Who are your culinary grads of the future?

Published in FSD Update

That answer and more at MenuDirections 2014 Kickoff Day: Sunday, February 23.

Building a Better Coffee Program
Steve Schnitzler, CEO, Port City Java presented the workshop on coffee. Port City is the coffee provider for NC State University and has a Southeastern U.S. base/distribution. He gave attendees these pointers for creating a successful coffee program:

  • People know a lot about coffee these days as far as quality goes. Once you improve the quality of the coffee you provide, it’s hard to go backwards
  • Your guests are constantly evolving as are their expectations, so you must be evolving too. Customer expectations are higher than ever before; Starbucks set the bar
  • Quality of coffee is important for drip coffee too, not just specialty drinks
  • Serving coffee is only partly about the coffee; it’s also about building relationships with your guests. Provide hospitality rather than service—hospitality has to do with the people you serve. You can get service from an ATM or a vending machine, but you’re not going to get hospitality
  • Upping your coffee game is all about upping your people game. Employee training is key to providing hospitality; you can’t just call someone a barista, they need to be trained
  • Know your employees and build a relationship with them. It takes time and training, but it will pay off

For your coffee program:

  • Determine who you are trying to serve and what your guests’ needs are
  • Upping your coffee level will cost more, but it doesn’t have to be a lot of money
  • It takes one week of employee training to learn, one month to get good and six months or more to get really good
  • Water quality is important—whatever is in the water will get in the coffee
  • Look to your providers for more information about your coffee, if they can’t tell you where it’s from, then find someone who can

Schnitzler then gave attendees some background on the economics and cultivation of coffee:

  • Coffee matters so much today—it’s the second most-traded commodity behind petroleum and the third most-consumed beverage behind water and tea
  • Wine and coffee comparisons are getting to be more appropriate as they relate to variety and our need to grow a quality product
  • Coffee grows around the equator throughout the world, generally in second- and third-world nations that are war torn and economically unstable
  • Coffee must be shipped on a boat due to its weight
  • “Every cup of coffee is a $5, $6, $7 cup” due to what it takes to grow it
  • There is a lot to know to “up your coffee game”
  • Two types of coffee: Arabica and Robusta.
    • Arabica: costs more, grows at higher elevation, is harder to grow, provides a higher quality but less yield, handpicked
    • Robusta: costs less, grows at lower elevations, is easier to grow, provides a lower quality but higher yield, oftentimes machine picked
  • It takes four to seven years to produce a quality coffee from seedling
  • Coffee pricing is volatile—it is two times less today than last year
  • Coffee is generally handpicked for higher quality; you cannot have unripe beans in the mix and beans do not ripen off the plant
  • It takes four to five weeks to complete a harvest
  • Processing coffee produces a lot of fruit waste—in Costa Rica the waste is dried and used for tea; waste can be ground and mixed with water for use as fertilizer on the fields; waste can be dried and formed into bricks and used for fuel
  • Coffee has to rest for 30 to 60 days after being picked to reduce moisture levels—the U.S. has moisture maximums on coffee
  • Roasting: After a lot of roasting, it doesn’t really matter where the coffee is sourced from as you will begin to taste the roast rather than the bean; darker roasted has slightly less caffeine due to the roasting process
  • Producers need to be taken care of in order for future generations to continue coffee production as a viable way of living
    • Certifications help this: Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, USDA Organic (third-party certifications)
    • Most coffee is grown organically, but not certified by a third-party, so it isn’t referred to as such