From the Roaster: Paul on Public Domain

A few years ago (ok, 20 years), Coffee Bean International chose to move from being a retail/wholesale roaster to purely wholesale. I believe the primary reason may have been that we didn’t want to compete with our retail customers. As the lead roaster and coffee buyer at the time, this move made life a bit easier. We no longer needed to deal with the retail side…

Fast forward 17 years to 2007…CBI takes over ownership of the Portland Coffeehouse in downtown Portland. My first thought? “Finally, we have our own retail location to show all those customers the exceptional quality and presentation we demonstrate in the roastery and to our customers who come to visit, giving the consumer a coffee experience”.

In hindsight, moving away from retail was perhaps a mistake. The best way to get our message across is to show how it’s done. Do we need to start a chain of retail stores? Nope, we just need to have training centers that can show one how it’s done! Yesterday we were buying exceptional coffees, roasting and distributing to customers, and moving on. We lacked the space for hands-on training to share our approach with customers. Now that changes!

Over the last five years, it occurred to me that it’s the responsibility of the roaster to make sure the people who have direct contact with consumers present their investment properly!

What investment you ask? If one pays top dollar for exceptional coffee, one just made an investment. The investment is exceptional coffee. Each step through the process of taking that green coffee to the consumer needs to be handled to protect that investment. In other words, if you can’t deliver an exceptional experience to the consumer, why pay top dollar? Why invest into exceptional coffee? The steps include importing that green quickly to help preserve that freshness, roast that investment to its finest capabilities (of course coffee is a fruit and people expect fruits to be sweet. Sweet comes from buying high quality green coffee and roasting it properly, to help embellish the sweetness… No roast impingement!!), using top-of-the-line roasting equipment and well trained, fully engaged, experienced roasters. Package that investment expediently; deliver your investment shortly after roasting - to the Barista.

The Barista is the point of contact with the consumer. That Barista has processes to follow to make sure their investment (roasted coffee from the roaster) is delivered to the consumer in its finest form. Yes, if the roaster pays top dollar, the retailer is going to pay top dollar. If the Barista is well trained and clearly understands exceptional quality, they will protect that investment. Take every step of the process personally and to its 100% best potential. Don’t lose track half way through because there will be no magic wand to fix a mistake in one of these steps. Green, roast, package, expedient delivery of fresh, Barista receives, clearly understands the coffee they are getting, realizes the investment, trains, delivers, and with the utmost confidence, delivers what they know is the best experience possible.

When I heard we were buying a retail store in 2007, I heard in my own mind, an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to go back 20 years and do it all over again, but this time, it’s all about showing the world what we have been doing for the last 20 years and protecting our investments. To do so, we must do our customers and our exceptional coffees proper service by offering these coffees only to shops who will join us and treat these coffees as investments. We start by training, communication, and demonstration.

So we shut down Portland Coffee House earlier this year for a major overhaul. It opened in early May under the name “Public Domain” - a place where people are invited to come on in and learn about coffee. The concept is easy, the task is fun and difficult at times, but the outcome is stellar and I’m perhaps the proudest of them all to be part of this experience. I can’t wait for competitive friends in this industry to come visit Portland. I know they will be ecstatic that we are presenting the experience the way we are: a true specialty coffee experience, right in the heart of Portland Oregon! 

The roasting of these few select coffees is handled to its creative best by well rehearsed, experienced roasters who are very engaged in roasting, training, cupping, the Roasters Guild and its Annual Retreat, and the SCAA Conference.

Here at CBI we’ve always been great at the roasting side. Now it’s time to engage directly with the consumer. We are using Public Domain as our training center to demonstrate to our customers, and anyone interested in experiencing an exceptional coffee experience, how it’s done!! All of our Baristas came to CBI’s roasting plant for 3 months of every day, 6 to 8 hours a day, learning to roast, cup, and realize exceptional coffee, and most of all, to train to deliver the entire experience. Leading the charge are Angela Gay and Ray Penrod, two extremely experienced Baristas who have, for much of their coffee career, embraced the concept of protecting the investment of exceptional coffees. The experience has been astounding and we have all strived to learn, master, and demonstrate to each other, how we protect the exceptional experience in our cupping room, all the way to the cup being handed over to the consumer.

Brothers and Sisters, lets break bread together, turn this flippin town into the number one place for exceptional coffee in the US of A, and have fun doing it!! It is historic for CBI to finally be able to present our best coffees and treat them as our investment, all the way to the consumer! Only the best and selected coffee houses who will honor the purity of coffee, present these knock out, kick ass coffees appropriately and under our conditions, while protecting our investments, will have the opportunity to buy these coffees from our roastery and deliver them to consumers.

As Peter Guiliano from Counter Culture Coffee and the upcoming SCAA President coined as the theme of the 2010 SCAA Conference: The Barista is the point of contact to the consumer. Let’s engage and deliver!



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