By Colin Whitcomb
For those who build and run specialty coffee shops, the big question is: How do we want people to experience coffee? It’s a loaded question, as answering it requires probing even further: How do we want people to drink coffee? How do they interact with coffee? Should they be drinking black coffee and espresso neat? Or is enjoyment of coffee in any form all that matters? Should the experience be fast, or slow? If people aren’t experiencing coffee in a way that makes them stop and take notice, to appreciate a truly superb coffee experience, how do we alter that?
There is no one answer to these questions. We must wrestle with them as we define our vision and create an authentic specialty coffee experience. What I would like to suggest is that signature drinks are a tool to discovering an authentic experience, to creating diversity in the specialty market, fostering an understanding of what can make coffee truly special, and cultivating a customer base of coffee drinkers without feeling like we need to compromise.