Dimitri Thompson is a man on the mission. He is the first trying to break a popular stigma among coffee shop owners that going all-in for 100% “green” is expensive and not profitable. His Noble Café is generating lots of buzz, and we are glad to have him here for this interview.
V. Hi Dimitri! We can’t wait for the café to open up, when is the launch date?
T. We are still waiting on a couple of permits and inspections, but I think we will be open in the next two to four weeks.
V. I’ve heard that the condominium builders are really excited to have you in their building, how did you approach them?
T. Yup, it is a two year old building, but the bottom floor has been empty all this time. Nobody wanted to go in there, because although being a great place, it is a huge investment. I approached them with my concept, and they loved it. I told them that it would be the first building department that will have a room service delivery done by texting. This is how it works: you fill up your membership account with $150 to $200 dollars, and your cell phone and apartment numbers get linked to it. So, for example, if you text “two coffees Maxim 207”, you get a text back with your order confirmation, and whoever brings you the order will give you a receipt that says how much money is left in your account. Like I said, the condominium developers loved it, and even gave me six months free rent.
V. What are you trying to prove with your business?
T. You know, I guess I am just sick of people saying that we are a green café or a green restaurant, and all they do is put in a recyclable counter and a few garbage bins. There is no real commitment with money or anything else. I know that the coffee shop industry is not made up of culinary professionals – how many of them are food and beverage professionals or have a degree in resort management? The majority start a business because it is not hard to do, which means that they usually get bad leases and bad contracts, and as a result they are passing their ridiculous overheads on to customers. I ran some of the best hotels and restaurants around the world after getting my degree, and I am here to prove the point that doing things the “green way” is better and affordable both for the business owner and his customers.
V. Could you tell our readers a bit about the extent of your “green” concept?
T. The level of my commitment has not yet been seen in the coffee shop industry. Whatever my electricity bill is every month, I will go to the Parks Department of Oakland and give them the same amount to keep our air clean. I will have a compostable machine on site, and my cups will cost me an astonishing 15 cents because they are 100% recyclable within 90 days. I will be using the most expensive organic milk, and 90% of our main ingredients will come from within a 200 miles radius. Each and every one of my interior suppliers gives me a certificate that their products are 100% sustainable. For example, my high-end reclaimable wood tables cost $700 each, although I could have paid $150 for a regular coffee table. The same with the lights for the café; I could have bought all for $5,000, but I have spent about $17,000 because of their electricity-saving characteristics. Still I am not here to be a non-profit: this is business, and I am planning on tripling my initial investment in 6 years.
V. What is your relationship with coffee, and how is it going to be reflected in the Noble cafe?
T. I am an avid coffee drinker, and coffee for me is four things: machine, grind, tamping, and beans. Take tamping for example, nobody in the U.S. is serious about it. If you are 250 pounds, and I’m 150, our tamping pressures are going to be different, and so are our coffee drinks. In Noble Café, we will use Macap (http://www.macap.it/) lever operated espresso tampers to keep our drinks consistent. As far as our coffee supply, it will come from the Blue Bottle Coffee Company that only roasts organic, pesticide-free, shade-grown beans.
V. What espresso machine will you be using?
T. I will be using a Plus 4 You manufactured by Astoria. So far, I am the only owner in the U.S. of the newest model in a gorgeous red color, which you can differentiate from the older ones, which have the carbon fiber finish. Plus 4 You groups have separate boilers, and you can switch them on/off and set them to different temperatures. It is the only machine in the world that is certified to save electricity by 47%. Also Astoria has the biggest repair network in the U.S., so if something breaks, somebody can come in the same day – really quick service is important in our business as you know.
CofeeTalk wishes all the luck to Dimitri Thompson and his “truly green” Noble Café. Don’t just talk, walk your “Green” talk.