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It’s time we rate the quality of the coffee

May 16, 2006 Posted by Chris Tingom Filed under Uncategorized

Chris TingomIn my conversations with patrons of this web site one thing has become very clear. It’s about time that Arizona Coffee step up to the plate and provide ratings with actual meaning.

Up until this time I’ve been rather slacking in my attempts to rate the quality of coffee for one specific reason. Well, actually two. Time is one of them and I was afraid to do it. I don’t want to offend anybody and, well, it’s a big task.

Yeah, I’m a nice guy and I would never want to say to the owner of a coffee shop that his coffee sucks, but unfortunately that’s been the case on occasion and I’ve just kept my mouth shut.

So I’ve decided we need to do something about this and in conversations with people I think it would be well accepted. One person in particular told me that if I don’t do this, real coffee geeks wouldn’t find this site to be an authority on coffee. I think he’s right.

We need to begin rating the quality of coffee, where the coffee is roasted, the quality and pour time for espresso shots, etc. I’d like to include coffee shop atmosphere in there somewhere as well.

A good example of why I think atmosphere matters is because some coffee shops create the perfect atmosphere for hanging out. On Friday at about 5 pm I went over to the new Soma Cafe with a friend after work and ordered two doppio macchiato’s. Immediately I noticed something really cool: they have a bar. It was fun! I got to sit by as the barista prepared my espresso. I was able to ask him some questions, pick up some conversation with the people near me, and generally talk coffee. I can’t tell you how thrilled the barista was that I ordered a doppio macchiato. I got the feeling that all of his customers had been ordering sugar drinks. He was excited. So I think the experience of coffee really matters.

Good, quality, fresh coffee is of the utmost importance. Where the coffee shop gets the coffee, when it was roasted, how the espresso shot is prepared, etc. I think many of these come with experience for a barista and so it will be important to visit a coffee shop repeatedly.

So that’s what we’re going to do. But only on one condition. I won’t do this alone and whenever we notice a trend I want to ask someone to write an article (or I’ll do it myself) that explains proper technique. If we notice that several coffee shops aren’t pulling espresso shots correctly, we will do an article explaining how a master barista would do it. Hey, that sounds like a good article anyways!

I think with this combination we could effectively create a renewed passion among the coffee shops in Arizona for quality coffee production. Moving people away from the sugar-coated coffee towards a finely crafted espresso shot that isn’t bitter. I can see it now! There will actually be a reason to improve quality.

Consider this post a shout out to the coffee geeks of Arizona.

We’ll have an official process to rate a coffee shop (still need to decided what that is) and a process for updating reviews, and criteria which we will rate shops on. It will be scientific. I like what Greg is doing with CoffeeRatings.com, an exacting espresso review site for San Francisco.

Alternatives?

There is something to think about though. The possibility of a democratic voting system allowing patrons of this site to register and rate their favorite coffee shops on a number of factors. With thousands of votes a truly exact vote could be established.

Maybe a combination with readers choice and official Arizona Coffee ratings is the answer.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts or contact me if you’re interested in helping out in some way. Thanks for listening!

5 comments

  1. 7:13 pm // May 16, 2006

    TOMAS says:

    Hey Chris – great to see that you’re “pouring” yourself into the Arizona Coffee scene! I wish I could contribute, but I’m far from being a passionate coffee drinker/coffee conoisseur (give me a single shot iced mocha from Coffee Rush I’m golden :) ). Well, at the very least I can provide some moral support, tell my friends about the site, & cheer the blog on!

  2. 1:56 am // May 17, 2006

    Jason Haeger says:

    I love it. All I can say is, “It’s about time”.

    I think there should be a standardized rating system in place for each shop. A friend of mind has developed what I think to be a great system. I’ll ask him if I can borrow it from him. I’ll shoot you an email if I get ahold of it.

    I would like to apply it to my own review blog, but I seem to have lost the system somewhere.

    If you need any help with articles on proper technique or theories, I would love to help out. In fact, I do believe I have one lined up for the not-too-distant future.

  3. 12:25 pm // May 19, 2006

    Rebecca says:

    I think the dual-ratings system is the best idea. Personally, I like reviews by single reviewers, because then I can get a feel as to whether or not I agree with them in general and want to pay attention to what they have to say. But this might simply be because I often find myself disagreeing with the average American consumer.

    As an example, here is my father’s coffeshop rating system for coffeeshops in Seattle. You can probably tell that he is really particular about what he likes in a good coffeeshop, but for him the quality of the espresso doesn’t mean a whole lot (aside from where the bean comes from):

    http://home.earthlink.net/~jimfortheearth/

    In contrast, I use a rating system with categories for: ease of transport (again a more personal thing because I don’t have a car); seating (i.e. lots of big comfy chairs, or a couple of hard stools); music (loud, repetitive and obnoxious or pleasant?); overall atmosphere; espresso quality; food quality; and whether or not I will visit it again. I also have an “other” category for other comments about the place. I think the “Will visit again?” category is probably the most important for me.

    Anyway, good luck with establishing a review system! I might be willing to pitch in occasionally.

  4. 12:27 pm // June 1, 2006

    MikeFTrevino says:

    This is about time. I’ll be more than happy to hammer out criteia and do reviews in this area. I also agree that a double espresso is the only true way to evaluate a shops coffee aptitude. If proper care is taken in this single area it reflects the same care that is most likely taken in other shop aspects.

  5. 11:41 am // June 2, 2006

    Chris Tingom says:

    Hi everybody. Thanks for the good feedback on this post. I’m glad to see some of you are willing to help out and even more: that you agree with me that we need to do this.

    As others have written and emailed me it’s become clear that by providing a responsible ratings for coffee shops, we can make coffee in Arizona better.

    I’m going to be working on setting up a few things in this area. We need to definately have multiple criteria and I’d love to have a people’s choice. Some way for people to have their say regardless of what the reviewer says about a coffee house.

    Thanks -
    Chris

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