James Hoffman is, in my opinion, a guiding voice in specialty coffee. He shares his wisdom at jimseven.com. Back on August 24th of 2016, he made a simple request. He asked for people to write reviews of cafes. In that blog post, he wrote the following:
“I also want to read about the places that don’t welcome you in, that treat you like an outsider, that have a secret code you instantly feel like you don’t know but should. There are certain memories that I’d rather not have.”
I read this and instantly become hesitant. I am hesitant to share negative experiences with others. I certainly don’t want to be accused of libel, and I really try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If service is poor once, I usually don’t hold it against the establishment and will give them another chance. I even tip after receiving poor service at a restaurant. I understand some people think I shouldn’t, but I don’t want to not tip. I’d rather receive great service, but I digress.
So on that note and as one answer (of many to follow) for Jim, I’d like to share an experience I would rather forget. Like many of my coffee experiences, it’s starts with Mike making a recommendation.
Mike went to Solanos y Hermanos, a cafe in Prescott, AZ and ordered a Pour-Over. There are not many places to get a Pour-Over in Prescott and none in the town we live in, Prescott Valley. So it was a pretty big deal to us when Mike found this place. After ordering the drink, the barista removed the device from view to make the drink. Mike was disappointed, because he wanted to watch the Pour-Over an maybe have a conversation about specialty coffee with the barista. Neither happened.
So Mike was a little disappointed, but that didn’t stop me form trying it out. I drove an hour out of my way just to visit this new cafe. I was the only customer in the place, and tried to start up some conversation with the barista. I asked what he recommended. He had no recommendations. I asked about the drawings on the wall. He didn’t want to talk about the drawings on the wall. I asked about the T-shirts they had for sale as well. He didn’t want to talk about the T-shirts. So I gave up on conversation and decided to order a drink.
I asked if I ordered a drink, could I get it in a porcelain mug. There were none on display, and I know new cafes are frequently on a budget. The barista pulled out a porcelain mug form behind the counter and replied: “No, these are just for looks.”
Well, at that point I had enough. I thanked him for his time, told him I had changed my mind, and left. This isn’t exactly the type of review Jim was talking about- there was no secret code and I wasn’t made to feel like an outsider. It was just plain old rude.
My conscience compelled me to reach out to the owner to let them know about my experience, because I sure would appreciate the heads up if one of my employees was alienating passionate customers like this. It took them weeks to get back to me, and by that time I had already moved on with my own problems in life. I didn’t have the energy to put into their problems any more.
Maybe Mike and I will podcast from there some time and talk with the owner, we’ll see. If we do, I’ll keep you updated. But 6 months or so later, I saw a drive through coffee stand of their’s in the Sam’s Club parking lot. I did a slow roll past the empty line to check out the menu. The barista working the cart waved me over. I shook my head. It looked like the same guy. But even if it wasn’t it, I wouldn’t give them another chance to be rude to me. At least not yet. Maybe in another 6 months.