Sorry for slow posts lately, I am on vacation in Montana with my sons Taylor, and Andre. When I return to Seattle I will research the new machine, Slayer, and post a review. Hwoever, while casting hoppers into the Montana rivers I often ponder the beautiful synergies that develop around a business if passion, rather than strictly cash, are the core values over time.
In our case, Espresso Vivace is 21 years old. It is true I shamelessly set out to create a legend from the beginning, but floating down the river of time it seems that perfecting espresso is much more compelling than legend management activities like seminars and symposiums. So I am lucky, my core value trurns out to be perfecting espresso as a culinary art. As I have pointed out in past articles on staff culture, knowing thyself is paramount in creating a passion driven business, and a small business will strip you to your core values in a few years due to it’s difficulty.
So if you live for the perfect curve in a glass bowl, or the sublime patina on a violin body, or even the fragrance of freshly roasted coffee, if you can actually form a business around it beautiful things sprout all around it like flowers after a desert rain.
Many aware people on every corner of our Earth are very interested in sustainability right now. Since my Greenpeace days I have been one of them. In coffee this is often labeled organic, shade grown, or bird friendly. What I find is that pursuing pure sweet arabica coffees without compromise means that the farms we buy from have shade trees, clean water, and do not use harsh chemical fertilizers. If the farms are not sustainable, the coffee can taste acidic when roasted to a Northern Italian degree. Shopping sustainably is more important then posting signs in your shop advertising sustainability. And key to this essay, it is just an artist persuing a beauftiful goal…creating sweet caffe espresso, it is not necessary to hold the world on your shoulders.
The same can be said for fair trade issues. When buying the best mild arabicas we pay well above the benchmark set for Fair Trade. And as you know, underpaid, unhappy workers can not produce top quality in any endeavor. So the pursuit of the sweet coffee also encompasses equitible treatement of the the people harversting and processing these coffees.
Another less obvious aspect of running these espresso bars for the purpose of creating coffee as art, is the effect that competition has on issues like racial, or gender discrimination. The model leap frogs the entire problem. In Seattle I cannot compete if I am so stupid the I cannot recognize talent because it happens to occur in a black person, or some exotic gender bender. My competitors, which there are MANY, will clean my clock if have a bias against a class of people before I even meet them.
There are also very sublime things that begin percolating on both sides of the counter in an artisn coffee business. On our side, Vivace’s fidelity to coffee as an art gives young talented people something to believe in. And, the ones that truly love coffee stay for years because of it . They come to work happy and eager to create beauty in the aroma and appearance of our cappuccino, and caffe macchiato. The entire business becomes a pleasure to run.
I say both sides of the counter because the customers also form a community around the belief that when they walk in the door, they are getting something that transcends commerce. We live in their imaginations, we actually mean something to them on a personal level. . This was powerfully illustarted to me when we lost the Roasteria to Sound Transit. I built Brix on the other end of Broadway, with very little foot traffic, and no institutional support. I opened Friday Sept. 26th with no ads and not even a sign over the door. On Saturday it was packed, and I mean PACKED. When the customers really love the coffee they treat the staff very well and they are free to be artists, which as you might know, need a lot of attention.
OK I blasted through some very interesting subjets. For a complete development, and a chance to weigh in yourself, come to my talk at Seattle’s September Coffee Fest.