how to educate cafe owners ?


New member
Sep 19, 2008
New Zealand
As a former cafe owner and espresso serial murderer I am guilty of having served in the past, many, many cups of terrible coffee.

In my defense, I was uneducated and blind. Having entered the world of cafe ownership from a love of cooking and not from a love of great coffee. I was therefore ignorant of what the heck great espresso actually was. Do you think any of my customers ever told me ?
Never. And I have no idea whether they were just as ignorant as I was or whether they just had no way to break the bad news.

Today of course I have all the knowledge of the www plus I have the time to experience great cafe's around my local area.

Did I say great cafe's ?

Well there's at least ONE ... most of the others are, sadly, in espresso dreamland and dreaming that they are selling great coffee and not about to wake up any time soon.

Whats the best way to inform these cafe owners that they are serving a poor product and that they should do themselves a huge favour and learn firstly, what great coffee is supposed to taste like and secondly that they can acheive excellence if they really want to !

I realise, not patronising their establishments may eventually give them the message. But this simply is not going to help them improve. And really, one guy... me... telling them nicely, probably won't impress them very much and more likely, they will bestow upon me a pleasant sounding name something like,
"you knowall b*****d ... "


Active member
Aug 11, 2004
Des Moines, Iowa
The problem lies in a bad roaster relationship. I have found a lot of mom and pop shops that don't drink their own product. They have the roaster come in and tell them everything is peachy when in fact its not.

The same goes for stores that don't do business directly with a roaster but deal with food service company. The rep stops by, drinks an espresso based drink and says it's the best he's ever had. Then proceeds to the nearest restroom to relieve his stomach of such a foul product.

When you run across a store like this you can try to bring your own product and give a demonstration but unless they are willing to drink it your doing nothing for yourself except waste your own time.

By the chance you do find someone willing to try your test sample then there is you chance to seize the day.
Hey ArabBeaker, good to have another Kiwi on board. What part of the country are you based in? I do venture this question, with a little bit of hesitancy, what has happned to the quality of NZ coffee over the last decade? On my recent visits back I have detected a slow leaching of quality from many of the roasts and blends I have tried. I reckon I have the answer why, but interested in your thoughts.


New member
Sep 19, 2008
New Zealand
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Thanks for both replies.

Alun_, I'm in a Waikato city that starts with H but I won't say which one for fear of death upon entering any cafe.

The great one I was speaking of is located in London st. opposite the Fonterra building. Do you know it ? There are a couple of other good cafes consistantly pulling good shots. Although I must say I'm finding it harder to frequent these establishments of late due to the fact that I have defected to the dark side. I'm now fumbling my way through some home roasting. The new espresso machine I bought recently has an insatiable appetite for the freshest of the fresh.

I recently met up with a couple of local roastery icons who have generously splashed some green beans my way for free, no doubt in an attempt to get me to spill my extensive knowledge about roasting in my corn popper.

As far as communicating with cafe owners about the state of their watery wares, what say you ... ?
Ahhh...MooLoo land. Many fond memories of University jaunts up to the Uni there in my younger days.

Indeed it is a very difficult question you post. From memory you are not too far from the roaster that won the 2006/2007 espresso blend of the year in the Nationals. They are just outside cambridge. Even there, I was supprised that the barista skill was not what I would have expected from an award winning establishment. Having just got back from a trip to Australia, where I was shocked at how GOOD the barista were, often working with blends that were not flash, I think NZ should be doing more at the retail end with educating barista/i.

In saying that, it would take a brave man or woman to go into their local cafe and gently critique the shot pulling skills of the person behind the machine.

Maybe the answer is to evangelicalise coffee in H******N? Maybe now you are by admission a born again coffee person, its time to look at getting back into the business? :grin:


New member
Jan 23, 2009
This is an end-user problem :)

Cafe's are businesses, and most of them won't invest the time and money it takes until the market demands it. The average cafe visitor does not, as of yet, know what good espresso (or any other type of coffee for that sake) really is. Good coffee is a niche product.
This is a good and valid point. However I would say that in many countries cafe culture is interwoven into the fabric of well as being a business. In many countries good coffee is a shoe in. A cafe serving bad product would not last too long. The problem is what happens in countries where there is no coffee or cafe culture. Here as Steinar points out the end user (ie consumer) does not know good coffee and therefore accepts average quaity EBD's as the norm. This is, to be honest, the case where I am currently based. Espresso is a concept that is all reality arrived along with sBUX less than 10 years ago. The leap from Sbux, average chain quality coffee to quality coffee is a monumental one. Brands that can not sell in their own country end up on the shelf here, or are distributed here and add to the myth of what quality coffee is (or in fact, isnt!!)

Education of cafe owners is indeed paramount to development of a quality, fresh R&G do this requires infinite time and patience.

Ultimatley those who look at coffee as a business from a purely predatory point of view end up distorting and damaging market expectations. What I ike abut NZ and Australia is the specialty coffee market hybrided from European coffee culture with the wave of immigrants from Italy, Yugoslavia, France, Holland and Greece after WWII. This clash of coffee culture was like grafting a bloom onto the root stock of a rose that never flowered. It took time,but both these countries were leaders in new world Coffee by 1990. Sadly what happened since is the visionaries who pioneered this have sold up and pure business people have sunk their teeth into the market in both countries.

Today I think the most exciting metamorphis for coffee is happening in... the USA! Being a member of several online forums I have read with real interest what is developing in the States. I think the days when some of the news about espresso from the states was hard to believe are over. Watch out old Europe and New World for a real renaissance in the States.
Jan 18, 2008
Alun, you certainly see a broader picture than most of us and I sure hope you're observations of the U.S. are correct. That part put a little chill up the old spine, LOL. Superb writings from you Mr. Evans, as usual. :)


New member
Jan 26, 2009
I would hope someone would mention to me if they had a problem with my coffee or espresso. I know most people don't like to complain, but if all you hear are positives you assume all is well. I am new to the coffee buiseness as I open my coffee bar in Sept. I am learning quite a bit. I stop at a cafe whenever I can to see waht other people are offering as well as to see how my product compares to theirs.


Nov 3, 2004
Michaelsan's said:
I would hope someone would mention to me if they had a problem with my coffee or espresso. I know most people don't like to complain, but if all you hear are positives you assume all is well.

Consumers will not complain or offer constructive advice because they are not confident in their ability to taste and evaluate coffee, and certainly cannot articulate the experience. They will smile, say "thank you," and never come back if they do not like what they taste (for whatever reason). I recommend that you (and all businesses) establish a consistent standard of beverage quality for your brand that helps consumers understand what is possible with coffee, expected of your shop and should be expected of your competition.

You must take the lead role and set consumer expectations; if you're not certain of what is possible with coffee, you need to get out and experience it for yourself. Just as it is difficult to, for example, run a top fine dining restaurant if you have only ever consumed food from McDonald's, most independent shop operators struggle to match up to the only specialty coffee shop they have known: Starbucks. Average shops are doomed to failure before they begin by attempting to establish a business model that is essentially a poor man's facsimile of a fast food restaurant. You cannot beat the big QSR's at their own mechanized game; you must change the game to do things that they cannot, namely, make a flavorful coffee beverage that is not based on volume, dairy, artificial sweeteners or chemical flavorings. It can is is done in great shops around the world.

Join the Specialty Coffee Association of America (or your respective country organization), visit local, national and international events like barista competitions and cuppings wherever possible, cup coffees with your competitors, visit leading indie retailers and become immersed in the culture that is the world's specialty coffee industry. Online resources, such as this one, are a great place to start, but lack the obvious sensory experience that our industry is founded on.

One can wait for consumers to tell them what they want, but the consumers do not know what is possible. Successful cafe owners show consumers what they want and cannot get elsewhere.


New member
Jan 26, 2009
I definitelymake an effort to get to all the small indie shops I can find. I enjoy trying thier signuture blends as well as single origin coffees. I do see your point about people not making negative coments. I suppose I would probably be the same way in a field I had little knowledge about. I do get plenty of positive coments from my costumers.

I have a DD in the building next to mine. It is definately hard to change peoples habits. The best thing that happened was they closed for remodeling for a week in Dec. I was able to get people to try my coffee. I did keep some regulars who were glad to have a good alternative.

All we can do is continue to make a great product and offer better service. I have an advantage that my buisiness is small and can be the face that the customers see. I don't have to worry about what an employee may be saying when I am not there.



New member
Apr 16, 2007
Crystal Lake, Illinois
Andrews right on here no one will tell you that your coffee is terrible. There are a ton of shop owners who just simply think that if they buy an espresso machine that they can make a espresso based drink. Hell most will just buy the cheapest machine they can find. There is a local shop here that I would love to get in the door with, they have a retail cafe and a cart contract with the community college. Their cart does 2G's plus a day it's the only coffee available on campus. I'll bet they do 200-300lbs of coffee a week. Here's the problem, they serve absolute crap. I went in and ordered a double and got 4-5oz of brown liquid with a white foam on top, just bitter fast pulled garbage I would fire one of my baristas on the spot if I saw them hand a customer a drink like that. I don't even know where to start. The thing that kills me is that because the owners got this great deal with the collage she thinks she's the business woman of the year and won't take a meeting with me. I


New member
Feb 24, 2009
Let me make a case that good product is not the most important thing. In fact, it's not even in the top three. We all know plenty of successful companies who manufacture and sell inferior products but nevertheless they are successful.

The question is what does each of you want to be? If you want to be a hobbyist, a coffee aficionado then do as suggested in this thread. Go seek out the best possible coffee and brew it in the best possible way. I suspect that only you and a small group of fellow hobbyists will appreciate this superior product. I'm all for hobbyists getting together in a kitchen and geeking over a great cup but if you are in business then move on to the next paragraph.

As a businessperson you have to make money. So, let's see, would a superior location with poor coffee make it? the answer is yes, of course. In fact it will likely be a success. How about a bad location with great coffee? probably will not fair well. so location trumps product.

Next, ask yourself the same two questions with the following concepts: atmosphere, price, service, brand recognition and brand perception. You'll quickly find that they all trump quality. This is not brain surgery this is simple human psychology. The perception of quality and actual quality are unrelated to one another. The combination of the above factors create a perception of quality. And the truth is that when we think something is 'of quality' we really mean that we have the perception that it is of quality. People swear by starbucks even though it is awful coffee simply because they believe that startbucks is a quality brand.

This means that the goal of any business is to create the perception of quality without the cost of quality. So, you're asking yourself, since this is pretty simple how come it's so difficult to create a successful business?

The reality is that a perception of quality is much more difficult to achieve than actual quality. Actual quality is pretty easy to achieve. Pump enough money into good beans and equipment and you will get yourself quality. But as a business you know that spending a great deal of money without a return is not the most efficient way of making a living.

This leaves you with the perception of quality option. The reality is that it is much more difficult to create the perception of quality. You need to be clever, you need to tap deep into the psychology of your customers, you need to know where to invest your money wisely and you need to create a product good enough but not too good.

Now that's a fairly difficult proposition if you ask me, but a much more exciting one.



Super Moderator
Feb 16, 2007
Clemmons, NC
I think I have a great simple inexpensive approach to coffee. I have a hard time figuring how to promote my website inexpensively. Home Roasting - Take Green Beans, roast them in an Fresh Roast plus 8, grind them in a burr grinder and press them in an aero press. All of which are available on my website.


New member
Jul 6, 2008
St Augustine Fl
I have alot of customers that will never go to Starboys again. We pride ourselves in having the best coffee in town. The customers come in and say "Why is your coffee so good? What do you different that makes your product far far superior than starbucks?" Passion. The belief in the product. I have a fantastic location. And I put in 100 hrs a week. I constantly adjust grind. etc etc etc