investment may be far less than one would expect. Switch to modern insulated airpots or thermal dispensers that retain (not add) heat to beverages before serving, or consider switching to a single service program. Single service programs use inexpensive devices like simple gravity filters or French press pots to make coffee on-demand for each customer. Freshness is a critical factor with any aspect of food service; producing smaller batches of coffee for immediate consumption is a great way to ensure better flavor.
An outstanding barista must possess the coffee-equivalent knowledge of a wine sommelier and perform with the technical competency and culinary artistry of a skilled chef. In some countries, it is customary for a new barista-trainee to apprentice for several months before being allowed on bar serving drinks to customers. Training and the strict reinforcement of beverage quality standards in an environment that promotes continual education is the best way to ensure that your customers will experience consistently great coffee in your establishment and come back for more.
Give coffee the full attention that it deserves in new employee training curriculum and be certain to regularly evaluate the performance of personnel by tasting samples of the beverages that they produce. Where practical, dedicate coffee specialists within the staff that receive further coffee training and opportunities to advance their own product knowledge through outside events.
Andrew Hetzel’s Coffee and Food Pairings
Brazil and Columbia account for the majority of coffee sold in the world today. Although Brazil’s coffees are somewhat lighter and brighter than Colombia, South American coffees tend to be moderate in flavor and acidity, lacking extremes, making them a popular mass- market favorite. Collectively with the Central American coffees, these coffee flavors most familiar to the North American palate. Due to their moderate profile, average South American coffees can be consumed practically anytime with the best specialty varieties reserved for specific pairing advice based on their individual characteristics.
Coffees from Africa and Latin America tend to be high in acidity and offer delicate floral, berry and citrus tastes, making them better suited for paring with fruity dishes or main courses with light flavor, such as a mild fish.
Asian/Pacific coffees (particularly Java and Sumatra) tend to be roasted darker to bring out their more full-bodied and intense flavor with low acidity, making them ideal for hearty dishes, such as beef, game fowl, or heavier chocolate-based desserts.
Indian coffee is primarily from the Robusta species, rather than the Arabica that consists of the far majority of other coffees mentioned here. Well cultivated and carefully grown Robusta coffee from India provides an exotic, musty malt flavor that is well-paired with spicy foods.
The coffees of Hawaii are priced for their unique qualities, Kona on the Big Island offers extremes ranging from the bright characteristics of Central American coffees – a good pairing with sweet dishes, or desserts like sorbet and key lime pie – to a mild and delicately balanced floral experience that can be matched with Asian delicacies including chicken or perhaps scallops. Kauai brings a low-altitude sweetly balanced mild low-acidity which is a great match with moderate flavors, such as veal or pork and desserts like vanilla ice cream or bread pudding. Coffees from Maui and Molokai offer chocolatly sweetness, and some coffees, a hint of tobacco that goes great with braised meats or tomato-based pasta.