Before starting any business, understand and ideally enjoy the product that you offer. The specialty coffee industry has enjoyed stellar growth in and received positive publicity. As a result, it seems new coffee shop owners sometimes forget to study coffee!
What could be so difficult about coffee? It’s a bean, grind it, mix it with hot water and you’ve got a high margin drink… right? Well, perhaps, but only in the sense that wine is old grape juice in a bottle.
Some are surprised to learn that coffee is more complex than other food businesses. Wines, cheeses, oils, vinegar and other specialty foods are arguably less difficult.
Coffee has a steep learning curve. Its flavor profiles are as unique and wonderful as the more than 65 countries and a hundred million or more people involved in its production. Beyond individual varieties, there are different methods of processing, roasting, brewing and more.
Even water. Water is over 98% of the coffee that you will serve. Coffee shop owners sometimes mistakenly give little or no thought to their water source. For best results, one should always test the water source and treat it accordingly.
Unbalanced water will alter the flavor of any coffee or tea and can damage valuable equipment. Once you learn about coffee, you will understand the elements that are part of the beverage and recognize issues like these.
Just as if starting a restaurant, strive to gain a level of competency in coffee to master traditional beverages and abstract your own. Signature beverages can become a hallmark of your brand.
Study the Coffee Basics
Immersing into the local and regional coffee culture is a great way to study coffee. Attend conferences, sign up for online coffee training courses. Join the SCA Education program and complete industry standard certificate programs.
Sample as much coffee in as many coffees and styles of roasting and preparation as you can. Don’t model a business solely on the offerings of a major chain shop in your region. Small businesses have the competitive advantage from the ability to do better. Study coffee and find your unique approach.