Would it work?

Over on the Coffeed forums, Jay Caragay of Jay’s Shave Ice and Hawaiian Coffee, posted these words from the latest Restaurant Hospitality magazine:

“I won’t change a recipe to make it more American. Also, customers want the same cuisine they have experienced in my other restaurants. If there is a request and we have the ingredients, we can prepare it. But if I am asked to put caramel on top of a steak, I will not do it.”
Joel Robuchon

I love it. But it got me thinking about coffee, as Jimmy Oneschuk made a jesting comment about foodies and flavoured syrups not getting along so well. People do not go (or at least, I should sure hope not) to a three star Michelin restaurant and ask for significant modifications to their meals. They do not ask for different glassware for their wine nor a different method for the preparation of their beverage. Why then does this happen in the top espresso bars?

It is a cultural difference, I know, and I am stretching the analogy, as has been done with the wine versus coffee analogy.

But think about the repercussions. I think where I am headed with this is the model espresso bar, as proposed by Chris Tacy, and somewhat manifest in the Elysian Room.

The ideal bar would serve only the best, would pay the barista living wages, and would refuse any modifications on your drink. Put the trust in the barista! That way, every drink is made to fully evoke the characteristics of the coffee, never diluting it, and never breaking from the roots – it is the coffee industry, not the soft drink industry. It is a harsh concept, and is decidedly elitist, exclusive and likely to fail. But maybe with the right location, clientele and atmosphere, it could work.

To increase the reach of such a business, why not make it a bar with only the best of three drinks I enjoy? Coffee of course, but add high quality tea and beer to the roster. The tea would be similar to coffee, and would be prepared to the highest standards in a press, not relegated to a simple bag as so many teas are. Possibly a rotating selection, a few representative blacks such as a fine Darjeeling, Assam, etc. My favorites would have to be present, hand rolled or curled oolongs from Taiwan as well as some greens. I would likely do away with Rooibos or any alternative to tea.

Beer would be a difficult product to incorporate, and I have yet to visit Stumptown’s location with the taps. From what I have heard, I would have something similar, with rotating taps, featuring either local craft beers or, if I could get them, Belgian ales. The bottle selection would be great, with emphasis on crafts and Belgians too, served in brewery glassware or suitable alternatives (imagine Riedel Vinums).

I know this entire concept is very much a dream, but who knows? If current awareness of the incredible potential for these drinks in centers like Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco does reach a critical mass, a viable business may be a possibility.

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On tap

49th Parallel El Salvador La Montaña
Excellent coffee for everyday drinking. Well expressed acidity and classic El Salvador profile.

Bulleit Bourbon
By far the best bourbon available in BC for the price. $35 for a bottle gets you the highest rye content bourbon on the market. Lots of spice and typical bourbon corn sweetness. Excellent on its own, but also makes a mean Old Fashioned. Better than Knob Creek in my books and pretty close to Woodford Reserve.

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