Can coffee shops really compete?
When you enter the coffee world you are really entering a whole new universe. There’s an entirely new vocabulary to learn, parts of the world you learn about that you never thought you would as well as processes, ratios, and a very long, rich history.
Every primary school subject is covered and if you’re doing it right you’ve got to know it all. Of course, you are always learning and growing but to be a decent barista it’s best to have touched all the areas of coffee right off the back.
With such an immense deal of knowledge and information to know, everyone is going to have different ranges and levels of knowledge. It is likely that most people are going to prefer different roasters and bean origins. We see this by walking into any coffee shop. Some places serve better drip coffee while others excel at pour overs. Some coffeehouses are espresso strong while others enjoy stirring up a good chai or frappacino. Chances are, if you like coffee, you are aware which of your local shops you prefer to go to for each of these things. Maybe you have just one for all of them.
So, where am I going with this? Simply put, my argument is that coffee shops should not be competing. Let’s invite a supportive and encouraging coffee community.
Baristas can compete. They can compete because they are able to have the same variables and be perfecting one specific part of coffee such as cutting out just the right amount of acidity from a certain blend of bean or perfecting their almond milk rosetta. However, even at this degree baristas can only compete by task. This is why the many throwdowns and tournaments that exist can be so enjoyable.
When you love coffee you love every piece of it from the type of soil it grew in and what grew around it to how it was processed and finally how it is served. If you appreciate coffee to this degree I hope you would want to see every bean succeed. The only way for this to happen is to know that your shop, whether you are the owner or the customer, can not serve the entire coffee industry under its roof. No one coffee house can support the millions of people it takes to grow, process, bag, roast, and sell the millions of types of beans. Think “if I can’t do it, someone should.” Then think “but what I can do, I’m going to do to my best ability!”
My hope is that if you love coffee, you love every shop because everyone is providing something different and each aspect of coffee deserves to be enjoyed and supported. Every different tastebud deserves to have a place to go.
Try visiting a new coffee shop in your area knowing you aren’t “cheating” on your usual. Rotate where you visit, try new things, and see if you learn or taste anything new.