The specialty coffee world has undergone many changes over the course of the last 10 years. We evolve at a lighting-fast pace and this fast pace requires a coffee professional to adapt so as to be able to provide excellent coffee and a tremendous experience to our guests who are on the cusp of discovering and developing more discriminating palates, experiences, and choices. As coffee professionals, we need to position ourselves to welcome those on that pilgrimage. On the part of the coffee professional, that requires an authentic desire and mindset at all levels of our industry to agree on 1.) what that experience is, and 2.) How does it get delivered?
We need to first ask our selves the foundational questions: Do we believe that coffee is a warm welcoming beverage? Do we believe that coffee ought to be approachable and serious, but not pretentious and isolationist in nature? Does the latter draw those on their pilgrimage and discovery towards a great coffee experience or further away? How do we protect that which we care about so deeply and draw others into our craft and passion? How do we usher in what I like to call the “fourth wave”?
The fourth wave of coffee will be, in my opinion, the integration of everything we have done over the last 20 years, led with a clear vision including an amazing customer focus. In the same way as the third wave was loosely defined around Barista craft, preparing exquisite drinks, letting the bean speak for itself, the fourth wave will begin on the other side of the counter. The evolution of customer choice. The education will continue but we have achieved a high degree of mass consumer education around coffee that did not exist before. So now it’s time to take it to the next level (while not ignoring that every coffee consumer is at a different point in their journey). We will no longer tell the customer what they can receive but rather they will be able to articulate THEIR preferences to us. We will need to operationalize this transformation by including as part of our daily offering alternative brew methods (chemex, pourover, siphon, French press, etc…) available in tandem with a range of different coffees (and various roast profiles), representative of the entire coffee experience. Of course, at its foundation is the ever-perfecting art of espresso. Everything available at all times.
To me, what makes specialty coffee exciting is the reaction that I get to see on the faces of people who are discovering this amazing beverage in a way they never have before: From the fruit one gets from a great Ethiopian to the earthiness one might get from a Sumatra. These reactions are priceless and serve as the foundation for the future of our industry. For me, at a personal level, it validates why I am in this business. At the core of this experience, in my humble view, is the mindset that coffee is warm and welcoming. It is synonymous and evocative of community.
When I ponder these questions I am reminded of a proverb: “where there is no vision the people perish”
The vision part:
In my experience and that of my organization, a vision is what drives everything we do. We recognize the importance of understanding and directing our future in the present and taking the steps necessary NOW to achieve that which we envision success to be. At my company and that of our entire community of businesses, a vision of success is articulated in the following recipe:
• Belief In The Process
• Your Gut
• Some Time
• Willingness To Make Yourself Vulnerable
• Readiness To Do Something Great
• You’ve Gotta Wanna
• The Willingness To Stick With The Process
Step 1—Pick Your Topic
Step 2—Pick Your Time Frame
Step 3—Put Together A List Of “Prouds”
Step 4—Write The First Draft Of The Vision
• Go For Something Great
• Write From The Heart
• Get In The Future
• Go Quickly
• Use The “Hot Pen” Technique
• Get Personal
Step 5—Re-View And Re-Draft
Optional: Step 6-A, 6-B and 6-C—More Re-drafts
Step 7—Get Input From ACES
Step 8—Let’s Go—Start Sharing The Vision
I believe our industry needs a vision of greatness as that guidance will direct the success we achieve together and bring any outlying components that we currently suffer from, together.
At my company whenever we are faced with challenges or come to a crossroads, we write a vision of success. We recently completed our 2020 vision. It was a process that took us many months to complete but the result was nothing short of amazing! The entire staff participated in the process. We corralled all of our diverse energies into one steeled focus understanding first and foremost our differences are where our strengths are. It was good for newer staff to go through the process with more seasoned staff so that they could see more “outside of the box” together. We all now know where we are going. We are ALL bought in because we ALL created it. It was not a top down exercise but rather a “bottom up” process.
Perhaps our industry could consider a similar process? Perhaps the various member groups of the SCAA and beyond could consider this process on behalf of creating that amazing customer experience. I would posit, after all, whether we like it or not, as long as we are engaged in specialty coffee, our livelihoods and passions are inextricably linked.
By Steve Mangigian, President and Managing Partner: Zingerman’s Coffee Company